A friend told me she envies my husband's yearning for my attention. She also shared her usual gripe about her husband going out with "the guys" two or three times every week, along with his several vacations without her and the kids each year. Where is the middle ground between her marriage and mine? I can't help but feel ungrateful because I bitch that my husband needs and wants more attention than I have been giving him. He is a genuine family man who doesn't ask for much, but right now he's asking for me. He needs a wife, not just his children's mother.
That said, my husband really hit the ball home with his last comment. "You're still my best friend."
Gulp! I'd never realized he considered me his best friend. I was touched. Absolutely touched! Being labeled BFF is a huge honor. I didn't even think that guys did that. His best friend is me! But I am a lousy one. I thought about how good it would feel to call him my best friend too; I envy couples who can say that about each other.
I suddenly became a woman on a mission — to bring out the positive attributes in our relationship (of which I know there are many) and to ditch the negative. Could I erase a decade of nagging, whining, complaining, and blaming my husband that my role as a working mother is so difficult, and still end up on top (in or out of the bedroom)? Last time I checked, the answer was, "not on your life, babe."
I know I'm the source of my own misery because I rarely ask for help around the house. Sometimes I drop hints, but for the most part I try to do it all with disastrous results. I'm maxed out, overburdened and underappreciated. My husband knows I have trouble asking for assistance, so why doesn't he offer? (And no, asking if I need help unloading $400 worth of food from Costco as I am carrying in the last 40-pound box doesn't count).
Nevertheless, I listened carefully to my husband's cry for help. The day after he gave me the book, I called him at his office during my lunch break. I told him that I love him, find him to be the most handsome man in the world, and that his smile still makes me melt. I could hear the skepticism — then thrill — in his voice as we spoke.
"Okay, fess up What happened?" he asked.
"Nothing. What? I can’t call my husband on a whim and tell him how much he means to me?" I responded.
"You seem to have forgotten that we've been married for 15 years. I know you better than anyone. What happened, and how much is it going to cost us?"
Despite his initial cynicism, my husband came home from work that day with a bottle of my favorite red wine, along with the receipt from the ATM machine and a bag of chinchilla food. Evidently he heard me mention that morning that I was low on cash and Maria was low on food. The bottle of wine must have been an additional token of appreciation for the call. I didn't ask for any of it, but needed it all. I thanked him, and it felt so good to express gratitude instead of fret.
We sat down in the living room and talked for a few minutes, then got up together to make dinner. We made our dinner, for each other and for our family. He helped me prepare the meal because he wanted to, much unlike the scene in The Breakup when Vince Vaughn did not want to help Jennifer Aniston wash the dishes. That short call I made during my lunch break sure went a long way.
Our connection was still there — what we had before we were married was still alive. His dry sense of humor surfaced. I took a moment to look at his dimples and know that my eyes sparkled when I zoomed in. I noticed that a few gray hairs have sprouted and wondered how long they've been there, why it took me so long to notice. He is one of those men who definitely gets better with age, and I'm lucky to have him. I had been guilty of taking my husband's love and presence for granted. I say that in the past tense because I have no plans of going back to being my old self.
It's scary to realize that I came so close to losing him. I'm grateful that he made the first move rather than suffer in silence until he couldn’t take it any longer. He may never have forgiven me if it had gotten to that point, and I would have been too busy to notice until it was too late.
My best friend and I share a set of wedding bands, a bed, dreams, joy, tears and thoughts of what our lives will be like after our youngest child grows into an adult. We're in for the long haul — till death (not childrearing) do us part.