Jake and I love when the girls go to bed.
We also love when they’re awake (you know, most days), but there’s a certain relief in knowing that you’re not imminently needed for a few hours (until, of course, a kid wakes up screaming because her fan isn’t close enough to make her blanket “really, really cold”). There’s a satisfaction in telling a story with fewer than twelve interruptions and a sense of accomplishment that you made it through the chaos and demands of another day.
Jake and I used to leave our house a lot. We loved to go out for dinner or take long walks after dark. We’d see movies in theaters, play cards at Starbucks, and take drives with no particular end destination in mind.
Now, 7:00 rolls around, and we’re knee deep in toothpaste, bedtime stories, and toddler negotiations. And, then, once both girls are asleep, we’re usually homebound. The late night spontaneity we used to enjoy together is long gone and has been replaced by the surprise of what the other person will choose on Netflix.
Let me tell you something, though: This is the most fun I’ve had being married to Jake.I used to get pretty anxious thinking about moving to Ohio and away from the family and community we had filled our life with. And in those moments when it felt like it was going to be too much and too lonely, I would remember that I wasn’t going alone. I was going with Jake.
Before we had any friends here, we had each other, and as I think about how hard our eighth year of marriage was in terms of transitions and change, I’m equally reminded of how easy it has become being married to Jake.
Of course it’s still work. Of course we still come up short at times. And of course we still drive each other crazy at least once every day (Jake: “Why would I unpack and move my suitcase from the middle of the room when I’m just going to need it again in three weeks?”).
But here we are, 8 years in, and still happy we’re doing this thing together.
I read in this really great book by Donald Miller¹ recently that relationships are teleological–that they’re going somewhere. Miller went on to say that “If you’re coasting, you’re going down hill. Unless [you’re] practicing, [you’re] getting worse. We can fall into reactionary patterns in relationships rather than understanding they’re things we build and nurture and grow.”
Eight years ago, I made a choice to enter into this marriage relationship with Jake, but I never got a choice as to whether or not it will move forward–it’s going somewhere regardless of the effort I put forth. The ongoing choice, then, is whether or not I want to continue to build and nurture and grow what we have together into something beautiful.I think it would be easy to stop working at it now that kids are in the mix. To take that time when the girls are sleeping only for myself because “I deserve it.” To stop talking to Jake about real and important things because I’m too tired. To stay married but not really be friends.
And that’s what I’m really thankful for after these eight years: That we’re better friends now than we were when we started off on this life together. Sure, it looks more like rocking chairs on the front porch and late night, take-out dinner dates at our kitchen table after the girls are in bed, but that’s time I wouldn’t have any other way.
Time that, I think, is turning our marriage into something better and something new each day.
¹ Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy (2015)