I know my anniversary is next Monday kind of like you know you have a dentist appointment coming up soon. The date sounds vaguely familiar and I know I’m supposed to be doing something that day, but there’s no urgency or excitement to be detected. I schedule work meetings and RSVP to birthday party invitations for the first week of June, and I have to reach into the depths of my brain for what I might be double-booking over. Oh, yeah! Our anniversary is the 4th. You know, Haley — that day you promised to love and cherish the same man for the rest of your life in front of God and all your friends and family? That’s right! Lemme write that down so I don’t forget . . .
I know the day will come and go with little fanfare, if not none whatsoever. It should make me sad, but when I stop and think about what I would even conjure up to make it memorable, I can’t really picture anything. I can’t picture Bobby doing anything out-of-the-box romantic. and my lovey-dovey creativity is like our dog Raleigh in the hot Alabama summer sun — lazy and slow to get up unless food is involved. And frankly, that is when the sadness sets in. It doesn’t even occur to us to make it special or memorable. He may do the obligatory card and Publix flowers and I ordered a silicone ring for him to wear so his finger doesn’t get ripped off while he’s doing farm work, but that’s not really celebrating, is it? Cheap flowers and the fear of losing a finger? Gross. Are we that disconnected?
The pitiful truth is, yes. We are that disconnected. I’ve heard it called the “Seven Year Itch,” but our issue isn’t fidelity or even longing for less commitment. Our issue is longing for the person we fell in love with all those years ago that seems to be fading more and more every passing year. Because somewhere along the way, we became Mommy and Daddy first and Whittle Bunny and Big Bunny somewhere far down the list.
We are in a season of life that a lot of parents with young kids go through. Our alone time is a premium and our priorities are rarely self-indulgent. Responsibility replaces spontaneity and we are usually looking for the other person to help us survive instead of to help us to feel loved. We talk about packing lunches, who is going to pay for early care this month, what the kids did that day, what improvements we need to do on the house, where’s such-and-such, if we need to pick up dinner . . . It’s 95% logistical and 5% emotional. As much as you do these things out of love and sacrifice for your family, it strips the parts of you away that attracted you to one another in the first place. It’s like marital Google. I’m asking you to get the quickest answer possible so I can keep this ship from sinking with two toddlers pouring buckets of water into the boat. We are in survival mode, and instinctively, we give the best of what’s left of us after work, and bills, and adulting, to our kids.
Just the other night, I got home late after work and came inside to a rousing cheer from the littles and was instantly off into “mommy mode” to kiss that day’s boo-boos and make sure they had their favorite cups at the ready to drink with dinner. They fought over who got to sit in my lap while I fought to actually get food in my mouth between the constant up and down of little bodies bobbing and weaving a blockade between myself and my plate. Off to baths and then bedtime and then to get ready for the next day. Somewhere around 8:30 that night, I looked at my husband for the first time and it hit me — I hadn’t even spoken to or even really noticed him since I walked through the door. The ugly truth was that after all the mental, physical, and emotional energy I had spent that day on everybody else, I had no desire to connect with him at all. What’s worse, I probably had ten things I could have used love and support and affection and motivation on from him, but I was too tired to rehash and include him in my world. So I didn’t even try. He was probably hurt since when we met, I was so available and so “together”. Why does it have to change so much? I am so much stronger and so much happier in so many ways than I was back then, but there are definitely some things I could learn from my old self.
When we met, I worked out everyday, went to church every Sunday, and had enough time to keep my apartment, car, and life in order. I had huge dreams and was committed to growing my career. Nowadays, confidence has been replaced by a more frenetic and crazed version of the woman he fell in love with. Everything seems harder. Making it to church, not being the size of a barn, not secretly wishing I could abandon my career to be home with my babies. I yearn for the days that we grilled and ate dinner just the two of us on the back deck. I’m not sure my husband has ever been super talkative, but I know we connected more in those days. I’m not saying I would want it every night, and in no way would I ever give back the life I currently have, but to just be able to be looking for my husband with a glass of wine in his hand when I come through the front door instead of not-so-quietly cursing the load of laundry I have to do the second I come home would be a flashback I could get behind.
This seven year itch is a hard one. We’ve had the wedding, had the honeymoon, built the house, grown our careers, had the babies, had the cancer . . . and with no new “milestones” in the near future, I’m realizing that we are just now really settling into our life together. It’s so easy when there are parties and a “first” every time you turn a page in your planner, but the real work starts where the newness wears off and your lives are defined by less sparkly events like tag renewal month and your annual summer membership at the racquet club (which is totally AWESOME, by the way).
I find myself longing for time and attention from a man that already gives me all he has to give. He provides and is faithful and lets me be the less spectacular version of myself without (a whole lot of) complaining. But he deserves better. We deserve better. Our real life together is just getting started, and lately, with things calmer in some ways and more hectic in others, I’m just looking for someone to hold my hand, tell me I’m pretty, and that we’re doing a good job together. The first part of our marriage was definitely more romantic but I want this part to be even more intimate. I want us to truly approach things as one instead of just moving in the same direction. I’m aching for that feeling of welcoming the future together you get as newlyweds. Those people that were relaxed and content to sit still for a little while, just the two of us. Granted, the moments may be shorter since we’ve both fallen in love with two other people (four-year-old Presley and two-year-old Knox), but being intentional with each other and our time together will be the only thing that gets us through this seven year itch.
We were so in love, and I know that passion is still in there if we can just learn to call it out and breathe some life back into it. And with that being said, I’m going to go write down next Monday on every calendar I’ve got and make sure Big Bunny knows he’s loved and appreciated. And to emphasize wearing that silicone ring because if his finger gets ripped off, I don’t want to have to say I told you so.