One of the things that I’ve always loved about my relationship with Chris was how easy it comes to both of us.Â We may not have too many elaborate gestures.Â We may not be the most romantic people in the world.Â But we have always been comfortable and natural together.Â We have a natural rhythm to our marriage that keeps us balanced and centered.Â When things are a little off kilter, we both usually sense it right away and it doesn’t normally take a whole lot for us to get things back on track.
We’ve never been the kind of couple who sits down for hours and talks about our relationship.Â Even when things have been rough for us – and trust me, in college things were rough – but even back then when drama and emotions were at their peak, we seldom had really earth-shattering, life-altering discussions or events.Â We seemed to take things in stride pretty good.Â And we took them in stride together.
Since we’ve become parents, I’ve noticed a little bit of a change in that part of our marriage.Â Its not that marriage is any harder necessarily or that we struggle any more now than we did before.Â But it seems that now it just takes a little bit more effort to keep things on an even keel.Â When you’re tired and cranky, you can’t just retreat to neutral corners.Â When you’re angry and frustrated, you can’t pout and give yourself time to get over it.Â As parents, you’re sort of in this mess together – no matter what’s going on in your marriage.Â And because of that, there seems to be more strategy to marriage when a baby is involved.
Take dinnertime.Â That’s a pretty easy example.Â For as long as I can remember, Chris and I have eaten dinner together.Â And not just on the go or standing up in the kitchen.Â We fix a good dinner and we sit down together to eat.Â Its not something we plan and its not critical to our marriage, but its just a part of our routine and our relationship.Â Its the time of day when we can sit down and talk to each other without computers and phones.Â Its our time.
Well, dinnertime is now right in the middle of Bean’s bedtime routine.Â Around 7:30 we start baths and pajamas and last bottles and rocking and all that good stuff.Â For a while, we tried to work dinner around this bedtime routine, doing a few things with Bean and then stopping so that we could have some downtime together.Â But Bean was tired and ready to bed at this time of day and the dinner hour became really hectic and chaotic.Â Some nights I think we ate in shifts.Â We’ve learned with time that once the bath is over for Bean, Chris goes downstairs and cooks dinner while I give Bean his last bottle and then rock him and put him to bed.Â And then we meet up to sit down and have dinner together, just the two of us.
That’s the kind of effort I mean.Â Nothing huge.Â It just isn’t as easy anymore as the two of us sitting down to eat dinner together.Â When a baby is involved, there’s an added element of planning that is necessary to keep our marriage on track.
I’m not gonna lie.Â Sometimes, that extra effort -Â no matter how small – is really irritating.Â Wouldn’t it be great to just sleep in together one Saturday morning?Â Wouldn’t it be great to just go out to dinner one night because we have the urge?Â Sure.Â But Beanie doesn’t wait on Saturday mornings and babysitters don’t sit around waiting for you to call them at the last minute.Â Its not that these things can’t happen.Â It just takes a little more effort to make them happen now.
A couple of weeks ago, I read the article in the New York Times about the Obama’s marriage.Â The article had nothing to do with politics.Â It was instead about the way they manage their marriage in the context of something as demanding as the presidency.Â Between you and me, I’m not a huge fan of President Obama.Â But I’d love to have he and Michelle over to my house for dinner.Â And after reading that article about their marriage, I decided that if they ever came over to my house for dinner, I’d serve them on my good china. That’s how impressed I was with their values and principles in marriage.
The central theme of the article to me was that their marriage was a priority.Â And no matter where they were in their political lives and career paths, they had to adapt those other priorities around their marriage.Â But sometimes, that meant that their marriage had to adapt, too.Â They had to learn how to be married to each other in every phase of their life.
And that spoke to me.
After I read the article, it stayed on my mind for days.Â The idea of truly making your marriage a priority and keeping it fluid and flexible enough to adapt to whatever situations you find yourself in.Â And the more I thought about that idea, the more I realized that as great of an example as Mr. and Mrs. Obama are to the American people, the greatest example of this to me was my own parents.
This January, my parents will have been married for 30 years.Â And I guess its no surprise to me that I find my own happy marriage to come so naturally because I grew up in a house where my parents made marriage look easy.Â But as I got older and especially after I got married, my parents told me over and over again that marriage takes work.Â It takes dedication.
“Marriage is a decision that you make every single day,” they would tell me.
I think I only half understood that before I had a baby.Â Before Bean, what that meant to me was that you made the decision every day to be active in your marriage and relationship.Â And that is true.Â My parents were great examples of that.Â But what I’m learning as a parent is that making the decision every day means that every day your marriage might look different than it did the day before.Â And its probably going to look different the day after that, too.Â But I am learning that the real secret to a happy marriage in the midst of parenting is committing every day to be in the marriage, no matter what might be different about your relationship that day.
So, if it takes a little more effort now for Chris and I to maintain a happy, healthy marriage, that doesn’t mean that marriage is harder.Â And it doesn’t mean that something is wrong.Â You give a little more effort some days because that’s where your marriage is right then.
When you love someone, every day is worth whatever effort it takes.