This Unnatural Phenomenon Called Marriage

It's after 2:00 AM the night before my first day at a brand new job. As I've gotten older, I've become worse and worse at sleeping. It's my Mama Bear instincts. I can sense when everyone is safely home and tucked into their beds even while I'm virtually unconscious. As Chuck is a night owl and frequently stays up late into the night to binge-watch his latest show, this is problematic. I will not sleep restfully until he is in bed. The flip side of this is that I'm also a ridiculously light sleeper and I'm constantly awoken by Chuck's snoring when he is in bed. This is not even taking into account that 9 nights out of 10, one of our boys will awake in the weest hours of the morning. It's a wonder I can function at all.

That was an awfully verbose way of saying that although I should absolutely be asleep so that I'm well-rested for my first day on the job, I am wide awake and my brain won't allow me to resume sleeping until I put down the words that are circulating in my brain.

Hours ago, we arrived home from a very brief weekend trip to Philly to watch one of my best friends marry the love of her life. It was a wonderful, love-filled weekend with old friends and it gave me much to ruminate on about marriage, and obviously my relationship to the guy whose name I took nearly six years ago.

The last year has absolutely been the hardest one of our still-young marriage. We've been together for 7.5 years, so it's fair to say that our honeymoon phase is over. Parenting two young boys also added an entirely new dynamic to our relationship. My energy and attention has all but been completely consumed by those precocious little ginger-haired boys, and Chuck has far too often fallen to the bottom of my list of daily priorities.

We both recognize that we're in an exhausting season, and so giving each other a lot of grace has been the name of our game. But grace doesn't negate the fact that it's still hard. In the last year, the valleys of our marriage have revealed a lot about us as a couple, and have revealed to me, a lot about myself as a person and as a wife.

Anyone who has known Chuck his entire life knows that marriage and a family were always his endgame. This man was destined to be a husband and father. It was (and is) one of the things that made me fall for him. Marriage comes naturally to Chuck. Maybe not always easily, but always naturally. Me? Marriage comes neither naturally or easily. I am a perfect mess of independent, free-spirited and commitment-phobe.

Anyone who has known me for my entire life knows this to be true, as well. I don't try to be flakey, but I'm a head-in-the-clouds, dreamer who has a new life's goal and purpose every other day. It's not that I don't want to commit to anything. It's that life is short and I want to do everything. I don't want to be tied down to one job, one location, one dream. I want to see and do it all! So while this gives me inspiration and motivation to never stop learning and exploring. It also can make me flakey, and if I'm being honest, a less-than-stellar partner.

A few months ago, after a particularly rough and disconnected winter, Chuck and I lay in bed until 2:00 or 3:00 AM discussing our issues and our plans to tackle them head-on. There was a lot of transformative and revealing things that were said and taken in over the course of that conversation, but the thing that stuck with me was the realization that I haven't been a team player. I launched into sob stories about how hard mothering has been and how I need to do A, B, and C to survive. I shared my wants, my needs, and my priorities. For every "I" and "me" I used, Chuck countered with an "us" and a "we." It floored me that we have been married going on six years and I was only now discovering this about myself. Independent and self-sufficient are not inherently bad qualities. But I haven't simply been independent in our relationship. I've been really stinkin' selfish.

Fortunately, for me, I married just about the most selfless person I've ever known. And so, Chuck has been teaching me what it means to do what is right not for you, but for your marriage. He has been teaching me to shift my thinking from "me" to "we." He is teaching me to dig in my heels when the going gets tough. He is teaching me that while there is beauty in newness and adventure, there is also beauty in commitment and steadfastness.

I haven't loved Chuck the way he deserves to be loved in the last year. But I'm a work in progress. And thankfully, I have the best partner, best friend, and best teacher to help guide me through this unnatural phenomenon called marriage.

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