Do you remember when you and your spouse were friends, back before dating and rings and mortgages and doctor bills? Do you remember in the beginning, when spending time with your spouse was more important than going to bed on time? After years of working hard and birthing and raising a family, my husband and I still loved each other deeply. But, we had forgotten how to be friends. Here’s how my husband and I revived our friendship and strengthened our marriage in the midst of our hectic life.Deep Friendship Sets The Foundation for Strong Marriage
I knew the minute I looked at Jack that he was the one, but it took him a while to arrive at the same revelation (he was a teenage boy, after all). While I waited patiently for him to figure out that I was the love of his life, I endeavored to be the best friend he ever had. I wanted to know all about the things he cared about. I listened to him talk about sports, listened to his weird music and pretended to like it, encouraged him with notes and hugs and smiles, made him homemade presents and baked goods. Okay:so it is was probably pretty obvious that I was crazy about him . . .
Fast-forward nineteen years later, fast-forward through years of responsibility, hard work, and our fair share of struggles, to just another afternoon sitting in the car together. I watched as he plugged his phone into the stereo. A song came on that I hadn’t heard before, and I grabbed the phone to see the title and the artist. I had never heard of the band playing through our car speakers. As I scrolled through his music library, I realized I didn’t know half of the songs in his phone.
“Oh, you wouldn’t like any of this,” he shrugged and grabbed his phone back to change the song.
Just then, something pricked me from the inside, and I turned to him: “But if you like it, I’d still like to hear it.”
He gave me a sideways glance like he didn’t believe me.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had listened to his music.
When did I stop listening to his music?
Yes, I was loving. Yes, I was engaged in my marriage. But where was that young girl who just loved to be his friend, who thrilled at just hearing about his life, his struggles, and listening to his weird music?
This music thing had me bugged. I realized that it wasn’t just the music that had faded into the background. I tried to remember what we used to do for fun together. I realized that, somewhere along the way, we stopped playing games. We used to play cards endlessly. I cheated at every game because he beat me no matter what I did; he pretended to be mortified by my lack of morality on the Monopoly and Kanasta front. We’d laugh. A lot.
Somewhere in this roaring river of life, we stopped playing games.
And sports games? Well, let’s just say I’d gotten to the point where every time he watched a game, I went up stairs and took a nap. Now to be fair: this was usually on the weekends when the kids were taking their naps. And, I was sleep-deprived for years.Friendship in Marriage Requires Taking An Interest in Each Other's Interests
But one afternoon as I was climbing the stairs to go take my Sunday nap, I had a thought: this game really matters to him, and he’s down there watching it by himself. If all I do is curl up next to him instead of going upstairs, at least he’s not watching his game alone.
When I was planning meals that September, I took a look at the Seahawks schedule and wrote it down: what days they play, and at what time. When Gonzaga started their basketball season, I penciled their games into the calendar, too. Because a friend would want to know when such important events were taking place, right? If it matters that much to him, why couldn’t I be aware and make a “game night dinner” or “Go Hawks” brunch for him? Why not just pay attention?
One Friday afternoon, I sat downstairs on the couch writing. The house was quiet for once, and I was actually making headway on my next blog post. I paused for a moment, as I often do, to listen for Jack. I could hear him typing in his office, and something pricked me again. It seemed so odd that we were in a house all by ourselves for an entire day and were both working so hard that we hardly took time to exchange pleasantries.
Sure: we both have obligations and responsibilities. We both need to do our jobs. But, in a life where date nights are expensive and rare, what harm would there be in a day-date? Even a date lunch? Even a half an hour lunch sitting at the kitchen counter together talking, our elbows sticking in the kids’ syrup left over from breakfast?
I tried to remember the last movie we went to in the middle of the day. It was five and half years ago when I was pregnant with Abraham. Yeah. And now? We have one afternoon a week to ourselves (thank you, Oma Janie): to work more, of course. But, I asked myself,
why? Why not work harder the rest of the week and go to a movie with my hubs on our free day instead?
I put my laptop down and raced up the stairs, barging into his office.
“Yeah?” He asked, still focusing on the email he was writing.
“Wanna go get a burrito and see a movie?” I asked him.
He turned around in his chair and stared at me in disbelief, like a child let loose in a candy store with a wad full of cash to spend.
Friendship in Marriage Requires Making Time for Fun Together
We did escape from our responsibilities in the middle of the day: my best friend and I. It felt young and free and giddy, like we were getting away with something, like we could finally be us again, the way we used to be: friends. We watched a Jack movie filled with Jack humor, and I laughed at him laughing so hard at an oversized raccoon and a talking tree posing as superheroes.
We reluctantly returned home in time to get the kids: back to deadlines and time sheets and “If you don’t eat five more bites of dinner–” But, our three hour field trip kept us both smiling at each other all weekend.
Please, sisters, don’t get crabby with me. I am not criticizing you. I know the exhaustion you’re drowning in, that dirty house that won’t stay clean no matter how much you work at it. I know that need to flee at nap time on Sundays, the need to jump in the car while the house is quiet and just go wander aimlessly through Target or TJ Maxx for nothing but the pure delight of window shopping alone while sipping on a latte without a cart full of screaming banshees trying to grab it from you. I get it. I also get what it means to need a corner for yourself, a space, a break: an empty bed for an hour with your favorite tv show on hulu.
So take that break for you, and then maybe look at just one tiny way to be your husband’s friend.
Because, before it all got romantic and serious, before we were talking mortgages and babies, before we got responsible and old and mature, we were friends. Being together, just bumming around town in jeans and ball caps, was what we lived for. And I want that back. By gosh darn, I’m getting it back.
That sweet girlfriend isn’t gone, sister. She’s still in there.
Go grab your hubs and bum around town with him. You’ll find that girl again, I promise.
The picture of the gaming couple in the graphic I used for this post came from fanboygaming.com‘s article, A Weekly Fangirl Discussion: A Couple That Plays Together Stays Together.