Part 2: Remembering the “We”

Last weekend, we sent the kids to my mom’s for a few days.  I blogged about it last week and said that Chris and I were stressed out from work and it was just the break we needed.  But that was sort of a fib.

Sorry, imaginary friends.

Yes, work has been stressful and, yes, it was nice to have a little break from responsibility for a few days.  But what we sent them to mom’s for was so that the two of us could have some time together.  We knew we were in a slump, and we hoped that a few days by ourselves might be just the solution.  In the end, it was and it wasn’t.

The first thing that went wrong happened – no kidding – about 15 seconds after my mom’s minivan pulled away with the kids.  I walked back inside the house, excited and ready for a fun night with Chris.  Maybe dinner out?  Maybe a movie?  Maybe some smoochin’ without choruses of “Ewww!!!!!” from the kids?

So, I come bouncing into the kitchen where Chris was putting down his work bag and going through the mail.  “What are we going to do?!?!” I ask, hopping up and down.

He kind of laughed a little bit and replied without even looking up from the mail, “Probably the same boring things we always do.”

Way to make a girl feel special, honey.

Photo on 9-23-13 at 6.49 PM #5

That spawned a short, snippy session of “What the hell does that mean?” followed by the wide innocent eyes as he replied, “What’d I say?”

Yadda, yadda, yadda… (If you’re married, then you know the rest of that conversation, I’m sure.)

After a few minutes, I walked off because I didn’t want this to be how the weekend started.  I was sitting on the couch when Chris walked into the living room and sat down next to me.  Very calmly, without trying to pick a fight, he confessed something that scared me to death.

“I don’t know how to hang out with you anymore,” he said.

Immediately, every Oprah and Dr. Phil show I’d ever seen about those couples who had raised families together, loved each other their entire lives, but then suddenly just didn’t know how to be together anymore, and so they divorced flashed before my eyes.  “This is how that starts,” I thought.

“What are you talking about?” I barked.  “I like doing the same things I always have.  It shouldn’t be an effort to hang out with your wife!”

And then there was this little bickering thing were I snapped at him for about 5 minutes because that’s what you do when you hear something horrific and terrifying.

But Chris explained it so well once I quit running my mouth.  He said that we were so consumed by our family right now that he had forgotten what life used to be like.  He had forgotten what we used to do without our kids.  He had forgotten how to talk to me about things other than work and preschool field trips and who sat in time out for what.

I know what he meant.  I feel that way, too, sometimes.  I love our family, and I adore my children.  Raising our children is mine and Chris’s privilege and joy.  But we are two full-time working parents with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.  Any of those things are demanding.  Putting them all together, though, can be overwhelming in the truest sense of the world.  Parenting is all consuming if you’re doing it right.  But, let me tell you, it can be one of the greatest stresses on a marriage.

Photo on 9-23-13 at 6.49 PM

Have you ever been at work and had your boss come in one day and drop something on your desk, telling you that THIS the greatest priority right now.  And then the very next day, your boss’s boss comes in and drops something different on your desk and tells you that THIS is the greatest priority right now?

That stress that you feel in that situation is very similar to the stress that comes with balancing parenting and marriage.  It’s the stress that comes from the unique place of balancing two incredible priorities at one time.  One of those priorities is raising honorable, good human beings, and the other is part of raising honorable, good human beings, and somewhere in the middle, BOTH of those are essential to you yourself as an honorable, good human being.

It’s a philosophical rabbit hole, I tell you!

It’s like the chicken/egg thing.  Which came first????

Except, in this case, I know what came first.  It was my marriage.  My marriage came first and because we loved each other so much, that love overflowed out of us and made people.  IT MADE PEOPLE!  Our love was so great that it GREW PEOPLE.  And I think that when we start to forget that fact – when the little chicks start clucking so loudly that we forget that we grew those damn chickens ourselves with a lot of hard work and even more love, then we get to the place where we are today.  The place where we just walk around like… well… like chickens with their heads cut off.

It took a full day for the hurt of Chris’s comment to wear off.  It hurt me that he didn’t know how to be with me because in my head what that translated to was, “I don’t care enough about you to even know what to say to you anymore.”  That stung.  But when the hurt subsided a little and the anger melted a bit, we talked more and I came to realize that Chris was actually right.   We didn’t know how to be alone together, not because we didn’t know what to say to each other, but because we didn’t know how to turn the spotlight off of our children.

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We still don’t have an answer.  But that’s what we are working on.  We’re working on valuing each other as more than just the mother or father of our children.  It’s important for us to build identities away from our kids because even though it is a life’s work to help our children create their own identities, the trick is to not lose ourselves or each other in the process.

