Our dog Tanner has this girlfriend named Lily that he loves to see and take walks with. They are both Golden Retrievers. Seth and I were walking with Lily and her mom and talking about anniversaries. Seth and I will be celebrating 15 years of marriage this Thursday September 3rd. Time sure flies when you are having fun.

I remember the day we were married like it was yesterday. It was Labor Day weekend and the weather was magnificent. We got married at our Synagogue and then had our reception at a beautiful country club. Lily’s mom happened to be wearing a shirt from that country club. What a small world. She has been married for 45 years. I was telling her that my parents just celebrated 50 years of marriage. She couldn’t believe in just five years G-d willing, that she will be celebrating 50 years too.

Conversations can lead to so many different directions. We talked about religion, marriage and Covid on our walk together. As I started to tell her about Seth’s mom and husband being very careful because of Covid and that we haven’t seen them a lot, I got this huge wave of anxiety. I didn’t even understand where that feeling came from. I sat with it for a minute trying to analyze what was going on with me.

Sometimes it hits me like a ton of bricks that Seth’s parents got divorced. It was very hard on both Seth and I when they told us that they were getting divorced. When I married Seth, we thought his parents were happily married. I really wanted to marry someone who had married parents. I know that sounds super judgmental right now as I write this down. I really wanted my husband to have a good role model for marriage. I wanted him to value marriage and learn that marriage is through thick and thin. I’m still absolutely blown away by some of the things that my parents went through. They taught me that marriage has ups and downs and isn’t all roses and sunshine.

If my husband could respond right now, he would tell you that he does value marriage and that he does think that you stay married through thick and thin. He would tell me that I’m stuck with him and that he plans to be married to me forever. Sometimes the fact that his parents got divorced hits me. Sometimes it gives me a super uneasy feeling. It reminds me that marriage is conditional.

There is a silver lining to me realizing that marriage is conditional. We choose to be married every day. Every day I choose Seth. Every day I choose to love Seth and be married to him. Every day Seth chooses to love me and be married to me. It is a choice. A choice that we plan to make every day. However, if I know that it’s a choice and I know that it’s conditional, what do I need to do about this? The Silver lining to realizing this, is that I need to remember to not take Seth for granted. I need to realize that he needs to feel appreciated and loved every day. I need to make him want to choose to be married to me every single day.

Seth told me last night that he felt like I was taking him for granted. I was outside watching our daughter Lillie and her friend go back and forth to each other’s houses. My meeting started and I jumped on the phone to be able to watch Lillie while still doing a Zoom meeting. However, the girls were being too loud, and I went into the house to get away from the noise. I didn’t realize that Seth didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t realize that he didn’t know Lillie was outside with now two neighbor friends playing. I just assumed he knew what was going on. My neighbor texted me that Lillie was in the street and I sent Seth outside. Seth came back inside, and I sent him back outside asking him to watch Lillie. I was super annoyed with him at this point. It later came out that I didn’t discuss with him what was going on before I disappeared to a Zoom meeting. I didn’t ask him to watch Lillie. I just assumed he would, and he was annoyed with me and feeling taken for granted. I went right to anger. I couldn’t even believe he was feeling this way. He couldn’t watch Lillie for an hour while I was busy. I watch Lillie every day, all day, and he was giving me a hard time? I was perplexed and annoyed and shutting down. How did he have the nerve to complain right now? Does that sound like someone who is trying to stay married? Does that sound like someone appreciating her husband? No. I was pissed and was making sure he knew that I was pissed. We eventually calmed down and discussed this further. My son tells us we have the dumbest fights. I’m glad that they are being categorized as dumb and not super serious. That is a good thing. However, I need to evaluate this fight, learn from it, and do things differently next time.

Will my husband do pretty much anything for me? Yes! If I ask him to do something will he do it? Yes. If all he is asking me to do is to clue him in and ask him to watch Lillie can I do that? Absolutely. Is this a big deal? No! Not only could I have asked him, I could have improved my marriage instead of fighting with him that I didn’t need to ask him.

I could have easily said “Honey, my meeting is about to start, can you please watch Lillie outside while I’m busy? I would really appreciate it.” Then our evening would have gone smoothly. I was stuck on the fact that he wanted me to ask him. I was stuck on the fact that he was clueless as to what was going on and was inside minding his own business. I usually know what all three of my children are doing at all times. I guess I was expecting this from Seth too. Expectations, assumptions and anger don’t add up to a happy marriage. Appreciation goes a long way in a marriage. If I had to sum it up, I would say I want Seth to love me and appreciate me and I think he would say the exact same thing.

I made the mistake of taking my family to buy Max a bed, and a new couch for our living room yesterday. I made the mistake of stopping at a Tim Horton’s to use the bathroom. In my venture to lose weight I am drinking a lot of water. In fact, my children keep telling me to stop drinking because I keep needing a bathroom all day long. Tim Horton’s doors are locked, and I storm back to the car cursing Covid. At this point, when I don’t feel like I can hold it, I need to take the wheel and book it back to my house. We weren’t far away from where we live. We had just bought an amazing bed for Max and were headed couch shopping with three kids because I wanted to involve them in the process.

