What should you do after the thrill is gone?
In just a few weeks, I’ll have been married 25 years. That’s 25 Christmases, the death of one parent, the passing of two pets, the birth of three kids, job transitions, six months of marriage counseling, four transatlantic moves, 86 lessons in how to work our TV, maybe a gazillion school band concerts — and so much more.
Although it’s not in my husband’s nature to be mushy, for years we never failed to celebrate our anniversary with all the romantic gusto befitting a young couple in the throes of new love. There was the time my husband surprised me with a package of six ballroom dance lessons, a staggeringly unselfish gesture from a man who — once released from the awkward confines of dating — avoided the dance floor like the plague, possibly because he has the rhythm of a toddler on ice skates. Another time, when I was heavily pregnant, he presented me with a box of Victoria’s Secret lingerie. I hadn’t said a word, but he somehow knew it was a gift I needed to receive at that exact moment in time.
But as the years wore on, the stress of raising three children while holding down two demanding full-time jobs started to take a toll, and we began to coast on the memory of our passionate first few years together. The wild-jungle-sex phase does, of course, have a shelf life and in time, many marriages — mine included — seem to take on more of a business aura, a partnership whose sole purpose is the management of three young human beings.
The twice-a-year romantic weekend breaks we never failed to take as a couple during our first 10 years of marriage have become something of a distant memory. When was the last time I surprised my husband with a special date night out? I honestly have no idea. Our marriage is no longer built on perusing street markets in Guatemala, where we eloped on a whim, but on the couch watching reruns of The Office.
Looking back, I realize that somewhere along the way, that lustful kiss we used to plant on each other at the end of a long day morphed into a chaste peck on the forehead that then — more recently — morphed into barely a look up from the computer and a mumbled hello. I realize I’ve stopped acknowledging the little things my husband does for me. And he does a lot. I’ve allowed my female friendships to take a front seat over my spouse. Worst of all, I’ve become the ultimate scorekeeper, silently burning with indignation every time I feel our lives balancing precariously on my shoulders alone.
“I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets, so you have to clean the garage.” “I moved for your job when we first got married, so now you need to move for mine.” “I initiated sex a few weeks ago, so now it’s your turn.”
I’ve started taking my husband for granted. And that’s the most dangerous thing you can do in a marriage.
No matter what you think of Woody Allen, something he said as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall has always resonated with me: “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies.”
And that’s why, on my 25th wedding anniversary, I intend to take some time to really reflect on the things that brought my husband and me together in the first place. I will plan a surprise getaway. Maybe I’ll even purchase a package of ballroom dance lessons. Most importantly, I’ll make an effort. Will we feel butterflies? Probably not. Will we reconnect? I hope so.
The truth is, the love I have for my husband is as great today, if not even greater, than it was 25 years ago. But complacency can act as a potent force against change. My vow is not to let it overpower us.