There’s nothing like a bit of travel to bring out the ugly in a marriage.
“Oh shoot… I missed my exit!”
“What do you mean you missed your exit?”
“I mean, I missed my exit.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Why did you do that?”
“I was talking to the kids.”
“You can’t talk to the kids and follow directions?”
“I didn’t know it was coming up.”
“Why didn’t you ask for help?”
“Because I didn’t need help.”
“Well, clearly you did.”
It’s only ten more minutes, but it feels like a turning point in our relationship. One of many.
We got past this one. Eventually. But they’re always around. These moments. Creeping up when you least expect them.
These days my husband and I live in a state of near constant irritation with each other.
I like to think that we’re actually irritated with the small, wild creatures who inhabit our once lovely and peaceful home. Oftentimes, I find myself drawing in a deep breath, forcing up the corners of my mouth and speaking calmly to my children through gritted teeth.
But the irritation has to go somewhere. So I take it out on Joel.
I remember a time when I waited anxiously for my husband to arrive home. I counted the seconds until I saw him again.
Nowadays he walks through the door and I think, “Yay! Help is here!”
But then he wants to do things like take off his shoes and change his clothes and use the bathroom.
The other day my son asked me, “Mom, don’t you think it’s funny that Dad’s a grown up, but you tell him how long he can stay in the bathroom?”
No, Aiden. I don’t think that’s funny at all.
And I guess he’s not much more impressed with me.
I might snap a bit from time to time. I can be controlling. Slightly irrational. Extremely emotional.
I can see why he might not like me sometimes. At this stage in life, I’m not sure I much like me sometimes.
But, to be truthful, my goal for the next four years is survival. I’m just hoping I’ll make it until they’re all three in school and wiping their own butts and understanding the reasons why we don’t run into oncoming traffic.
If I make it that far then, perhaps, I’ll work on becoming a better, more likable person.
Until then, I’m just happy that at the end of the day, he’s still there. That in this season of small kids, we’re sticking it out for each other.
There really is a season for everything. I’ve found this more true in marriage than in any other aspect of my life.
Because I used to think that our relationship in the moment was our relationship forever. I used to believe that if we weren’t currently seeing eye to eye, we would never see eye to eye. If I wasn’t happy today, then I’d never be happy.
When we moved to Budapest, it felt like we lived in two different worlds. His was a happy one. Mine, not so much. When we went to bed at night it felt like an invisible wall between us. Our hands could touch, but we couldn’t cross that barrier. Not the real us, at least.
I don’t know when the wall came down. It didn’t happen on a certain day. There was no grand moment, no breakthrough.
But it came down, slowly. And one night I looked over and realized it wasn’t there anymore. That we had just passed through a season. We’d made it to the other side.
Now I try my best to get a handle on my emotions, and tendency to overgeneralize and, if for just a moment, to view this current stage as a season. One that is joyful or painful or hard, but one that will pass.
When I see it like that, I can enjoy the good times just a little more. Knowing they won’t always be there. And burrow down in the hard times. Knowing they, too, will one day be gone.
Maybe not gone so much as passed. They’ll always be there.
But I think it’s these hard seasons we’ll one day look back on with the most fondness. And the most pride.
“I can’t believe we made it through small kids,” he’ll say as we hold hands on the porch.
“Or that move to Budapest,” I’ll remember, tightening my scarf around my neck. (It’s always Fall in my happy, future-moments.)
But we’ll be so glad we did.
My definition of love has changed much through the years. And I suppose it will continue to. I imagine love, itself, is always the same. But my understanding of it never is.
These days, I think of love like this.
That at the end of the day, even when we’ve hardly liked each other, we’re still there. We’re in this together, whether it’s pretty or not.
It’s not what I pictured before marriage. But somehow, it’s even more beautiful.
And right now, in this season of small kids, it’s just enough.