If your marriage were breaking down, would you know it? I didn't, and I learned the hard way.
My husband came home from work one day and handed me a book about improving our marriage and strengthening our commitment. A female co-worker had given it to him to pass on to me; I've never met this woman.
This isn't a good thing, I thought. What has my husband been saying about me, and who has he been talking to?
"Am I really that bad?" I asked, looking down at the book as my lips began to quiver and mascara ran down my cheeks. Without hesitation, he replied, "Yes." I realized that passing the book to me was his cry for help. Maybe the last one he'd deliver. I suddenly felt sad, scared and very, very sorry.
You see, for the past decade or so my husband has been hinting that he feels he's not a priority in my life. My response is the usual set of mantras that the children will be young only once, there are four of them and only one of me, he should help more around the house, and so on. I am a wife and mother (and of course that makes me a nurse, cook, housekeeper, and much more). And I hold down a full-time job outside of the home, to boot. My schedule is packed; I realized long ago that something had to give. So I pushed my marriage aside, assuming that my husband would be there until death (or childrearing) do us part.
As a human resources professional, I don't like the term "constructive criticism." I prefer "constructive feedback." I asked my husband for the latter, starting with the main reason I suck as a wife.
"You don't budge from your iron-clad schedule, and you're not capable of being spontaneous," he shared.
Um ... he’s right, I had to admit to myself.
The only way I can manage my overwhelming number of responsibilities each day is to worship a schedule. Every moment of every day follows an agenda. On the rare occasions an undocumented event sneaks into the day, I write it down after it happens, then I cross it off. Okay, so I have a problem.
"I can be spontaneous. I just don't have time to pencil it in," I announced to my husband without any irony. He shrugged, "See what I mean?" He added that I can't ever just sit down and relax. Even when I take "time out" to watch a movie with him, I'm still ironing or mending clothes, folding laundry, clipping coupons, or sorting mail.
He's right about the movie thing. I'm all about making productive use of my time. I can't just watch a movie knowing that I can get something else done simultaneously. Perhaps I'd be able to squeeze in some free time if only I didn't have to waste five or six hours sleeping each night.
Next, my husband accused me of putting the kids' desires first and placing his, well, nowhere. "Every year when the boat show comes to town, you plan something that the kids want to do instead. I'm just going to go by myself when it comes back," he asserted. I pictured him driving there alone, purchasing one ticket and walking around looking at the boats, having nobody to “ohhh” and “ahhh” with.
"You allow no time for play," he added, "and especially no time for playing with me." Right again, I thought.
And then there's sex: it's virtually nonexistent in our house. How am I supposed to raise a family and get enough rest to be energized for sex? Every day I try to insert "rest" in my handy-dandy agenda, but it always gets pushed back to the next page, and before I know it, the year is over. Reading, coloring, and putting puzzles together with my kids are welcome breaks from the daily grind, but they're just not the same as relaxing in the bathtub with a glass of wine and an Anita Shreve novel illuminated by candlelight.
By the time I have the luxury of going to bed at night, I'm so exhausted I can't even take off my mascara. Sex doesn't even enter my radar. The only thing I want at night is uninterrupted sleep. Before kids, I often initiated sex. These days, I'm a lot less inclined make the first move. Keep reading ...
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