It was a Sunday morning and Seth and I had dropped off our children at Hebrew School. It was not a pleasant morning. We have to drag our kids to Hebrew school, and it is never a good experience. It leaves Seth and I in a really bad mood by the time we drop them off. We thought we would use this opportunity to go out for breakfast together. However, when you are both in a bad mood from your children, you should either decide to change your state or skip going on a date.
Seth tells me he would like to go to Tim Hortons right down the street, but I have an idea of where I want to go. I ask Seth to take me to Campfire Grill and I look up directions. He is not amused with me. If it was up to him, he would go two minutes down the street, but I love trying new places. Seth is very easy in a lot of ways. He doesn’t have the strong need for variety that I do. I love to go on new family adventures, and I love to try new restaurants. Seth tends to amuse me but as he drives further and further to Walden, he asks me where I think I am venturing off to. “I had heard great things about this place, and I have been wanting to try it,” I tell him cautiously.
We finally get there, and Seth is not happy with the amount of cars in the parking lot. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t call ahead to see what the wait time is. If you decide to go try this great breakfast place, I would call and see what the wait is or go on an off time of day. The hostess tells us it is a 45 minute wait and I can see steam coming out of Seth’s ears. He was already in a bad mood from our morning and this crowded restaurant wasn’t helping. The hostess looks at our dismay and suggests we go eat at the counter where there is no wait. Thank you for saving me lady! Seth and I are both satisfied with eating at the counter and having no wait.
I head to the counter with my grouchy husband. We are both cranky and give each other the evil eye. We sit next to each other and I tell Seth that we should just go home. Why would I want to go on a date with Seth when we are both so cranky? Seth grunts at me that we should just order food and I can feel a tear drip down my face. I hate when we are in this state together. I just wanted to have a nice breakfast date with my husband. I was feeling so disappointed.
I find my mind drifting off to our first date. I start to smile thinking about those two people falling in love. We were smiling and listening to every word each other said. We were sitting across from each other staring into each other’s eyes. Seth would tell me frequently how perfect I was, and I would warn him that I was certainly not perfect. I knew I had a lot to offer him and I knew I had good qualities that matched with his, but I also knew that I wasn’t perfect. I have great awareness of what my strengths and weaknesses are. Sometimes I joke with Seth that I was very honest with him when we were dating about both my strengths and my weaknesses.
I turn to Seth and say, “You used to think I was perfect.” Without skipping a beat Seth answers me and says, “That was before we had children.” It’s as if he sent a dagger to my heart and I fight back the tears as they drip down my face. I hate crying in public.
The waitress comes to take our order and I sit and think about what Seth just said. All of you who have children know how wonderful AND how stressful it is. Life before children was pretty easy. We went to work, worked out, had dinner together, had lots of dates and got a lot of sleep. The children have caused us a lot of sleep deprivation over the last almost 13 years. It has definitely improved, and knock on wood Lillie has stopped waking us up. We run a lot and sometimes we feel like we are ships passing in the night. Every parent can relate to that. Thursday night was a perfect example. Being the fabulous daddy that he is, Seth drove Max all the way to Elma for goalie training with an amazing soccer goalie trainer. I saw him for a few minutes before I took Ella to theater and he ventured off to Elma. We eventually saw each other late that night.
We definitely fought less and had a lot more energy for each other before our children. We wouldn’t trade anything, we absolutely love being parents. We have three healthy thriving kids who have made our dreams come true. I dreamed about being a mom from a very young age. It is everything I dreamed it would be and so much more. The issue here is that when I give everything I have to my children I sometimes forget that Seth needs my attention to. My husband will laugh that I wrote this, but he is not low maintenance. He needs my attention. Marriage takes maintenance.
I can see that Seth’s crankiness is just increasing. He does not enjoy being in loud crowded restaurants. When he is already in a bad state, taking him to a restaurant twenty minutes away that is crowded was not smart of me. You think I would learn. There are times that I get fixated on an idea and I just want to carry it out. One of my greatest needs is learning to be more flexible. I can tell you all that I am getting better with this. I tell myself frequently to just go with the flow of the day.
My head is spinning at this moment and I am trying hard to think about how to make this date turn into a good experience. We don’t have a lot of dates together and I don’t want to waste it being miserable with each other. How did we get here? How do I make it better? It is so normal for relationships to change when you have children. I remember how sad Seth was when we had Max. We both fell head over heels for our son, but Seth found himself missing me a lot. I was completely exhausted trying to learn how to take care of a newborn that I was so wrapped up in Max. There it is right there. There is my answer.