I love that Seth drives so cautiously but not at that moment. My bitching endlessly about his driving as he slowly took me home began the downhill spiral of our Sunday. Once I get pissy, Seth tends to shut down for the rest of the day. Two furniture stores later I am ready to go out to lunch and go see sunflowers. This is when Seth tells me I am the energizer bunny like my mother and Max and Ella beg me to go home. They are no fun! I “ruined” the day getting annoyed with Seth’s driving. Seth was feeling done and ready to go home too. I made it even worse that night getting upset that he wanted me to ask him to watch Lillie. I don’t think it was our best day in marriage. We were both being cranky, and it slowly progressed downhill the rest of the day. The good news is our kids enjoyed helping us pick a couch and Max loved picking himself a nice new bed.

How do I want Seth to feel every day? I want him to feel loved and appreciated. I want him to know how much I love being married to him. It’s a privilege to be married to him. I get to be married to him. I don’t take it for granted. I know how delicate marriage is. I know that I need to tend to it every day. Getting wrapped up in the kids, the house, the errands and my spinning demands doesn’t lead to a top notch marriage. There are so many little things I can do every day to make Seth happy. Just asking him to watch Lillie is one of those small things. Telling him how much I appreciate him working so hard when he gets home from work makes him happy. Telling Seth how happy I am to see him when he gets home makes him happy. Telling him I love him multiple times a day, giving him a kiss, a smile, a hug are all gestures that seem so small but add up to a happy marriage.

Communication is something that Seth and I are always working on. Discussing what choice we are picking for our kids for school. Discussing if we are putting in a pool or moving. These are topics that I have worked really hard to communicate clearly and specifically to Seth. I don’t want to assume things. I don’t want to assume that he understands what I think or how I feel. I asked him the other day to repeat back to me what I said so that I felt heard and then to add his two cents and it worked like a charm. I felt understood and also learned what he was thinking too. We have come a long way in our fifteen years of marriage.

I have told Seth about the glass box. The glass box is a metaphor for your marriage. I have explained that there is a box built around our marriage. We can’t let people get into that box and negatively impact our marriage. For example, Seth is adamant that the kids, the dog and the cats can’t sleep in our room. I don’t agree with him, but I know he is protecting his marriage box. If I think Seth is letting someone into our box – this could make our glass box shatter. We need to keep people out of our box and protect our marriage. This could be a female, or male friend of mine, who I am spending too much time with as an example. Another example is in laws. A lot of marital fights involve in laws. Protect your marriage.

I guess the bottom line message is that marriage isn’t endless unconditional love. Marriage is conditional. It’s conditional in the fact that it needs attention just like a potted flower needs attention. It needs to be watered and fed and given sun and attention. It needs to feel loved and wanted and needs both people to evolve together year after year.

Here is how I try to give my marriage attention every day:

  • Affection – hugs, kisses, smiles.
  • Attention – ask Seth about his day and really listen and care. Spend time with him.
  • Show Seth how happy I am to see him every day when he walks through the door.
  • Appreciation – thank him for going to work / don’t expect it. He thanks me for everything I do every day too. He even thanks me for making him dinner which makes me so happy. I thank him for things he does around the house – dishes, cleaning, fixing things, etc. He thanks me for my paycheck which always makes me smile!
  • A nightly walk outside with Tanner is our nightly date / alone time.
  • Reading the same books to discuss it.
  • Finding tv shows that we enjoy watching together.
  • Date nights. Soon to be date lunches when the kids go back to school a couple days a week.

Here are things that I still do wrong in my marriage:

  • Assumptions – instead of assuming, I need to ask.
  • Expectations – expecting too much. Making Seth feel taken for granted. Not making him feel appreciated.
  • Anger – I can be hot headed. I can get angry at him quickly if I think he is being impatient or abrasive. I need to stay calm and cool and tell him things calmly and not get so worked up.
  • Sometimes I can make Seth feel he is last on my list. I need to make sure he doesn’t feel like this. He needs to know how important he is to me and I need to ask him questions about what I can do differently.

One of my favorite lines that Seth says to me is, “How is your marriage going honey?” He thinks he is funny, but he is also very serious. Just because his marriage is going well doesn’t mean that I am in a happy place and vice versa. It’s good to check in with each other.

Do I think that everyone should stay married? No. Do I think that people sometimes give up too quickly? Yes. I hope that you and your spouse can evolve and grow together through the years. I hope that each day you can put some work into your marriage. Go do one extra thing for your marriage today. I just took a nice long walk with my husband and now we are going to cuddle on the couch and watch Cobra Kai together on Netflix if our children let us.

Wishing you all a happy marriage. All marriages have bumpy roads. Some roads are windier than other roads. I hope that road will lead you to each other in a happier and stronger place together.

This blog is dedicated to my wonderful husband Seth. Happy 15th anniversary to my love. Thank you for choosing to be married to me every day.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R