Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Married...With Children

Last week our little brood spent a glorious Saturday afternoon at the park with friends; a lovely couple who has three children three-years-old and under. We get each other. At one point during a lull in the ball-kicking, tantrum-averting, tuna-dirt fiascos and everything else that goes along with maintaining the chaos of five wee gremlins, my friend (the wife) turns to me and says, "So how do you and Jake keep your marriage alive while parenting small children?"

I laughed at her.

No really, I did.

"You tell me," I snorted back. "We just spent all morning fighting about this." And we had. Passive aggressive harsh whispers back and forth escalating to curt tones which then turned into a yell or two. Parents of the year over here!

Two days later I sat next to this same friend and a group of other moms with small ones for a ladies night out. "Okay," I announced. "I want to hear everyone's advice about this subject. How do you stay married? How do you have time for each other when at the end of the night all you have energy for is watching an episode of New Girl and falling asleep at 8:45?"

They laughed at me.

"You and Jake want to know?" another friend at the table asked. "Gosh, if you guys don't know...I mean, don't you write about this stuff?"

"Have you read our blog?" I asked, deadpan. "Number one, there have been no posts for ages because we're totally exhausted. And number two, it's called the Holymess for a reason. We own not knowing what the hell we're doing!"

I'd like to tell you that the conversation then went on to be full of wonderful pearls of wisdom I could share about keeping connection and romance alive when more than one tiny being depends on you for EVERYTHING. But that's just not what happened. We chatted a bit and honestly, it was much more life-giving to vent about marriage stuff in a positive, loving environment than it was to try and fix each other's unique relationship struggles.

Having two small children is really, really hard. God bless you lovers who have more than that. Friends of ours have five. Five. I break out in hives just thinking about it.

It helps to know that Jake and I are not alone in trying to work this married-with-children thing out. Makes those exhausted nights where we can't figure out how to connect just a little bit lighter.

Knowing that we're not alone does help us fight harder. If I know my friends are busting their buns to carve out marriage space amidst the craziness of parenting, it makes me want to keep trying. I'd like to think I've become a little (a little, mind you) more laid back about sex. I've been able to say yes to going out on dates more and speak up when those dates aren't happening. Granted, this only happens when having a brief conversation about something completely unrelated that taps into my feelings—those things that have buried deep down in my psyche in order to survive. Hey, it's hard to be all Oprah and zen while one kid is running into oncoming traffic and the other is tumbling headfirst down a flight of stairs. I'm just lucky we're all alive at the end of the day, forget about feelings.

And I'm so tired these spurts of demands are spoken in stilted cavewoman. "Give me love language," I grunt.

Recently, Jake and I have started having dinner after the kids go to bed so that we can actually talk to each other during a meal. It makes bed-time hellish for me. My introvert tank is on low after all day with the two kids and I'm hungry and they're cranky. It's grit-your-teeth-this-will-happen kind of epic-ness to pull off, but Jake and I have so enjoyed this new time together. Yes, we inevitably crash and zone out in front of the TV after, but we enjoyed thirty-minutes of conversation and connection. Sometimes we even have sex.

Miracle of miracles.

So here are my seriously deep tips for staying married with children:

1. Chill out - Relax your standards. Emotionally own that your marriage is different now. It's important and should be a priority, but it's different and will require a good deal of trial and error from now on.

2. Try - Wow, the complexity of this one! There's no time for complexity, people, it's do or die out here. If you want to stay married you just need to try. This will work itself in a myriad of ways. But if you don't try, then I guarantee you'll start drifting apart. It's really, really easy to drift apart when you have kids. So keep trying, keep putting effort into your marriage even if all that means is saying "I love you" every day.

That's it. I know those two points seems opposing, but they are actually quite compatible, trust me.

And seriously, we're all about soaking up the wisdom of others. Be a doll and post your own marriage advice below. I'm sure there are plenty of us who want to hear how you and your spouse make it work!!   -Melissa

Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.