I don’t think anyone ever truly prepared me for the challenges of a long-term relationship.
Theoretically, I knew things would change, but I didn’t know how they would change. I had no idea of the impact a child would have on a—at the time—seven-year relationship, or where we would be fourteen years in. Even though my parents and my husband Philippe’s parents have been together many years (over fifty for my parents and close to fifty for his), I didn’t realize there would be eras or ages of a relationship. From the initial new relationship energy filled with flexibility and zest to the deepening of our connection past first fights and first turn-offs through engagement, marriage, a child, and beyond.
What’s remarkable over the years is both the depth of how we connect as well as moments of wondering who the other is. I know Philippe, but he still surprises me. Our patterns of where and how we don’t meet up well emerge, and the work emerges, too. With that, I’ve come to realize, marriage can be hard. There are moments when I want to throw in the towel and give up. A few days ago was one of those moments. I was triggered. Irate. I felt unloved, malnourished in our union, and told Philippe that.
He suggested I write up a list of things he could do (and ways of being) that would help give him a roadmap and in turn, I would get more of what I wanted. Internally, I had a minor knee-jerk reaction. We felt like aliens from different planets for just a moment. Who needs a list? I set that thought aside and thought, while my husband has moments of being an extraterrestrial, he really tries hard, so why not help him out. What I found through writing the list is that he does so many of these things already. When I’m tired or sick (like the other day), his efforts tend to evaporate into thin air, but when I’m more conscious, I do remember how well he loves me.
Here are some of the things he does:
Spontaneous words of love and appreciation.
These come over FB messenger and through texts. They show up in cards for different occasions or no occasion at all. It honestly doesn’t take much. A few sweet words, an appreciation, a silly gif, and it wafts through the ether into my heart. These words can also include jokes—similar to our son—or silly pictures.
Sending me songs he really loves.
We’ve had a powerful connection through music from the beginning of our relationship, so I love it when he sends me new music he’s discovered. It’s less about thinking I’ll like it and more about sharing a piece of what’s rocking his world, so I feel more connected to him.
Hidden messages of love.
This is similar to #1 but has a hidden component. Many years ago, he secretly wrote 100 messages of love and appreciation for me. Then, he hid them all over the house. Some were obvious (in the fridge, on my desk) and others remain hidden to this day. The amount of thought and effort that went into that still touch me.
The power of touch has the ability to reach below my skin into my heart, so when he kisses me or gives me a gentle caress, a warm embrace, I feel loved and connected. Sometimes it is the simple act of taking my hand while we are talking or leaning into me gently, so I can feel his body against mine.
Nourishing me through cups of tea.
For some, this might look like chocolate or a glass of wine, but for me, it’s about the tea. Perhaps it’s because I’m half-English and have tea running through my veins, but whatever it is, when Philippe prepares me a simple cup of tea, I melt a bit inside. The tea seems to run down my mouth into my heart.
In this age of major distractions, getting someone’s undivided attention can be a challenge, so when Philippe puts down his phone (or forgets it!), I feel a huge sense of relief. Nothing and no one else is competing with his time. He’s not handling something else; he’s with me. This can mean we have time to talk or not talk, but most importantly, our attention is on each other.
Being curious about me.
I love it when Philippe asks me how I’m doing, how my day went, and what I’m currently working on. He’s interested in getting a clear view into my ever-changing world, and I love it. I want to share and be seen, have my ideas be challenged and my challenges heard.
We’re on Season 14 and counting. It is quite a ride! There are moments when I look across the table and wonder who he is and how different we are. Then, there are moments when I feel the solidity of our partnership, the places where we stretch and grow, and the places where we learn to love each better. While some people might prefer a gift, that is rarely the thing that rocks my world. It’s a small note, a sweet embrace, or a curiously strong cup of PG Tips.
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