When Jeff and I were first married, we would race home to each other every day. We’re best friends! It will be so fun! All we need is each other! In reality, we ate dinner together for about 3 minutes, talked about our day for 15 minutes, and then watched Heroes for 4 hours. As the months passed, we started to give each other the side eye – why did this just kinda suck? In hindsight, we were just really, honestly, super bored.
I don’t think we’re alone in this. Anyone else slogging through their day, looking forward to being with your partner, pinning all your hopes on them to make the day worthwhile? The problem is – that person you’re waiting all day for? They’re also just a person who had a regular day. If neither of you has much else going on, there might not be all much to say. And gazing into each other’s eyes or having sex for hours every day just doesn’t seem very likely to me. If that works for you – you just keep on doing what you do – but for the rest of us – you need something to do. Something that lights you up, sets your passions on fire, and gives you something to talk about.
At this point in our marriage, we’ve found that we HAVE to have things that fill us up – and these things are often separate from each other. In fact, we only spend about two nights a week doing “Netflix and chill” and the rest we are workin’ on our own stuff.
Here’s some of the things that have worked well for us:
1. We’re ruthless about figuring out what makes us feel alive.
Kids forced this out of us. We were exhausted, pissed off, wrung out, and just sick of everything. Finding things that light us up and make us excited became a matter of life or death – and that’s not a crazy exaggeration. Our “things” often change, but we both always need to have a “thing.” My husband is really into wood working currently and takes some intro martial arts classes, and I have an Etsy shop and Craft A Community. Have people over. Try a class. Sign up for a sport. Go to church. Join a Bible study. Start something big. You just gotta do it.
2. We honor each other’s passions and make room for them.
We haven’t parked in the garage for the past two years because of the previously mentioned wood working. But for me, the inconvenience is well worth the incredible joy that Jeff gets out of using it as his workshop. Before either of us commits to something for our “thing,” we talk about how it will affect the family and how we can make it work.
3. We assess every day what the evening/weekend will look like.
We usually send a text during the day or else talk during dinner about how each of us would like to use the evening after the kids are in bed. Unspoken expectations are poison to relationships, so we like to get it right out there. “I had planned on finishing this project,” or “I’d like to just cuddle with you tonight” or some more X-rated version of that last one. We’re always honest about what we want, and work to compromise.
The idea that one person will be able to contribute financially, co-parent well, hold your values, share all your interests, sense of humor, intuit your feelings, be sexually attractive, be romantic, be your best friend, fulfill your dreams, help run the household, and also ENTERTAIN you every evening and weekend is just…remarkable. Why do we think we have to find everything we need in a person – and just ONE person at that? Is it surprising that marriage feels incredibly disappointing to so many people? What if we recognized that our partner meets certain needs – but that we’re ultimately responsible for our own fulfillment? I would argue that this might change everything.
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