The Old Married Couple

Not being able to sleep tonight, I dusted off a draft from about six weeks ago.   At the time, I was in a snit about something from work, and everything seemed to irk me in the worst kind of way: the coffee was too weak/strong, the laundry was taking too long to dry, the dog had the audacity to start showing her age, dishes kept appearing in the sink, and work just turned into countless hours of chasing my tail with little to show for it.  Did I mention women at a certain stage of their lives are, well, prone to exaggeration and crabbiness?  Doesn’t help the feminists’ cause, but biology is unrelenting like that.

So I nearly threw a dish at his head that night. It started off innocuously enough…he was making plans to join two of his kids for a night at the movies, and my middleton and I decided we needed to take a wander over to the nearly-all-night cookie spot a few blocks away. This is what we do: carve out time for our kids both together and separately. We all need that. So I’m putzing around in the kitchen after dinner while he’s on the couch surfing Facebook or something when I hear, “We haven’t been to a movie in a while.” Before I can respond, he tacks on this zinger…

“We’re turning into an old married couple.”

Now there are a couple of ways to take this. Either you can think to yourself: How sweet! He thinks we’re one of those adorable older couples you see wandering around town, holding hands, him grinning at her every word (even if he isn’t really paying attention to what she’s saying). She looks adoringly at him when he gently steers her around an obstacle. Or…you take it like I did (remember, hormones at play):

He thinks we’ve become boring and predicable.

Hence, the potential encounter his noggin had with the dinnerware. See, my first marriage ended in a whimper when I’d finally grown tired of redrawing that line in the sand. We never made it, incredibly, to even being boring and predictable; we just, well, quit being a couple. At one point after our separation, we talked about why the marriage ended, and the ex told me that during one of our attempts at reconciliation, I commented on an elderly couple walking towards us holding hands and laughing. I remembered telling him as they passed that I wanted to be that couple. Apparently when I said that, he knew that we were done, because he just couldn’t be that. Fair enough. I just wish he had said that then, instead of three years later. But back to the story…

I’m a romantic at heart, and like a dolt, it took me nearly 28 years to get it through my thick skull that I was married to someone who wasn’t. I love writing mushy little notes and leaving them for BW to find. I love walking around town holding hands. I love just sitting on a wall outside the shops, sipping coffee, and people watching. Walks around our new neighborhood, spotting previously unseen details in the homes or gardens, or just chatting to the neighbors around the block, these are all activities that make me feel all warm and fuzzy when we’re together. Cuddling is good for the soul too. Hugs from behind when I’m in the kitchen will put a smile on my face every time. And I give really great back rubs (seriously, they will put you right to sleep)! These simple activities seem like a recipe for “growing old together” I could embrace for eternity.

But here lately, we’ve both been under some pretty heavy stressors for any couple to have to endure: parent in failing health, first of his children to marry, we officially moved in together by moving to a third floor apartment in the city (as opposed to living in a house with space and yard and room and a commute), juggling finances to cover kids and college and medical and vehicles, major project beginning at work, church commitments…the list  of situations and circumstances we are learning to balance seems to go on forever, all while learning to be together as a couple. But apparently, we weren’t doing such a swift job of that last one, at least, not recently. But as my Dad has always been fond of saying:

Lessons that we learn in pain, we seldom have to learn again.

 So rather than smash ceramics, we talked. In my first marriage, I know I was guilty of just clamming up and doing the whole “stomp and huff” routine if I was frustrated. It seemed to me that it would not be wise to try that approach again (after all, look where it got me). I shared my frustration of feeling as if we were just coasting through our days, and thankfully, he could see it too. No hurt feelings on either side, just talking and acknowledging how the other felt. So simple, right? It seemed it…so why was this so difficult to do the first time around? Why did we not speak up out of kindness and a desire to help our partners help us, instead choosing more passive and confrontational ways of showing just how “wrong” we felt our spouses were in their behavior/thoughts/ideas? I don’t have an answer for that. All I can do, going forward, is learn from past mistakes, and do all I can to not repeat them. In hindsight, though, perhaps BW is on to something. Maybe the target should be the “old married couple”. After all, they’re still together through all of their shared life’s challenges and joys.

Old married couple….yes, that is an cliché I could embrace after all.