I used to revel in the happiness of not being able to spend more than an hour without talking to my husband. When we started dating, he was in the Navy, and he was stationed about 45 minutes away from our apartment in Norfolk, Virginia. It wasn’t a big deal because most of the time he slept at home. But the days when he would have duty and had to stay overnight, I ached for him. I missed him like a teenager misses the boy that passes her notes in class. Plenty of times I drove to him just to eat dinner at the Pizza Hut on the Navy base just to hug him and see him.
Now I’m afraid to say that those days are long gone. I still miss him in the sense that it’s nice to be home after spending all day at work. But I don’t crave his touch. And I’m not sure that we kiss more than four times a week lately. He thinks it’s because the attraction is gone and I would rather be with someone else, but that’s not true. I just don’t know where the magic went.
Somewhere between the first few months of our marriage and the birth of our son, we hurt each other in different ways but all just as damaging to the trust and comfort we had built in our marriage. For some couples it would have been the end, and quite honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t the end for us, but we pushed through and will be celebrating our 5th year of marriage this spring.
So what changed?
It was all a puzzle to me until I started working again after my baby’s birth. I was hired as an engineer at a company where my team consisted of all men. I would travel almost every other month to meet with clients and stay late on the evenings where we were behind on projects. It was so exhilarating to be part of something that didn’t involve mixing formula or washing dishes that I started to treat work like my second home. I stayed late without thinking twice, despite the long commute. I started making a habit of going out to lunch with my coworkers (all of whom were married men), and I became obsessed with the full night’s sleep I could get each time I got to stay at a hotel on company dime.
After a year or so, I took it a step further though. Not only was I appreciating the way I was valued as an employee at our company, but I was growing accustomed to trusting my male coworkers with conversations that are typically reserved for best friends. What advice do you have on helping wean off the pacifier? What do you do when you need a break at home? Can you believe the winners on the Country Music Awards last night? What kind of paint should I use on trim? It was all so natural so I didn’t think anything of it until it dawned on me that the closer I became to the guys at work, the more I resented my husband.
Why wasn’t he good at planning things like they were?
Why didn’t he ever ask me how my day was?
Why doesn’t he ever dress up?
Why doesn’t he make me laugh the way they do?
It was dangerous territory but I didn’t realize that until I left the position for a better opportunity. At my new job, I don’t interact with people my age as much, or anyone really, and the team spirit is less heightened. However, I also don’t have as much time for social gatherings around someone’s cubicle or lunch with coworkers. I’m still considered the new girl around here, but that’s fine by me.
When I get home these days, the interesting conversations I have are with my husband. He’s the one I vent to about my family drama or the latest absurd news. He tells me I’m beautiful and pays more attention to the things I need (like sleep and food). We aren’t rolling around breathlessly in bed every night, but he’s got his rhythm and I have mine. I give him a break when I get home from work, and he showers or plays video games, while my son pulls my hand to take me to play with trucks inside his Cars tent downstairs. Then he will cook me Goldfish in his fake kitchen, and I’ll smile as he laughs because the dogs are chasing each other so intensely that they are knocking him over.
When I’m watching my husband take care of our son though, I feel the most attracted to him–proud of him for being able to do what so many men would never even want to do: stay home with a toddler that wakes up earlier than him and fights him all day to eat or bathe. Testing his patience. Throwing objects at his head. Haha!
But seriously, we aren’t the perfect couple. Yet focusing more on the things that my husband brings to our marriage and relationship rather than comparing him to men that used to spend over 40 hours a week sitting feet away from me has helped tremendously. It makes me wonder if other women out there are constantly disappointed for similar reasons. All the movies and TV shows we watch where the perfect guy knows exactly what gift to buy for his girlfriend or the most romantic surprise to set up for his wife are causing us to lose sight of what our men offer that those don’t.
Movies mostly capture the first part of a relationship, and we never know what happens to those two characters after the guy gets the girl. In life, we have to be realistic and ambitious. You want more passion? Be spontaneous. Surprise him. Excite him. You want more attention? Let him know, or call in a babysitter and tell him you want to go drinking downtown. If it’s help with the house that would lift your mood, then ask for help! Men hate being expected to do things that they didn’t know you wanted from them.
Just like anything else, keeping the spark (or lighting it again after it’s been lost) requires work. Last year I stopped working on the one in my marriage and was actually extinguishing it by filling my mind with all these expectations and negative thoughts. Comparing the man that chose me to be his wife and mother of his child to men that complained about their wives, only talked to me because they wanted to pass a long day at work, and paid attention to me, but only because I wasn’t the one that they had to report to at home.
Maybe I’m wrong and there are lucky women out there who have to put no effort into maintaining the magic floating in every aspect of their relationship, but for the rest of us, all I can say is don’t give up. Becoming a mother makes it harder, because your priorities change and wearing lingerie doesn’t appeal to you when you don’t feel beautiful and your toddler has been hanging from your stained shirt all day. But it’s never impossible.
A little effort will go a long way. You’re a woman and a mom. Don’t be afraid to embrace both parts of you even when the romance is playing hide-and-seek.