I cannot count how many times I have started and stopped projects. It’s inevitable. Being a parent of three sons – ages fifteen, nine, and sixteen months – is hard sometimes. Being married, having a full time job, launching a business, taking care of my health, maintaining my relationships, and keeping my marriage strong are not easy things. I met my husband four years ago and keeping our relationship strong, peaceful, satisfying, and joyful takes maximum effort. We all live in a balancing act. My goal for the last few years has been to figure out how to do it better.
Let’s start with the obvious – marriage is hard sometimes. It shouldn’t be too hard. It shouldn’t drain you of your energy. That’s a fact. But it is hard. Communication is my husband’s Achilles heel and it’s my forte; you can imagine how successful we are at conveying ideas on the first go round. Marriage should be the heartbeat of your world. Other things come up, responsibilities swirl all around, some take center stage, others take a back burner. But the marriage is the heartbeat, slowly, steadily, peacefully keeping pace in the background of your life, always.
“Oh hey, there’s the guy I married. I forgot all about him for a second.”
Is my marriage always like that? Nope! Sometimes I get so overloaded with a million other things, I forget I have a husband. Literally, I’ve walked into the living room and thought “Oh hey, there’s the guy I married. I forgot all about him for a second.” I’m serious. That’s how overwhelmed I get sometimes. My husband feels the same way too. We’re both hyper-focused people when we have a job to do. So when stress pops up, and it is always present, we lose sight of each other sometimes. Like swimmers in a lake, we distance, we dive under the water, and we lose sight of each other’s position. But inevitably, I will do one thing that corrects the disconnect.
When I am busy and tired and overwhelmed and stressed and, inevitably, hungry, thirsty, and under-slept, I lose sight of my marriage. It’s a combination of forgetting and taking for granted. It’s embarrassing to say and no one wants to admit it but we take each other for granted. Him less than I. But when the poop hits the fan, I sometimes just assume he’ll be there, he’ll catch the falling thing, he’ll whip together ramen, he’ll change the baby, he’ll hold me without being asked. It’s not ok. But it’s also human.
So what do I Do? I pause. Take the swimming analogy. Literally the only way to figure out where your swimming partner got to is to stop swimming and tread water for a second, scanning the horizon. We have to pause. We all do. We move so fast these days, running around at light speed, desperate to check things off our lists, but we. must. pause.
“Pausing implies that what you’re doing is important, but gaining your bearings is more important.”
Pausing implies that what you’re doing is important, but gaining your bearings is more important. Pausing means really stopping what you’re doing, stopping the train, and looking around for this life-partner you took on. You’re looking for them because they matter. You’re looking for them because you love them. You’re looking for them because they are the part of your life that gives you stability and calm. If your partner isn’t doing that for you, it’s time to figure out how to do better.
I pause when I’m that overwhelmed. I put down my phone. I close my eyes, wherever I am, and I take a breath. Yes, I take a deep breath and center myself. “You’re overwhelmed right now. You’re all over the place. Where is your husband?” I ask myself. Then I go find him. I text him. I call him. Whatever I need to do. Then I tell him I love him, straight away, right off the bat, no matter how much I want to mentally vomit all over him. Then I listen while he tells me about his day. Then, here’s the important bit – when he asks me how my day is going, which he inevitably will (hopefully yours does too) I ask him, point-blank: do you have the headspace to listen to me vent right now?
I need to be prepared for the possibility that he’ll say no. I need to accept that answer. I need to allow him the space to say no to me, thereby saying yes to himself, to his own mental health, to his own boundaries. It’s only right.
When I ask him if he can handle listening right now, he oftentimes says yes, even when I suspect he’s not up for it. It’s his nature and his love language. But, being the loving communicative wife I am, I am cognizant of how much he gives of himself and how occasionally, I need to protect his boundaries when he won’t. He appreciates it and often thanks me later on for doing precisely that. He knows when he’s exhausted and should really say no. He’s a people-pleaser. So the fact that I know this about him, the fact that I guard his boundaries and mental health, the fact that I ask for consent before dumping my day on him, these all mean the world to him.
After this brief dialogue, I feel calmer. He feels lighter. We both feel renewed in our connection, whether in the same room or different cities. Then we go about our day. It’s that simple.
This pause is how we keep the marriage strong. It’s a wonderful tool for my tool box to better myself, my partnership, my life. This is how I get better. This is betterment.