We’re not sure what that looks like for our marriage yet.  We’re pretty sure it has something to do with more date nights and maybe even a weekend or two away together.  We’re pretty sure it means that even though we are exhausted, sometimes we need to push ourselves just a little further for the sake of our marriage.  We’re pretty sure that means giving each other more of ourselves than just what happens to be left over at the end of the day.  We’re pretty sure that means growing together and becoming better people – as both parents AND as a couple.  And we’re definitely sure it means asking God to bless our marriage for many, many, many years to come.

For myself, I think putting my marriage first again will mean letting go of the tally sheet.  You know that tally sheet, right?  The one we all keep in our heads that says who did what, said what, gave what, etc.  That tally sheet that lists all of my household contributions next to Chris’s to prove which one of us is doing the most.  (You guys keep those tally lists in your head, too, right???)  Putting my marriage first again is going to mean that I throw out my tally sheet because I can’t get past all this anger and frustration if I’m still keeping score.  That’s really what I’m personally focusing on right now, and, let me tell you, that’s a tough habit to break.

For Chris, putting our marriage first will mean several different things, too, but chief among them will have to be remembering to date me.  He’s working on remembering that marriage and partners can’t be taken for granted, and just because we see someone every day of our lives doesn’t mean that on some really, really special days – like Tuesdays – we shouldn’t take an extra minute to tell them they look nice or that they are special or important.  Yes, Chris and I have been together over half our lives, but every single day of our lives, we should make the other feel like the most important person in our lives today.

So, that’s where we are right now.  I was scared a few weeks ago.  Hearing Chris make such a raw, honest comment like that took my breath away.  But, like everything else, when you name the monster (our monster’s name is “This Sucks”), it becomes so much less scary.  I’ve learned in the past few weeks that just having the conversation about what is holding you back as a couple can be so liberating.  Chris and I still have a lot to work on, but we’ve started to figure out how to make these changes with a happy heart.

That’s how I know I have a good marriage.  It makes my heart happy.  Even when it sucks.  Even when we’re fighting or, worse, not speaking.  Even when our children are so awesome that we forget that life extends beyond them.  Even when we drive each other crazy.  Even after all of that, Chris and I have happy hearts full of so much love.

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People ask if love is all you need.  Can that possibly be enough to keep a marriage alive?  No.  Not really.  Marriage requires so much more than love.  But at the heart of everything else that a marriage needs – forgiveness and patience and kindness and trust and faithfulness and perseverance and humor and joy – at the heart of all of these things is love.

And Chris and me?  We have that in spades.

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37 Thoughts to “Part 2: Remembering the “We””

  1. Dating your spouse should be at the top of any list regarding ‘how to make a marriage work’ ! Yay for date nights! And yay for forgiveness, kindness, and love =)

  2. This was wonderful to read. I’m rooting for you all. You will make it work because you want to, and because, as you said, the love is there.

  3. Sabrina

    wow – just being together with my boy for barely a year that just taught me so much 🙂 he loves me, he really really does and i love him, not only for that. thank you for making my heart and being overflowing…with love!

    cheers from germany

  4. I laugh at people who say marriage is easy. Marriage is difficult and awesome and stressful all at the same time. Some days I want to sing to the world how happy I am and others my husband is lucky I don’t have a bag full of wrenches to throw at him.

    Mike and I went through a phase like yours right after we had Sullivan. It took awhile for us to recognize the problem then a few more months to start to fix it. The main thing we do is date night. At least once a month, we get the grandparents over to babysit and have a full on dress up date night. Sometimes we take a day off work together and just hang out. No chores, no errands. Last time we went to a winery. It took a few times for it to click but we’re finally getting back to the point where we DO remember how to date each other. Hang in there and keep doing the communication thing and it will hopefully get better.

  5. Melissa B

    Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I are about to have our first child. We have been married for over 6 years and I am terrified about how this baby will change our marriage. Don’t get me wrong…this baby was planned and we are excited. But I know I will naturally go through the grief of loosing the alone time we had, the focus and attention we have had these last 6 years (I am a therapist, can you tell?). Anyway, this post helps me look forward and try to be more aware of some things we could do to make sure we keep our marriage in the spot light. It isn’t quite taking the fear away but at least it is giving us a plan to work toward. Thank you!

  6. Lauren

    Thanks for sharing! My husband and I have only been married for two years, but it’s so refreshing how honest you are about everything. Wishing you guys all the best as you work through this together!

