How to Save a Marriage
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day–the following story was originally published on March 2, 2018
`It was romantic as hell.
We were finally alone on the beach house front porch.
The sun was rolling away from us and the sky made grand commitments to the pinks and oranges that stroke only finest of summer evenings.
My wife sat across from me. I took her hand.
The kids were somewhere inside, doing god knows what.
It was quiet, just the two of us and the distant break of the Atlantic Ocean along the soft New Jersey sands.
I admitted I don’t say “I love you” enough. I told her she deserves to hear it more. Eight years of marriage, three children later and I promised that I would tell her I love her everyday, for the rest of our lives.
We held a look long enough to vaguely remember what life was like before children until one of them threw open the screen door and complained about something someone was doing inside.
We both said we would be right there and the child waited, then stomped, turned, and disappeared. This was our vacation. Our moment. The rolling sea, the tender sky. There was no need to rush. It was a scene that unfurled on the silver screen of our imaginations when we 16 years old and first began to conjure up a life together.
Like any new resolution, I was all in– with energy and verve and boyish enthusiasm. I planned out how I would do it, slip it casually into a conversation or let her believe I had forgotten about my promise only to surprise her with an “I love you” as she was falling asleep.
And for a few weeks I was true to my promise.
But, at some point I missed a day. Not that I didn’t love my wife anymore, I just failed to think of someone other than myself.
And as promises go–failing to keep them one day, made it easier to forget about them the next.
Until one day my wife confronted me half joking, half serious, ” Why did I stop saying, I love you? Do you not love me anymore?”
I stuttered and stumbled.
I said I was sorry and promised, from here on out I would say, “I love you” everyday for the rest of our lives.
And so as I did for a more few days. And then, as promises go…
My parents are cruising into their 40th year of marriage.
I say cruising because they make marriage look effortless. Like a joyride. A Sunday afternoon cruise with the top down and the radio up.
The key to their marriage is a little ritual they’ve engaged in every evening, when one of them returns home from work.
After a long day, when they’re finally reunited, no matter the condition of the household, now matter the company sitting at the kitchen table– the first thing they do is kiss.
A moment to recognize each other. A moment that is just theirs. A moment to honor their relationship
It’s such an amazing moment, especially considering the anarchy of weekday nights when the kids squeal about the house, when dinner boils on the stove and the phone is ringing and work is emailing and there’s a mouse loose in the pantry and the bills spew across the kitchen table.
Life, and all of its obligations, demands so much attention that sometimes you forget you’re married.
Days pile on to days.
The chores and responsibilities mount.
There’s only enough time to breath and react and the thought of thinking about someone else is simply too much.
So marriage makes strangers out of us.
Our spouse becomes a coworker, one who we occasionally bump into at the copy machine or the coffee pot. Things get awkward. There’s a head nod, then a slight smile before you retreat to your own business.
How do we avoid such fate? Like you’re always commuting from one draining job to the next.
My parents proved it starts with simple, sincere acknowledgement. They did it, and continue to do it, with a kiss.
They proved that marriage only works when you’re willing to connect and invest your attention in the smallest of moments.
I tried saying, “I love you” to my wife everyday and failed. Failed to create a daily moment each was just ours.
Because it’s hard. Because it takes real endurance, real commitment to honor your marriage everyday. Because sometimes I take marriage for granted.
In the throes of life, when life is not romantic as hell, the health of a marriage hinges on those little, private moments that you create for one another. It’s in those moments where you reconnect, rediscover each other all over again.
40 years of marriage proves so.
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