A few weekends ago, there were some family-friendly activities going on that I wanted to take the kids to. Some trick-or-treating on Saturday, and a discounted Disney on Ice skating show on Sunday.
When I asked Ben if we could all go, his reaction was familiar.
“Ughhh, that’s just how I want to spend my weekend. Watching Disney on Ice…sounds great…”
It’s a common theme in our marriage. Maybe it’s something to do with him being outnumbered In a house of girls, or maybe it’s the fact that he grew up on a farm with men who are always working. Either way, sometimes I get frustrated with the fact that it feels like I have to ask him to spend time with us on the weekends, his day off.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s not always like that. It just feels like that when there is something going on that I think the girls would enjoy. It bothers me at times that it’s not a given that he will come with us, like some families.
I fear for the future, when the kids are grown and we are once again, just a couple. Will it be me begging Ben to come out of his workshop and spend time with me? Will I have given up by then, content to go our separate ways as gray-haired retirees?
With these thoughts on my mind, I read the book “The Secret Life of Wives” by Iris Krasnow. Although the book was geared towards an older audience (as in the kids out-of-the-house older) I found the advice on marriage comforting. The author studied women who have kept their marriages intact for 20, 30, even 50 and beyond years. Along with basically stating that no marriage is ever alike, she did come up with some not-so-common tidbits of advice for us semi-newlyweds. The highlights included:
1) Separate vacations. This one especially comforted me. When I mention my dreams of traveling to Ireland, Italy, Greece to Ben, I watch as his eyes glaze over and I can practically see his thoughts wander to anything but traveling with his wife. Depression overcomes me as I envision me forcing Ben to come with me, me excitedly pointing out the ruins and Ben rolling his eyes, the gap between us widening with every tourist trap. The book extolled the benefits of husband and wives spending vacation time apart from one another, citing time for separate interests, and ultimately, renewed interest in each other. I found the thought hopeful, that I could still travel and Ben could still be happy at home with his tools, all while actually helping our marriage.
2) Separate passions. Again, the author emphasized that this really isn’t possible until your kids are older, which both frustrated and inspired me. As in, I’m not abnormal because I feel like I can’t do anything for me, but also frustrated me because I know I would be a happier mom doing things for me, even on a small scale.
3) If it’s at least once a year, you’re good. She polled hundreds of couples to find out—there’s no magic number for romance. If you’re doing it, don’t compare. ‘Nuf said.
Overall, I felt like this book really helped me. The theme of not relying on your husband for your happiness made so much sense to me, and I realized, that in some ways, I was relying on Ben. Some of that is related to the difficulty of life with small children—it’s just plain hard to get out of the house on my own.
But the truth is, my husband can’t make me happy. Only I can do that. And it’s about time I started acting on that.