“Pass the tape,” Jason asked me nicely as we sat before Christmas on our living room floor. All I could think, was that this was the true language of love. I am a hopeless, incurable romantic. I believe in love, in the pursuit of love, and the utmost care of it. This has been on my mind of late, and I hope I don’t jumble my thoughts here.
I keep reading that the military divorce rate is a growing monster. Well, yeah. You keep us separated for years at a time and then you send the boys we love to war, and they come home men that we hardly know. It’s not the easiest situation to nurture love in. However, it also makes me so very sad to see marriages fall apart. I feel kind of like the girl in “Enchanted,” where I just want to hug every divorcing couple and remind them why they fell in love in the first place. Oh, except you money-stealing during deployment, POA-using to sell his truck, knocked-up-by-the-next-door-neighbor girls. You all deserve the papers he’s sending you. But to everyone else who feels like they’re falling apart, maybe it’s just the little things. So many times I hear “you guys are so lucky.” Well, yes, I suppose we are lucky, but we’re also determined to see this love through. I watch the divorce rate in the military, and the divorce rate of our generation and I just shake my head. My heart hurts as I watch so many loves die.
So here’s a little insight into why I think we last. If there’s something that works for you as a couple, and you’re comfortable sharing your tip, leave it in the comments section. You never know who just might need a little extra uplift…
When I was young, someone crushed me by telling me once “I don’t think I love you anymore.” Looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the time, it was truly torturous. As a teenager, I didn’t understand how it was possible for love to simply go away. It almost killed my belief in love, and I was so blessed that Jason found me soon after. Years later, after I was happily married and we were both happy in our new lives, the aforementioned person told me that he realized it wasn’t that he had stopped loving, it was that he had mistaken the lack of infatuation for lack of love. He hadn’t know the difference. Looking back on that now, I wonder how many couples our age have yet to learn the difference. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why divorce is so prevalent now. Love does have moments of infatuation, but when that infatuation wanes, it’s the love that keeps you there, Love is your anchor. Love evolves. Love changes. Love grows. After all, if I still felt the same exact way about Jason today as I did 11 years ago, I’d just be trying to chase him out of his clothes as I giggled girlishly. Okay, well, that still happens. We’re married, not dead, people. But really, infatuation comes and goes, but love remains, holding us constant and fulfilled until the butterflies return.
The evolution of our love, our marriage, has lead to this moment, where we are both on the living room floor, wrapping Christmas presents for our five kids. It’s a quiet moment, and I can feel contentment silently flowing through me as certainly as I can feel my right foot falling asleep on our hardwood floor. I realize that this moment, this is what love looks like when it matures. It’s a love where I can look at my husband, laugh at the names on the boxes we had written on last year, or the year before, and wrap up something new for this year. It dawned on me that the greatest part of an “old” marriage is the history we share, and the future we still have to plan. I’ve never been as happy as I am now, even though my back hurts from leaning over and wrapping the 15th of 5 billion presents. It’s just another example of how we work together to make an incredible family, and how working on anything with Jason makes it less work, more fun.
But my mind gets caught on how some people say we’re lucky. I think there is an element of luck to finding your soul-mate, but luck doesn’t keep them for you. We work every day to maintain, to grow our relationship. I’m a huge fan of reading things like the “love dare,” or those cute little marriage blogs with fun ideas. I know the saying “if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” but I don’t think that really goes for marriage. In my mind, it’s maintain it to keep it running at it’s optimum level. Even a kick-ass Ferarri will drive itself to the ground without regular oil changes.
So here’s a few things that we do to keep our marriage not just healthy, but glowing. I’m no expert, just another girl, married to another boy, trying to make it all work out perfectly. But this is our little rules to make sure we’re still kissing at age seventy.
1. Always sleep in the same bed. Okay, if you’re going through a deployment, I get it. I’m talking after an argument. Chances are, if we’re in the same bed, we’re not getting any sleep until a disagreement has been solved. I can’t stand going to bed angry, I’d rather work it out. And even if it waits until the morning to get resolved, the man is pretty cute when he sleeps. Plus, it’s hard to be angry when you’re naked. Just kidding. Well, not really. Well…You’ll never know… 😉
2. Learn the pet peeves. Once you’ve been with someone a good amount of time, you’ll know what drives them nuts. With Jason, it’s the kitchen. The whole house can be falling apart, but if the kitchen is clean, he’s a happy man. If the whole house is spotless, but the kitchen is in shambles, then it’s grumpy Jason. So, I do my best to keep it clean. He knows it drives me bonkers that he leaves his wet towels hanging from the canopy of our four post bed. He’s working on it… Ahem. Right, darling? Seriously, though, if there’s something that’s easy to fix, fix it. It’s simply a consideration thing. But if there’s simply no fixing it…. (see number 3).
