Sometimes Marriage Is About Putting Your Needs Last

by Meredith Ethington

Being an adult is mostly feeling tired. At least that’s how I feel at the end of the day. I’m exhausted from balancing the kids, the housework, my job, and trying to remember all the little details because I’m the one in the house who is expected to be on top of everything. The last thing I want to do at the end of a long, exhausting day is be “on” for my husband.

And no, I don’t mean that kind of “on.” Frankly, I just mean looking alive.

I mean being able to carry on intelligible conversations about more than logistics for carpool the next day. I mean letting him know in one way or another that I’m still glad we’re on this long parenting adventure together because I would literally fall apart without his advice, support, and encouragement. I mean staying awake past 9 at night because he’s a night owl and I’m not.

At the end of a long day, I don’t really want to be on. I want to be done. I want to be a pile of mushy brain and body in my bed watching crappy reality TV. I want to retreat into my hole (my bedroom) at the end of the day and ignore that anyone needs anything from me, including my husband. I hate being on when the kids are in bed.

It would be so easy to tell myself that I do all the things all day long and I deserve to not have to talk about anything. I deserve to sit in my bed alone and mutter half-assed responses to his conversations from the other room. I deserve to read a book, or take a bath, or do whatever it is any of us need at the end of the day, because of course I do. I do deserve it.

But that won’t keep my marriage alive.

Maybe you like to hang out with your spouse, and that’s great. I love my man, immensely too, but I also just want to be alone at the end of a hard day. It’s hard to be a highly sensitive parent, and have anxiety, and also practice self-care.

My self-care involves not speaking to anyone because I’m at the end of my freaking rope most days.

Marriage is about sacrifice though. No, it can’t be one-sided sacrifices. It has to go both ways. But I do believe that in order for my marriage, or any marriage to survive, we have to learn to put ourselves last sometimes for the sake of our relationship.

I practice self-care, but I also practice loving my partner. And, yes, it takes practice to love him some days. And I’m sure he’d say the same thing about me. That’s what makes marriage real, and beautiful and messy.

It’s hard. It takes time. It takes putting your own needs dead last some days. Not all days, of course, but I know he needs me too. He needs to feel connected. And I want more than anything to keep feeling connected after 15 years of marriage.

The beauty of this whole marriage thing is that I know that there are times when he makes sacrifices for me too. He takes time to crawl into bed with me to talk because he knows that’s the only place I can carry on a legit conversation when I’m done with the day.

We both have to work freaking hard to keep this marriage alive.

The other day, he told me at the end of a long day when I was barely awake that if I wanted to go on a hike with him in the morning instead of going to the gym, he’d get up early. He hates getting up early. And I’d much rather go to the gym than go on a hike. But I knew it was a message he was sending. It said, “I want to spend time with you.”

So we woke up early before he had to go to work, and we drove up the canyon. We went on a hike together and talked about kids, life, and important stuff. We held hands without someone asking to be carried. It was only about an hour together, but it reminded me that we’re in this together. We’ve committed to this, so we both have to make it work.

And, yes it’s work. Hard work.

Divorce is sometimes the right thing to do. But so is fighting for something. And a few years ago, we weren’t in the greatest place. We went to counseling. We had to work through some things. And that helped wake us up to the fact that we aren’t invincible, but we both care enough to put in the work.

My job right now is to not retreat when I desperately want to. It’s to share with him that I really want to spend time with him even though momming is hard and I just want to be done when the kids are in bed. I’m working hard at not retreating, and I know he’s working just as hard to try to make me happy too.

We are balancing our self-care with each other’s needs, and it’s trial and error, and it’s never perfect, but it’s working.

And like most things in life, with a little hard work and sacrifice, beautiful things are possible.