It was a pretty hectic Monday for the family – we had friends and family over, I was at work and couldn’t get home in time to shower Lexie. Dinner was a raucous affair and Karen as usual whipped up a feast for everyone. I was trying to flit between playing the good host and performing my Specialty Housekeeping Skill – Dishwashing. (I also do Advanced Ironing.)
The night ended lounging lazily around to the sound of some tunes and some horrendous guitar playing and some caterwauling by yours truly while Karen continued to potter around the kitchen, cleaning up the odds and ends that I had half-done.
We plonked into bed pretty exhausted at the end of the day – trying to juggle this parenting thing with any attempt at any semblance of normal living is hard work.
I was trying to get to sleep as I had an early start the next day, but I could see that Karen was upset. If there is one unwritten rule in our relationship, is that we never go to bed angry – we try and work things out before we put our heads down to the pillow.
Sometimes it is hard work trying to figure out what is wrong exactly in the midst of our minds still trying to process the day. Sure it has been a long, tiring day, but it was spent in the presence of good friends and loved ones. I guess we were all a little physically and emotionally spent from these early days of young parenthood while trying to juggle the demands of life at the same time.
Of all the things that we spoke about, something she said struck me which bore the crux of the problem –
‘You know, at some point tonight, I just felt like you have not thought about me or my needs,’ she told me in a small voice.
Sometimes I think as we are working out our relationships (and we are always working out our relationships), it is during these points – these precious moments of weakness and vulnerability when our truest wants come out.
You have not thought about me or my needs.
How did I get here? How did I get to a point where I had been thoughtful and considerate to everyone except the one who should matter to me most?
Of course, it is not a malevolent indifference to her, but more a benign negligence – one that develops over years of familiarity. Sometimes we have become so close, we have started to become each other’s shadows – and you don’t notice your own shadow.
When I think about relationships that end up not working out, rarely do they ever fracture – seldom is there one big moment that destroys a relationship that has been going on for awhile. Instead couples become unstuck – a more insidious ungluing of two pieces that were once inseparable.
It is the overfamiliarity – the taking of each other for granted where it slowly happens. It is in the distracted tone when she is trying to tell you about the day, it is in the seemingly harmless disparaging remark about an opinion she has, it is in the quiet resentment about how the other is dealing with their young child.
If we are not careful, we drift apart. Even the phrase itself is suggestive of how subtly we fall out of love.
The only way to save this, of course – is vigilance. The discipline of confession is so important in relationships – we need a safe space to be able to say when we feel unloved and to voice our needs. What we choose to do with that vulnerability will determine the longevity of our relationship.
I woke up on Valentine’s Day morning, and mindfully spared a thought for Karen and what she would like. I felt a little embarrassed about how infrequently I have had that thought recently. And so a quick trip after work to pick up her favourite sushi/sashimi platter, and we had a redemptive Valentine’s Day lunch and a great evening together.
More important than Valentine’s Day, then, is the day after Valentine’s Day, and the days after that, as the challenge is to remember not to take each other for granted, and to think about how to love, and serve each other better.