“Are you guys going to get a divorce?”
My husband and I stopped what we were doing and looked across the room at our eleven year old. I was sitting on a chair in the kitchen with a towel draped over my shoulders as he combed through my hair with a lice comb. I had let out a few yelps (because the man does not know how to comb long hair) but we were being very civil at the time. If you ask me, this is what marriage is all about: Combing through your wife’s long hair after going through every kid’s head first.
Why did he ask? Apparently, he was just wondering.
For the record, we aren’t getting a divorce. In fact, we will be celebrating 24 years of marriage this spring and I think every year that goes by gets better. I believe that the one thing that has made our marriage stronger is our ability to communicate what we need.
For too long, especially when the oldest kids were little, I did not ask for help or support. When life got hard because I was home with the kids for too long, when he traveled frequently for work, I would just buckle down and gut it out. But the problem with that was eventually, resentment would bubble up. Eventually I’d have some snarky, unkind things to say to my poor unsuspecting husband. From his perspective things were going well… until they weren’t. From my perspective, I was frustrated that he didn’t see how hard I was working as a stay at home mom to keep the house running smoothly. Couldn’t he see all of what I did on a daily basis?
No. No he didn’t.
He didn’t see any of it. Because while I was working hard at being a good SAHM, he was focused on his job and keeping a roof over our heads. He was so focused on providing an income for us it was stressing him out. But he didn’t tell me any of that because he thought he also needed to just buckle down and gut it out. I’m sure he had his own levels of resentment because I did not recognize his efforts either.
If there was one thing I could go back and tell our younger selves it would be this:
Figure out what you need and then ask for it.
Sometimes we are both working so darn hard every day we have blinders on and just focus on what is literally in front of us. But over time we have realized the importance of asking for help AND also being kind enough to consider the request. After all, if we are both in our own lane, we aren’t always going to notice if the other is struggling (we are working on it). We are very stubborn, first-born, independent people. Asking for help is really, really hard.
Self care doesn’t necessarily mean going to the spa regularly (at least not for us).
Some of this involves an ongoing discussion on who is doing what. I used to just assume the bulk of the household and childcare stuff (because of my SAHM status) but he is more than capable and available to do it. Recently I became overwhelmed by the paperwork that needed to be filled out so our daughter can go to a therapeutic respite center this summer. I mentioned it to him in passing and he happily took it off my hands. My first response was the palm of my hand smacking my forehead as I asked myself why I didn’t ask for help on things like this sooner.
When we both take the time to be aware of what we need, and then ask for it, we can be the best version of ourselves that we can be. I have come to really believe that this is not an indulgence, this is necessary for mental and emotional well-being. It is essential for a happy marriage.
Here’s to 24 more years of marriage. I do believe the best is yet to come.