This morning Mikey lugged the garbage up the hill to our big trash can while I washed the dishes. When he came back, he kissed me and thanked me for washing the dishes. I shrugged saying, “it’s the least I could do.”
“Wow, our marriage has really changed!” he laughed and I laughed too. It really has. The exchange we had this morning would never have happened last year.
So what happened? What changed? What turned what was a loving-but-often-rocky relationship to just a super-loving one?
I did a lot of solo parenting over the past couple of years. The solo parenting happened partly from necessity, because when Mikey is knee-deep in the farming season, he’s working between 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Solo parenting also happened partly from choice, because I chose to use the time that Mikey’s hard at work to do things that I like with the kids, and that’s largely about traveling.
But either by choice or necessity, I was alone a lot.
There is nothing like struggling with 3 little kids and my own self to appreciate another set of hands. I mean, I almost cried when I got back and a diaper had to be changed and Mikey jumped up to do it. It was just overwhelming in its awesomeness.
On Mikey’s part, he really misses us, so I think it also lends something to his appreciation. He values us tremendously – we are his life. So us – or him – being gone reminds him of that, I think.
2. Figuring Out How We Both Express (& Receive) Love
We don’t really like relationship books and we certainly aren’t any good at following what they say to do. But we did read enough of the 5 Languages of Love to understand that we have different methods of expressing love. Mikey’s all about showing love through clean floors, nice home-crafted meals and delicious coffee first thing in the morning. I’m all about gifts and sex. So our love languages aren’t exactly in synch and it was REALLY HARD to figure that out.
This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It was.
I was absolutely crushed when I didn’t receive any presents from Mikey for my 40th birthday – I mean, not even a plucked flower from our garden! And he felt totally unloved every time he came home to face mountains of messes.
I think our solution finally came courtesy of my brain injury. It occurred to me that I could buy presents and send them to myself for occasions, and that by the time they would have arrived, I would have completely forgotten having ordered them so they’d be a great surprise. It totally worked.
And by having worked, it also alleviated the pressure on Mikey – and when the pressure was off of him, it was easy for him to think of giving. This came around back to housework, because a happier Meriah means a Meriah who is more inclined to keep things really clean for Mikey, just because it makes him so happy – and I want him to be happy.
The cycle of back scratching got started, and once it’s started, it’s good. I think it’s just getting started that can be really hard. It’s like, “why should I scratch your back when you don’t scratch mine? HUH? Why don’t you scratch mine, then I’ll scratch yours?” “No, you scratch mine!” “Fine, I’ll scratch it” “That wasn’t long enough! And you missed the left corner!”
3. Space Away from the Kids
Mikey and I never intended this whole co-sleeping thing to get so out of hand. We never actually even intended to co-sleep at all. We sort of wandered into it as the path of least resistance. We were tired. The kids needed to sleep. We put them to sleep with us so we could just GO TO SLEEP.
Fast forward some years and we were just miserable.
I had honestly forgotten what it was like to just sleep in bed with Mikey, no small bodies between us. And I’m sure you can imagine what those kids in our bed did for our sex life. I mean, nothing like kids for making sure NOTHING happens, you know what I’m saying?!
The kids have their beds in their loft now and there is absolutely no negotiation about it. They sleep upstairs. We sleep downstairs. Full stop.
It is probably one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life, ever.
4. Having Fun Together
Our trips are fantastic. We always have such a good time traveling together, and I know that’s critical for us in our relationship. As the kids grow older, it just gets to be more fun, as we can do more.
5. Less Financial Pressure
More money doesn’t always equate a better marriage, but not being crushed by a lack of resources really helps. We are truly grateful to have this opportunity to work with and for my brother and be able to live simply and simply not worry.
I don’t like talking about my PTSD and my diagnosis of bi-polar disorder because well, “mental illness” still has too much stigma around it for even me to be comfortable with.
When we moved to the Lost Coast, a lot of my symptoms just went away and I thought that I had recovered from it all. That just being in the right space was all I needed. But it started creeping back, and I finally went to the doctor for help.
“Help” came in the form of some medication and it’s made a world of difference in keeping me from slumping into depression or spinning into high anxiety mode.
7. Off The Grid Smoothing
I love living out here. I love living out here more than I’ve ever loved living anywhere. But there gets to be a time where I start feeling like I’m running a marathon with my hands tied behind my back. When Moxie bolts and we don’t have fences. When it’s pouring rain and I need to trudge through mud to get to the outhouse. Two hours to town for groceries. When nothing can get clean or stay dry. When I have a million things I want to do and can’t find the wherewithal to do one.
We came home early this year mostly because Micah wanted to go to school, but it was also to work on the house because I didn’t want to get stuck in the same place I usually am – where I need to do it all and it all can’t be done by me, while on active duty with 3 kids.
These things are all coming together now – the deck is being built! Plans are drawn for a washroom! We’re looking at house storage and plans!
Of course this makes our relationship soar – it’s like, Hey! Instead of finagling with the basics of life, we can actually do stuff and have fun in this wonder-world we live in!
8. Mack Starting School
On the heels of that comes Mack starting pre-school. This means that for 3 days a week, I have 6 hours to get things done. Total game changer, man. Total.
I doubt this post is going to be helpful to anyone, but it was fun to write it.
I think the thing is with any marriage that there are some basic bedrocks (like acceptance, respect, compromise, love) that seem like they have to be in place for the marriage to succeed, but the devil lies in the details. Like, how you get to the place of acceptance or understanding – how you figure out how to compromise or start the back-scratching circle. Lots of italics there! Italics are fun. I think marriage can be, too. Especially when it’s to this guy.