I’m the writer, but my husband is far better with words than me. When we were first dating 15 years ago, I was a self-conscious girl who couldn’t understand why a beautiful, smart, unbelievably funny boy like him would want to grow old with me.
When I finally got up the guts to ask him, he took my hand and said this:
“I want to be with you, Lindsay, because you are the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. Then, I get ready for the day quickly because I cannot wait to see you. While we are hanging out, I am always a little sad because eventually, I will have to leave to go home. And then I fall asleep thinking of you. I dream about you all night long, and then I wake up and do it all again the next day.”
I told you, he’s good.
I, by comparison, am a mumbling mess when I try to reciprocate these feelings. I tell him he’s got a cute butt, then I laugh uncomfortably and say I’m excited for him to get home from work so we can get our freak on.
Yeah, I say that, and somehow it only makes my husband love me more. He is the nearest thing to a saint that I will ever meet.
These past few years have been tricky, however. We’ve moved to a new city where we don’t have many friends. We shut down a business that we couldn’t keep afloat. We’ve endured lay-offs and are still looking for meaningful work.
These types of setbacks can weigh heavily on a marriage. Earlier this year, I noticed how distanced we were becoming. Our long philosophical chats, which we had always loved to participate in, had become ancient history. We were arguing over simple decisions like what to cook for the kids’ dinner.
There was one week where I’m sure we didn’t even give each other so much as a smooch as far as physical attention went.
Luckily, we recognized the strain our relationship was taking and decided to make some changes.
We encouraged self-love
From the time we were young, childless, and trying to carve out what this future meant for the two of us, we’ve always made it a point to compliment each other’s best qualities actively.
Jamie points out those small things about me that I’m too self-conscious to enjoy: my love of debate when it comes to social justice, the way my dimples make it look like I have a double chin but in the cutest way, how I get subconsciously loud and fast-talking around strangers. He tells me how much he loves these things, and it helps me value myself.
Encouraging self-love in a relationship doesn’t always come naturally. Often, when we are feeling frustrated or stressed, we only want to nitpick the things that annoy and irritate us in our spouses.
By focusing on areas that you love about yourself and your spouse, this helps soften the blow when it’s time to talk about the tough stuff, such as areas for improvement.
We focus on teamwork
A relationship is about first growing as individuals and then as a couple. My husband and I always said that we are better as a team. We make our parenting decisions together, we opened a small business together, and for three years, we worked side-by-side daily in that business. We moved away from our hometown together, and we regularly refer to each other as a best friend.
We also lead separate lives through current work projects, friends, and hobbies. We don’t need to be around each other 24/7, but it doesn’t kill us if we are. I have watched Jamie grow into a man, and he has stood by me as I evolved into the woman I am today too.
Sure, we influence each other, but we challenge each other as well. We are teammates through and through. We are better together than we are apart. By focusing on our strength as a team, we were able to remind ourselves how good we are together.
We push for communication
We all know that communication is essential—that’s an obvious one. But what kind of communication? Talking about the tough stuff is usually the last thing couples want to do.
We want to believe that we are the fabled couple that never fights. We want to prove that our relationship is flawless.
But in reality, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. If we didn’t disagree sometimes, that would mean we weren’t communicating. If something has been said or done that I don’t like, I work hard to put it into words, to get it off my chest and iron out the wrinkled fabric.
He does the same. Communicating doesn’t come easy to us. We are inward people who often feel the need to hoard and hide our real emotions so as not to make waves in our relationship. When we do this, it only causes more waves—a tsunami, eventually.
Maybe this shift in learning and growing with our relationship comes more naturally to us because we’ve been doing this from such a young age. We were teenagers when we met, and we’ve grown up together, learning how to evolve and mature as individuals and as a team. We didn’t have the opportunity to find ourselves before finding each other.
I don’t think this is a bad thing, because we’ve learned how to work alongside one another while carving out our own identities.
Relationships are complicated. It is this ever-evolving thing that morphs daily. I guess when it all comes down to it, I love my husband not because it’s easy, but because it just feels right. That’s why it’s best to make a concerted effort to grow with our relationship rather than against it.
When Jamie laughs at my jokes, my heart flutters, and I think, “I can’t believe this amazing guy thinks I’m funny.” I still get butterflies in my stomach when he unexpectedly holds my hand.
He’s my best friend and my teammate. But sometimes, even teammates need to sit back and reevaluate how they are playing the game. It is incredible how far a little rewiring and reconnection can go in our relationships that mean the most.