As we sat at the counter waiting for our pancakes, I started to write this blog in my head. I find that I am always writing. There are two things that I have trouble shutting off. Number one is analyzing people and situations. I remember the first psychology class that I took in high school. I fell in love. I found my place. Learning about people and situations finally sparked my interest. No more boring history classes. No more chemistry class. This was my jam. If I am not analyzing someone or something, I am writing in my head. As I sat writing this blog, I started to change my state. I turned to Seth and shared the blog that I was writing and what my title was going to be. He became very interested and we started to talk in a more resourceful place then we had been all morning. There is nothing like a pattern interrupt.
Let’s focus on pattern interrupts. They work marvelously in marriage (and with my children too). My talking about my blog post totally changed both of our states. We started talking about marriage and how it evolves over time. We became interested in each other and what we had to say. It took me back to that first date when we were so interested in what each other had to say. I am still interested. I have to make time to talk to Seth about his day and his dreams and whatever else he wants to talk about. I have to remember that my children are not the only ones who need attention. My husband needs my attention.
Seth did a brilliant pattern interrupt the other night that I have to share with you. I am going to be honest and tell you that I don’t even remember what we were fighting about. It was nighttime and we were both fried and I didn’t have patience for Seth being short with me. We may have been fighting about soccer? I told Seth that I was done talking to him for the evening. How rude is that? I can’t believe some of the stuff that I say. How about if I would have said “I’m not in a place to have a good conversation with you right now. I am going to take a breather from this conversation, and I will come back when I am ready to talk.” Wouldn’t that have been much better?
I go to the couch and my puppy Tanner comes over for some attention. I pet him and kiss him and calm myself down. Tanner is excellent therapy. Seth gets on his hands and knees and crawls over to me like he is a dog. I giggle and start petting him behind his ears like I do with Tanner. He looks up at me with his puppy dog eyes and I smile and kiss him and thank him for changing my state. He apologizes for being short with me and we have a good conversation.
Seth is great at pattern interrupts. There are times I have made silly faces at Seth in an effort to change the conversation to a better direction. Seth is also wonderful at saying he is sorry, and he tends to beat me. It should be a race to see who can say I’m sorry first. It isn’t ok with me that he tends to be first. One of the mental notes I have made is that every time Seth is short with me, he ends up apologizing. If I can remember that, maybe I can avoid it escalating into a fight. Seth feels bad every time he is short with me and I feel bad every time I yell. Whether I am stressed with the kids, Seth, or our dog, my goal is always to be upset without yelling. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not, but I will never give up on trying.
When you are first dating and first married, you give each other a ton of attention. I notice that Seth and I get cranky with each other when we aren’t spending alone time together. Other than the not so good breakfast date, I couldn’t remember the last time that we had gone anywhere alone together. We can’t just be parents. We spend a lot of our time driving our kids around. I realize this can’t consume our life. We have to have time to connect. Seth sat down next to me on the couch and asked how he could help. He didn’t like how stressed I was. I was letting dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and driving consume my life. Seth showed me our shared calendar and that he was booking me for Friday. He said we were going to get a massage and go to lunch. He then showed me another day that he booked me for that he labeled “surprise day.” He was trying and succeeding at being a good husband. We just had our Friday together. We went to get a massage and relaxed and then went to the Olive Garden together. The restaurant wasn’t crowded and there was no wait. We smiled at each other and had a nice relaxing lunch together. Our children were in school and we made time to be together. I knew this was what we needed. When we don’t spend time like this together our marriage slopes down. When we give each other attention and take time for one another we are in a better marriage. Seth dropped me off at home and headed back to work. I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted to spend the whole day together. I didn’t want the date to end. That is a good sign.
If you think back to the beginning of your relationship when things were fabulous and you fell in love, you can bring all those feelings back. Just day-dreaming about those first few dates makes me smile. I remember all the reasons I fell in love with Seth. I remember all the attention that we gave each other. I remember thinking about everything I said before I said it. I remind myself that it is never time to let my hair down with anyone. I should always keep myself in check and try to be on my best behavior. I never want to hear my husband say that I treat strangers better than I treat him. In a negative state my answer to that would be, “Strangers don’t tend to piss me off.” However, in a more resourceful place, I want to work to have him feel like he is treated the best of the best. How do I do that:
- Never let my hair down. Always try to be the best that I can be. It’s not realistic to always be happy and sweet but I can be civil. Seth deserves the best of me.
- Pattern interrupts. Think about how I can change the direction of a conversation. I can even say I need a time out. Seth crawling on the floor like a dog was the best pattern interrupt ever.
- Rush Seth to say I’m sorry and stop letting him win. The race is on.
- Spend quality time together. We can’t allow ourselves to get lost in keeping up with our children and daily chores. We have to block off time to spend with one another. It makes us so much happier and gives us a better marriage.
Our marriages can be as good as the day that it started. We have the power to make that happen. I hope that you will all go do something positive for your marriage today. I say my prayers and my thankfulness for Seth every day. I love him more than the day I married him. Now I have to go show him that.
Have a happy marriage and a wonderful day.
Laughing, Loving, Learning,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R