    One of my favorite sayings we had on a sign at our wedding was ‘for better for worse, but never for granted’
    We still have it in our house and it’s a great reminder to appreciate one another every day!

  7. How scary and sad and hopeful and invigorating and beautiful and above all . . . honest. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Michelle

    My husband and I are going through this exact slump right now. We’re so involved with trying to get everyday things done and our new son that we’re keeping tally and don’t seem to know how what to do with eachother at the end of the day with what little scraps of time we have left. Reading your post was like a mirror into my own marriage.
    I will say prayers for all of us, that we can find the strength and wisdom to work through this stage of each of our marriages.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. It brings me some relief to know I’m not alone in this!

  9. Andie

    Thanks. I needed to read this today. My hubby and I had a HUGE fight earlier and I was really thinking to myself “Why did I get married?? Why did we have a kid??” Because sometimes single life seems so much easier than trying to get along with someone every single day.

  10. Abbie

    Loving your raw honestly. My husband and I are going through this as well. He works two jobs so I can stay home with our two kids, 15 months apart. Lately it feels like we aren’t connecting. I guess none of us are ever really alone. Just have to keep working harder.

  11. Great posts. My husband and I have been married 8 years and we have a 7 year old, 4 year old, and 3 year old. We don’t live near family and babysitters mildly freak me out. However we decided that doing things together without the kids was essential for our marriage today and later down the road. We both love sports so we now play on a competitive sports team with each other. It has been fantastic, given us time alone, time with other adults, and time to be refreshed and rejuvenated.

  12. You are amazing, thanks for sharing this story. It’s helpful to hear how other married couples work through slumps, it gives me ideas for when my “work it out” plan isn’t going so well.

  13. KP

    I’m SO enjoying these posts. Thanks for being brave to share these things with us.

  14. Kimmiejo

    I think you wrote something on your blog a few years ago (pre-Gracie) to the effect that you wanted to make your child a part of your life, but not the center of your life. That sentiment has always resonated with me and its something I try to remember. I’m not very good at it, but I try my best.

    And I’m glad you two are working through this. I hate it when you go through a rough patch. Even though I don’t know you, I worry about you. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

  15. I shared this with my husband as we have the same issues or are going through something very similar right now. It is so hard once you have a child to maintain the focus on the “we” and who you were before you had children. Because you were a unit before children and once they move out you will still have each other. I have to laugh when people say marriage is easy, too, because it’s not. It’s hard work. They say love is verb and a choice you make every day. I choose to love my spouse, not just I “feel” love for my spouse. You have to water the plant for it to grow, and sometimes we just lose sight of that. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Meghan

    In 11 years, Bob and I have gone through some rough patches as a “we”, particularly when we had very little children and a lot of stress from an unpleasant and stressful work/living situation. You are in a difficult “season” of life with two full time jobs and two young children! Here are some of the things we’ve implemented to make sure we spend some time focusing on the “we”: 1. We have a weekly lunch date…sometimes it’s just a quick sandwich together, sometimes it’s a nicer meal, but it’s a chance for us to enjoy each other’s company without children. And it’s not at night, when we’re both tired. I look so forward to our lunch dates! 2. We utilize babysitters so we can go out as a couple and go out with friends child-free, which gives us a chance to have fun without being parents. It is an expense but it’s an investment in our marriage and in ourselves as people, not just parents. 3. Bob was taking a vacation day every now and then and we would go do something completely random and together while the kids were in school (we need to start this again). It was like a hooky day….it didn’t have to be something big or expensive, just time together without our children and having a shared experience. 4. It sounds silly when I write it out, but we will send flirtatious texts/pictures sometimes during the day……at first I felt like a teenager “sexting”, but it’s been a positive and fun way for us to connect when we’re both busy during the day. 🙂 I share all this so maybe you will get some ideas of things you can do to focus on your “we”…..it definitely takes extra effort when you are already giving so much of yourself to your children and your job, but I have seen the difference it makes in my own marriage. Good luck. 🙂

  17. Darcy

    1) I keep a tally sheet… My husband and I both do. The other day we both thought we were very smart when I suggested and he agreed to actually putting the talley sheet on the white board we keep on our fridge. Such a bad idea! But so hard not to do, at least in your head.