3. Get over it. Maybe there’s something extremely annoying that your partner does. For example (please forgive me, Jason), my love likes to take my books into the bath tub and read them. My BOOKS! For those of you who don’t know me, my books are like my little loves. Don’t jack with my books. However, I also know that if he ruins one, he’ll replace it. So I smile, and wish him a peaceful 15 minutes alone without the kids barging into the bathroom. I, however, constantly lose my purse, my ID, my phone, my keys. You name it, I can’t find it. This drives Jason insane, but he’s learned to sit back, take a deep breath and occupy himself until I find whatever it is I’ve lost. Why? Because we choose to get over it. Let’s face it, if there’s a personality trait you don’t like about your partner, and you’ve been together for a while, barring some epiphany, it’s not going to change. You have two options: 1. Leave the person, 2. Quit complaining, accept your partner for who they are and get over it. Personally, at the end of the day, when I’m wrapped in his arms, he could care less that I didn’t know where my purse was this morning, and I don’t care that my copy of the Hunger Games now has water marks on the pages. Our marriage is worth more than the cost of a book, or a purse.
4. We make time for US. We got married because we love each other, not because we have kids. So we make sure that our relationship with each other takes first priority. That doesn’t mean stare off lovingly into one anothers eyes as the kids set fire to the kitchen. No, it means that we make sure we take date nights. We kiss in front of the kids, which they find hilarious, we don’t hide our love from them, but rather relish in it. We take trips by ourselves, so that we can refresh our love, our interest in each other. I’ve heard it said that the best thing a father can do for his son is to love his mother. We believe this whole-heartedly, and I can see that happy marriages generally have happier children. So yes, we sneak away to Mexico, to Europe, heck, to SAMS club whenever we can get a sitter. I refuse to be the mom and dad who are splitting the year after the baby graduates high school because they realize they no longer have anything in common.
5. Don’t use the “D” word. Seriously. I cannot remember a single fight in which this was uttered in our house. We don’t say it. Why? Because it’s not an option. It’s off the table. No matter what it is (barring extreme…well, extremities), we’re going to push through and survive it. One thing we’re always working on in our marriage is holding our tongues when they want to run amok. The truth is, you can always say “I’m sorry,” but you can’t erase those words from that person’s mind. Once it’s said, it’s said. Once you say the “D” word, it’s so easy to be angry, so easy to take a step. So easy to end up where you never meant to be. So we don’t say it. And truthfully, I can count on one hand the number of arguments in this house that have gone on for more than a day. Because if it’s not really worth the relationship, then what the heck are you fighting over? Solve the problem, but don’t use angry words.
6. Be considerate. When Jason’s deployed, I don’t go to the bars every weekend. For those of you who do, I’m not looking down on you, or judging you; this is my personal decision. Why don’t I go? First, I don’t drink, so bars aren’t so fun for me. Second, if I was the person deployed, I wouldn’t want Jason in the bar every weekend. So I stay home, read a book, wait for a skype call, because I would hope he’d do the same for me. It’s a “treat others as you want to be treated.” But we don’t just do this during deployment. Before you do something, just think about how it would affect the other person. I’m not talking about buying a candybar at the checkout. I’m talking about the way Jason calls me when he’s leaving the airfield so I know he’s on his way home, or the care packages I send during a deployment. I try not to make a decision without taking Jason’s opinion and feelings into account. Except perhaps the flavor of chocolate in the house. He doesn’t really get a say in that. But really, a little consideration will get you far.
7. Stop judging your love by everyone else’s. Love is an amazing thing. It grows, it can shrink. It can be the source of overwhelming joy or utter misery. But just appreciate what you have instead of thinking, “well so and so did such and such.” There’s days I’m the only person on the planet who can handle Jason, and there’s days I’m so ornery that I can’t believe that man loves me. Each love is unique, and there’s no measuring stick to see how you measure up. We’re all tall enough to ride the roller-coaster, so just enjoy the trip. Love is love, and there’s no “better” or “worse” love.
So those are our basic little rules that keep us, us. Do I think they will change the world? Heck no. Do I think they change ours? Every day. We’re celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary in May, and I love this man more today than when we said I do. Because I know more about him, I have more memories of him, and there’s just so much more to him now. So if I could touch the heart of every wife out there, I would simply say that love is not just diamond rings and wedding invites. Infatuation is champagne at an expensive restaurant. Love is fetching water at three am for a puking husband. Infatuation is the butterflies you feel when you see your man in a uniform. Love is waiting by the telephone on a Saturday night eight months into a deployment. Infatuation is baby-like “I love you’s.” Love is knowing that they didn’t mean whatever not-nice thing they just said, and love is accepting the apology that will come next. Love is also offering the apology when you’re the one whose mouth ran away on your partner. Infatuation is sinking into kisses. Love is kissing someone who has the flu, knowing you might get it too. Infatuation is picking out your dream house. Love is arguing over which back-splash to choose and the budget it goes into. Infatuation is the first night after homecoming, when you can’t sleep because he’s finally next to you. Love is being willing to find out how that time apart has changed both of you.
So hold on, and remember that while infatuation may give you butterflies, love is the garden in which those little wings fly, so stop looking for the butterflies and just enjoy the flowers.
I’m just asking that you think about that the next time you ask him to “pass the tape.”