Maybe you have already seen it. This piece by blogger Jarrid Wilson? Here’s the gist of it: He is married, but he is dating this wonderful woman. Oh, wait, the wonderful woman is his wife because courtship—the pursuing of your romantic partner—shouldn’t end when you get married.
Awwww. That is so sweet, and it is so true. I don’t know anyone who would disagree. If you do disagree, I hope you find that one other person on the planet who also disagrees and may you be very happy together. I think that most of us would say that a healthy, normal adult who feels loved and appreciated within a relationship will be more likely to stick it out during the hard times and less likely to look for romance, validation, and S-E-X on the sly. Am I right? Or am I right?
So, yeah, I think Mr. Wilson is spot-on. Kudos to him and everyone else out there who is dating their significant other after saying, “I do.”
And yet, when I first read this piece, I felt sad—really, really SAD. I thought, “When is the last time my guy and I were in the same room together and not absolutely exhausted?” and I felt envious of every married couple capable of pulling off a date-night.
Please indulge my whining while I tell you that I find it pretty easy to get a sitter for my children. I know at least six reliable, responsible teenage girls whom I would trust to watch my children for an evening. Granny-care, however, is, um, a bit tougher to come by. My mother-in-law requires such intimate care that it can only be done by a close family member with a strong back or another adult—probably a health-care professional– who knows all about eldercare and isn’t squeamish. Have you ever brushed the teeth of a grown person who makes very little saliva and is probably going to fight you every step of the way? Yeah, I can’t see my 16-year-old neighbor doing that.
Even my grown-up friends who know what we are up against have made the generous offer of “If you have an emergency with your mother-in-law, I can watch your kids.” No one has ever volunteered that same service should it happen the other way around. One incredibly honest neighbor even said, “I can watch your kids. Your mother-in-law freaks me out a little.” Yeah, she freaks me out, too.
I do recall two times in the past year that my husband and I have gone out together—no kids, no granny. The first time, it was our anniversary and a friend volunteered to sit for us.
“Is she really comfortable watching your mom, too?”
“And you realize that watching your mom for those hours requires no fewer than three lifts, toilet care, and brushing her teeth?”
“Okay. That’s not going to work.”
Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s just that when you ask someone to do all that, you really are asking them to perform tasks that they didn’t even know existed. And what about his mom? Is she going to be comfortable with someone else undressing her? Eww.
We ended up arranging for our regular care-giver to stop by the house at 8 pm, take care of the night-time routine and put my mother-in-law to bed while our friend watched our kids. We paid the care-giver for an hour of work even though she was only at our house for 15 minutes, but still, it’s the services, not the time, that counts in this case.
The other time we went out, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law watched my mother-in-law and the children. They were visiting from out-of-town—really, out-of-the-country—and long before they arrived, they each promised—repeatedly–that when they visited, we would get a break. They would take care of Grandma, they would watch our children, and we could have a night all to ourselves.
Unfortunately, the only night that worked for them and for us was the night we all arrived back from a four-day family-reunion location-scouting expedition. So, we had spent the day on the road and we were already exhausted when they pushed us out the door. “No, you take this time for you! We insist. It’s the least we can do.”
Me: “So, what do you want to do?”
My guy: “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
We ended up going to a local brew-pub where we split the beer sampler. And then, we came home. I guess we could have hopped into the backseat like a couple of teenagers, but car seats were in the way, and that car-lovin’ isn’t as great as you remember it. Trust me on that.
So, that’s my gripe when I hear anyone talk about keeping the romance alive in a marriage and how important it is to make time for each other. I don’t disagree. I’m just saying it’s much easier for folks who have a parent or in-law who can watch the children versus the other way around. Seriously, when I walk out to the mailbox, I tell one of my kids to keep an eye on Grandma—just in case she slides out of her wheelchair.
The real question is what can be done about it.
I think that in my marriage, I’m lucky in that I really like my husband—and he likes me. I know some people view like as being less than love, but there are an awful lot of people in my life that I love, but I’m not willing to live with because I just don’t like them enough.
And when you like your significant other, it becomes less about the romance and more about the friendship.
Do I want the romance? Heck, yeah! And the white-hot nights of passion, too! But I like my guy enough to trust that we aren’t there—right now. We can’t depend on a dinner out, a weekend away, or a walk along a beach together because those things don’t happen often enough for us, and they probably won’t for some time. We just have to have faith that the friendship will sustain us until the day when children are grown and his mother is dead. Please, judge me on that last sentence—but only if you’ve changed a Depends today.
But I also think that we need more lingering kisses, more dancing barefoot in the kitchen, more snuggling on the couch, and more early morning coffee chats. These aren’t necessarily the things you do when you are dating, but they are the things you do when you are married—and really like each other.
(And sure, I love him, too, but I also like him–a lot.)