    2) I don’t have kids yet, but my mom has given me advice for when I do. She always said “Put your marriage before your kids… your kids will survive, but your marriage might not.” It sounds harsh, but while growing up my parents always told us that their first priority was to God, their second was to each other, and their third was to us kids. My dad once told me he loved my mother more than he loved me, and that’s the way it was supposed to work. At the time I was very, very hurt… hadn’t I heard other people say that their kids should be the most important thing? Shouldn’t parents unconditionally love their children above all else? He gently explained that my mom was his partner. This was the one person God chose for him to love above all others and one day I would have someone that loved me more than anyone else and I would love him the same way. Now that I’m married, I understand what my dad was talking about and I want to raise my kids the same way. I know it’s going to be SO frickin’ hard, but I’m hoping I can remember the example my parents gave me.

  18. Great post! I will def keep this in mind when we have kids!

  19. Christina

    Thanks for such an honest series of posts. I had been to your site years ago and my computer crashed losing alot of my favorites. I just happened to remember it the other day and decided to see if you were still writing your blog. I think there was a special reason why I was supposed to come find your site again. It relates so much to my own life currently and I want to thank you for taking the time (away from your marriage no less!!) to write it out and share with us. I think if we lived closer we’d get along great! 🙂 I will be praying for you and Chris!

  20. ck

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Katie for being so honest with your readers. Long time reader, not a commenter but I felt compelled to comment. You display such strength in your marriage and I hope I can have the same traits when I get married later this year to weather through tough challenges like you guys have. Thanks again for sharing and it’s duly noted to take time out of my future marriage and “remember the we” and date again. Your blog post stresses how crucial having quality us time is and I hope I can remember it throughout my day to day relationship with my fiance (soon to be husband).

  21. Ryan said something very very similar to me recenelty….”I don’t know how to hang out with you anymore” it seems like parenting took over being a couple. thanks for sharing and serving as a reminder that 1. the importance of dating as opposed to just beign co-exisiting parents and 2. we’re not the only couple feeling like this.

    when ryan said this to me, I went out of my way to take him on a date of something we haven’t done before (i.e. no dinner and movie), instead of waiting for him to take me on a date. it helped.

    good luck! rooting for you guys!

  22. jennybird

    It’s been awhile since I’ve posted; I’m sorry I left you hanging. This post hit close to home for me. My husband and I recently celebrated our five year anniversary, and we’re still working on strengthening our marriage. Although we don’t have children yet, we’re both law students. Our studies, extracurriculars, and internships consume all of our time. In my case, I have to make an effort to be interesting–after spending all day doing legal work, there are only so many legal theories we can discuss before he becomes bored. So, we read interesting non-legal articles to share with each other, and we make time to spend together walking our dog, watching a television program, or biking through the city. In his case, he has to make an effort to help with housework. There are only so many tasks I can do on my own before I feel overwhelmed and resentful. So, he’s taken over new tasks to put my mind at ease. It’s a balance that we’re still practicing. But, when we strike it, it’s a great feeling. Best of luck to you and Chris.

  23. Kari

    Katie, thanks for sharing. While reading through the comments, it’s interesting to see that so many other couples are going through (or have gone through) very rough times. For my husbands and I, we are in a wonderful place where we feel very connected, even with an almost two year old at home. With that said, just a year ago, we were on the verge of divorce, seriously. Shortly after our daughter was born, my husband began an affair (physical) with a co-worker of his. It lasted several months and devastated me to the depths of my soul. I never knew such immense pain before. How have we worked through it? Well, number one, a heck of a lot of work. Marriage counseling has helped tremendously and I HIGHLY recommend it to all couples. We still attend even though we have moved past the affair trauma. I also read and read and read. Granted, a lot of books I read are related to affair recovery, but there are some amazing marriage books out there that I think you and your readers would enjoy. One that came out recently and has a Christian influence is “Beyond Ordinary”. While I hope none of your other readers experience the pain and devastation of infidelity, we are proof that marriages can survive the darkest of times. We are at a place where I can undoubtedly say that we are each other’s number one priority. We are a work in progress, but it is possible to bounce back and work through the hard times, even if they are the worst things imaginable. Hugs!

  24. April

    Thank you so much! After having a crying session last night, I needed to read this. I’m also grateful that we will be going to the Weekend to Remember couples getaway! I think that will be great for both of us!

  25. Jen M

    Date nights are essential, I recommend mini-golf, bowling, batting cages, or taking a board game to a coffee shop the first few times because it helps you stop talking about the kids when you have something else to focus on. We have had to start to do this, because it is really easy to just talk about the kids. By the way, I love your blog and the honesty in it.

  26. Beth

    Just in case I’ve never said it, thank you! Thank you for putting your problems, solutions, emotions, etc out there. I know God has a plan for your life and for the lives of your family but I honestly believe that God lays on your heart the words to write, just because He knows someone else needs to read them.

