My husband Aaron and I are opposites in almost every sense of the word.
He’s a scientist. I’m an artist.
He thinks through things logically; my feelings rule my world.
He’s tidy. I tend to be a bit messy.
Meeting new people is his worst nightmare. I seek out new people daily.
Yet here is the glue that holds our marriage together: our values and our faith.
If we didn’t share the same values our marriage would be built on a shared love of pizza and 30 Rock. Both of those are good things, but they wouldn’t be enough to sustain us, because raising a kid is hard work. It’s messy, and frustrating, and sometimes exhausting.
What Aaron and I also have in common, and what we struggle with, is a lack of discipline. While we value communication and shared time together, our lack of discipline sometimes challenges our relationship. We KNOW we need to spend time together on our own, yet we allow other things to distract us from making it a top priority.
One of the biggest challenges in remaining connected while raising a toddler is that the days blur together in one endless string of things to get done. Wake up. Change diaper. Feed the tiny human breakfast. Clean up breakfast from floor after tiny (seemingly insane) human dumps it out. Drive to daycare. Go to work. Make dinner. Eat ice cream. Watch TV. Repeat.
In the daily grind we get caught up in doing, and it’s tough to carve out time for introspection. I don’t realize I’m stressed until Aaron does something that frustrates me and I irrationally lash out. Those are hard fights to unwind, because I have to find a way back to the real issue. I’m usually feeling unappreciated until we actually talk it out, and then I realize I should be the one apologizing. Some days staying connected to each other requires a humility that is truly difficult to have.
It’s easy for me to lose sight of the fact that we weren’t meant to make each other happy. No other person can make you truly satisfied. That has to come from within. I find it through my faith. Aaron is only human, and he can only see a small slice of what I do. If I’m relying on him to give me affirmation and a sense of purpose, I will only be let down.
But it’s never hopeless. We’ve found some simple ways to stay bonded to each other. We are on the same team, and this is what we do to remember that:
1. Carve out time to HAVE FUN. Not just a date night, when we’re tired or rushing from work. We try to get time together on a Saturday, so we can go to brunch and go shopping. It’s incredible how much fun we have when we can take a break from being parents and just be together.
2. Find specific ways to support one another to be the best WHOLE person they can be. Aaron never complains and always finds ways to come home early so I can go to the gym. He cheers me on when I actually get in my yoga pants, and congratulates me when I come home from my workout. He even listens to me complain about how much I hate working out, because he knows that when I do, I am always happy that I did.
One of the ways I support Aaron is by not giving him grief when he wants to play video games, because that’s what makes him happy. I try hard not to accuse him of “wasting his evening,” because it isn’t a waste of time to him, and I don’t want to judge that!
And some nights we encourage each to get off the devices, turn off the TV, go through the pile of mail and bills, and get to bed early. We are really trying with this one. We often fail, but little by little, we are getting through these hurdles. When each of us feel accomplished, rested and excited about life, we are better to each other, too.
3. Go to counseling — individually or as a couple. After we had Charlotte I was chest-deep in post partum anxiety. Aaron was supportive and did all the right things, but the anxiety didn’t go away. It impacted our marriage in huge ways, because when one of you is in that place, it’s so easy to feel alone and helpless. I constantly texted Aaron, and he struggled to support me emotionally while he was at work.
After I started going to counseling, I realized my body was simply responding to some intense physical changes and it was manifesting itself in anxiety. Gradually, the fog began to lift. There’s no quick fix, and counseling is a true gift. To get wisdom from someone outside of your own situation can bring such a beautiful clarity.
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photo by ashley kelemen