Three years ago I wrote a little piece called, “I’d Rather Hang Out with My Husband and Kids. Sorry, Not Sorry.”
It was shared by Yahoo! Lifestyle. To say readers had a visceral reaction to my desire to skip the mom nights out and the mom weekends and focus on the man I committed to being with forever and the children we created would be an understatement. The post still receives comments- most of which tell me how pathetic, annoying, and judgmental I am (fun, fun).
Is it really so unique for me to want to hang out with my husband and kids? Because it is still true. I would STILL rather hang out with my husband and kids – but I could use a little space.
In the three years since I wrote that post, a lot has changed. Just a couple of months after writing that post, I established a home-based content and copywriting business that has flourished. This meant that while I was still home the same amount of time, I was often occupied with work.
One year after writing about enjoying time with my husband and kids, the world shut down due to the COVID 19 pandemic. My husband went from traveling a few days a week for work to working from home full time. And, we switched from sending our kids to the local public school to homeschooling our children. We went from traveling back and forth to New Jersey to visit family for most holidays to celebrating them all, just the four of us, at home.
In the past three months, we’ve had another major shift as my husband has transitioned from working-from-home full time to traveling overnight, out of state, for about three days every week while I continue to work from home and homeschool our kids.
One thing that hasn’t changed? For the most part, I still prefer to hang out with my husband and kids… Though I acknowledge, I could use a little space sometimes.
I tend to shy away from giving martial or relationship advice because I do not consider myself even close to an expert on the topic. I’ve had friends ask me for relationship advice because I’m, “good at it.” My response is always that I’m clearly not good at all relationships, just this one.
This month, my husband and I celebrated our 12-year wedding anniversary and our 15th year together.
I realize in the grand scheme of things, this is not terribly long. I mean, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were married for more than 70 years. She probably even enjoyed hanging out with him. I’m sure she’s got some great relationship advice to share. Me? I’m not so sure.
But I will admit that I have learned a few lessons over the past fifteen years and maybe you can take something from what I’ve learned.
Here are six things I’ve learned about marriage and relationships after fifteen years together (and two during a global pandemic):
1. It’s important to find yourself and what you love.
It’s true- I love hanging out with my husband and kids. But a huge part of being happy in a relationship is being happy with yourself. I know it sounds cliche. It is. I also know it’s hard when the kids are little, but you need to find what makes you happy and make time for it.
There are a few things that I’ve found that make me happy: yoga, binge-watching trashy TV, reading, and writing. I don’t always find time for all of these things all the time. For a long time, I couldn’t make time or space to move my body. Right now, I struggle to find time to write. But being conscious of the fact that I want to do these things and that they make me happy has helped. It’s also helped to say, out loud, to my husband that I enjoy these things and want to make time for them.
I used to try to be a morning person. So many people post about their morning routines: waking up at the butt crack of dawn, journaling, drinking warm water with lemon, putting your feet directly on the earth, exercising. I’ve tried it all and I can’t. This does not bring me joy. You know what does? Staying up late and reading or watching garbage TV. Coffee. And working out in the late afternoon. If the morning routine thing brings you joy, great. Make time for that. If it doesn’t, don’t force it and do what does makes you happy instead!
2. Once you find what you love, find ways to share these things with your partner.
Okay, so once you’ve found what honestly makes you happy and makes you feel like you… find small ways to share these things with your partner. Now, I’m not saying all the time. You don’t want to make your thing an “our thing.” But, let them in on it, at least a little bit, and also take interest in what they love – a little bit too.
Years ago, a friend of mine wrote a post, Defeating Resentment: How I Got Hooked on Kayak Fishing, and it changed my perspective of my husband’s hobbies forever. In fact, it inspired me to learn how to ski! Now, I can ski with him. He gets to show off a bit for me (which I know he loves) and we can do something together… but not all the time, because really, I can’t keep up and he still wants to do the advanced stuff without me.
On the weekend of our 12 year wedding anniversary, my husband and I skied Killington together on Saturday morning. We had lunch together and then I read in the lodge in the afternoon while he skied the hard stuff I’m uninterested in. On Sunday, I went to yoga and he went skiing. The weekend before? He went to a yoga class with me. None of it is an all-the-time thing, but it’s nice to get to see what your partner is good at, share what you’re good at, and also have time to do those things on your own, too.
3. Parenting changes as kids get older.
You might be thinking, how do you have the time for that? And, here’s the thing… parenting changes as the kids get older. When my kids were little, I was so exhausted I couldn’t even fathom taking time to get to a fitness class. I basically never moved my body. My hormones were all over the place and I was sleep-deprived. Now that they’re a bit older, I’ll go to a yoga class while they’re at their own practices.
As they want me around them less and less, I have found more time to read and write for enjoyment.
Now that the kids are older, we can watch some shows and movies that my husband and I also enjoy. We had so much fun binging Lost with our kids and they got so into it! We recently watched West Side Story together and we all really enjoyed it. We’ve also listened to Into the Wild and Into Thin Air (both by Jon Krakauer) with the kids on long car rides and then watched the movies with them after listening.
And now that they’re old enough to do things on their own, my husband and I have more time to connect, watch TV or movies together, sit down and have long talks (aka debates), all while the kids play Nintendo or watch their shows on their TV.
Our kids have not hit the teen years yet, so I can’t speak to how easy that phase will be, but they’re 8 and 9 right now and things are pretty nice.
4. Assume that you will both change and embrace it.
I recently read Jessica Simpson’s memoir. She married Nick Lachey when she was 22. In her memoir, she wrote that she felt like Nick was upset that she had changed so much during their marriage. In my head, I was thinking – of course, she changed! Who is the same as they were when they were 22? I know I’m not. And, I’m not the same as I was when I was 26 and got married. My husband is not the same either.
Assume that over the course of your relationship you and your partner will both change. Then try to support each other so that those changes work within your relationship.
5. Always talk through the big stuff.
A relationship is a partnership. Always talk out the big things. Don’t rely on one person to carry all of the major decisions. That’s a lot of pressure for one person and also, it’s important that all major decisions have been looked at from all angles. It’s easy for one person to only look at it from one angle.
I trust my husband to make decisions for our family all the time, he trusts me to make most of the decisions about our kids’ day-to-day lives. But, if it comes down to anything big, we talk it out. Job changes, major medical stuff, large purchases – these are all joint decisions.
We’re big on pro/con lists and talking things to death. But so far, that’s worked out for us.
6. Say it, don’t just assume.
It took me a few years of marriage to learn this one but it has been a huge game-changer. I don’t assume my husband knows anything. Now, you may have just chuckled. He is a smart and capable person, but, even down to the smallest things, I say it out loud to him, text it to him, or write him a note. I never just assume he knows. He is not a mind reader, nor should he be.
If I need help, I tell him. If I don’t like something, I tell him. If I do like something, I tell him. If I don’t want to go somewhere or do something, I tell him. Even if I told him the day before, I tell him again. I never assume he knows. Especially when it comes to our family schedule.
I’m going to repeat this one… If I need help, I never ever, ever assume he knows. I tell him. We’ve all got a lot going on, we’re all in our own heads. It would not be fair of me to assume that he just knows when and how to help me.
So, there you have it. Three years later and after a global pandemic, I’d still choose to spend time with my husband and kids any day… but I’d also really like to get that yoga class in too!
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