  27. Time to watch your wedding video, and other home movies..

  28. Hi there,

    Such an honest post. Thank you so much for sharing, thank you for the reminders about marriage and the love that started that marriage, so easy to forget when you are in the middle of living a life made out of days and days of little million things that involve our kids…

    thank you and good luck to you two! cheers to you two so you can overcome this hard phase in your marriage as you have overcame so many before…

    Alex

  29. L

    My husband and I went through this as well. We’ve been married for 8.5 years and have two kids. Things used to be PEACHY – but having kids absolutely changes EVERYTHING. It’s like starting from scratch. I became consumed with my baby when I became a first time mom (she is 4 now) and basically forgot about my husband. That was amplified when our second daughter was born (almost 2). We didn’t have a foundation anymore, and we had completely grown apart. I even hated him a little. Things finally came to a head when the D word got thrown out during a fight one day a few months ago – and that was the wake up call we both needed. We now make US a priority. We make date nights a priority, I schedule sex in my head 3 times a week – he doesn’t know that but he doesn’t have to! I make it a personal goal of mine to not let that slip because that is his love language. It’s not mine – so I have to TELL myself to make it happen. Scheduling it in my brain makes it so I don’t let it get away. I also made a hard fast rule that we couldn’t name call anymore. We meaning, I. When I got mad, the first thing I would do was call him every name in the book. Ever since I nipped that in the bud, the yelling and fighting has hit an all time low – it’s almost non-existant. Of course sometimes I call him names in my head – even a lot of times – but I learned that when I called him an ass, whether he was one or not, he became one very quickly. It degraded him and disrespected him and in turn, he was losing respect for me.
    Writing all this out makes us sound BAD! Or it makes ME look bad anyway. We still had happy times – but it was mostly superficial. We were happy until we hit a bump in the road and then we would fall apart, instead of work together. I am glad that is behind us. I know things won’t be perfect, and they aren’t now – but we are working together now and we make sure the other knows they’re loved.
    I’ve been reading your blog for years – since Bean was born – and I just love you two! You have a good foundation, you attend church together, and you have two cute kiddos. It’s definitely worth fighting for. It will get better! Sorry for the essay…

  30. Thank you for being so honest! My husband and I are coming up on 2 years of marriage but have no children yet. I know things will change dramatically, but just don’t know how. But I know what you are talking about is what a lot of couples face with children. How to raise their family and still have time for each other after work. Congrats on facing it with love and moving forward in the process!

  31. Jessica Cruz

    I have goosebumps reading that. I’ve been with my husband for 12 years…well, married 8, together 12. I completely understand everything you wrote, even down to the 2 and 4 year olds (well, mine are now 3 and 6). Marriage is wonderful, scary, frustrating, beautiful…and I love how you said “at the heart of all things is love”, I couldn’t agree more.

  32. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I have always been so thankful that I live in a community of people where it is part of our culture to have weekly date nights with your spouse, and we constantly tell the men, especially after your wedding, it’s important to keep pursuing your girl.

    But I have to confess, after a measley 3 1/2 years of marriage, I find it more and more difficult to know how to pursue my wife. And I think she is finding it more and more difficult to be pursued. I try, and she bats it away, and longs for me to pursue her more, but I don’t know how cause what I try she makes fun of. So I honestly sometimes don’t even try. And that’s happening in a culture where it’s valued and taught on.

    I’ve often thought if it’s this hard in this community, how much harder does it have to be without that.

    I love that Chris had the guts to actually open up and say what was on his mind. That was him being honest and vulnerable. I understand how it happens and how it could make you upset.

    That said, as much as I can implore you- establish a weekly Datenight. No kids, just you two, investing in each other. Budget for it. Get the sitters set up. And be about each other for a few hours at least once a week. Its tough to do. But its really worth it.

  33. NS

    I’m really thankful for your openness and honesty, Katie. We have two young kids and also are going through this situation. Reading your posts and everyone’s comments on here is the best therapy!

    To add another book to the reading list, I loved ‘7 Principles For Making Marriage Work’ by John Gottman. It got me (us) out of a very low place and I would highly recommend it.

    Wish you luck Katie and Chris, and thank you again for sharing.

    1. Kari

      I echo NS’ recommendation. I’ve read a lot of marriage (and infidelity) books over the past year and a half, and “7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” was up there on my list of great ones. My therapist actually recommended it to me.

  34. This silent observer is rooting for you.

  35. […] read her post Remembering the We last year and remember getting a little worried for them because what if something really is […]

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