I’m going to hold his hand and remind him it’s me under these layers of middle age and motherhood.
The girl my husband married glowed with that peaceful and enviable confidence that can only come from knowing you’re wholly and deeply loved. The source of this contentment was no surprise; in fact, it was almost embarrassingly obvious every time my husband glanced at her.
Make no mistake; the feeling was mutual. She hung on every word he said—and she hung on to him. They were always touching, laughing at private jokes, encouraging each other.
When he came home from work, she dropped everything to greet him with a smile, a hug, a “How was your day?” Not because she was some “Mad Men” housewife—she was too much of a feminist for that—but because she missed him when he was gone and was genuinely interested in hearing about anything that had to do with him.
She showered with his favourite scents so he would be tempted to stick his face in her hair, kiss her neck, hold her hand up to his own face and breathe in. She wore cute tops and tight jeans which she couldn’t wait for him to take off.
They got married back in the days before cell phones and laptops so, when one talked, the other listened intently. They focused completely on each other, looking into each other’s eyes and sharing their hopes, their dreams, their worries, their love.
Their love had a power all its own. It was so palpable, other people often commented on it. It seemed capable of withstanding anything.
Fast-forward 34 years. My husband is no longer married to that girl. The woman he is married to now is not nearly as light or light-hearted. Life has hardened her, technology has distracted her, marriage has surprised her. I am that woman. I once was that girl.
“You’ve changed,” my husband tells me. And he’s right. I’m not sure if it’s hormones or the state of the world—but I am no longer that girl. I don’t hang on his every word anymore because, now that he works from home, we are together 24/7 and, I’m sorry, but that’s just too many words. I am busier than ever with my own work and admit that I spend more time interacting with my computer than my husband. All of that sitting has also added weight—literally, which has left me self-conscious and more likely to pull away when he puts a hand on my widening hips. And forget about showering with some chichi body product. I consider it an accomplishment if I take time to shower at all—usually with whatever little hotel bottle I’ve brought home from my latest work trip.
After our last dog died, my husband half-jokingly said, “Well, now I’ve moved up to number three on the list.” Between our two kids and our two dogs, he apparently felt left out, something I just pooh-poohed because I was so busy with everyone and everything else. It’s very easy to fall into a routine, any routine, when you’ve been married for such a long time. And it’s easy to justify that routine because, really, can any relationship sustain the same level of passion with which it begins? So, when we peck each other on the lips or distractedly check Facebook or the Yankees score while the other one’s speaking, we chalk it up to being an old married couple. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the kind of old married couple we want to be.
I want us to laugh together like we once did, put away our phones when we talk to each other, remember why we fell in love. I want us to see each other across a room and feel the heat. Or at least the warmth. I want us to spend more time planning trips together than discussing bills. I want us to stop taking each other for granted and realize what a gift our marriage is. I know that’s what he wants, too. Sure, he’s also changed, but I see what happens when I make a little effort. He makes a little effort, too. That’s probably all it takes.
So it’s time for another change. I’m going to step away from the computer, change out of my sweatpants, go buy some fruity-smelling shampoo and ask my husband to tell me about his day. I’m going to put my phone in another room and listen to what he says. I’m going to hold his hand and remind him it’s me under these layers of middle age and motherhood. I’m going to tell him I love him and look at him—really look at him—until I see the glimmer in his eye that made that 22-year-old girl glow. Because I want to be that girl. Again.
by Lois Alter Mark