I haven’t washed a dish in eight years. Hate me yet? Because I kind of do.

I also kind of hate myself for what I’m going to say from here.

I haven’t let my husband touch me in months. Months. And I’m not even talking about that hanky-panky kinda stuff. I’m referring to even a kiss, a handhold, a brush of the elbow. I’ve shied away from it all.

My dishwashing, superhuman husband is serving and sacrificial, but that doesn’t matter much when it comes to a season of disconnect. I’m touched, and poked, and prodded all day. Little people put their paws on me constantly. And I love loving them, but there’s nothing left of me after the lights go out. I want to be in my bed by myself. I don’t have the energy for a man who thinks I’m beautiful. All I see is another pair of hands invading my space.

The fact is, we are coexisting. We are parents, and partners, but the passion? That was gone as quickly as the freedom to pee alone was. In addition to all the normal daily stressors: diaper duty, dog walks, sagging, stretched out skin—we’ve also been dealt chronic illness and autism. We are simply in survival mode, and now I need those hands to help pick up toys, not explore me sexually.

The problem with all of this is that my husband has become interchangeable. Anyone can carry out the trash. My friends can field all my questions about motherhood. My kids give me all the kisses I need. Which means that slowly I’ve lost all intimacy, and we’ve now arrived in a state of awkwardness: standing together, seas apart.

So the other day, when I did something super uncharacteristic and rather daring, it is by no surprise my entire household took note.

I put my head on his shoulder.

Yes, that’s right. In the middle of the day, on the couch in the playroom, I took the plunge.

And here’s the snowball effect of such a bold move:

My daughter looked up from a sea of Barbies, smiled a huge smile, and said, “MOM! Where’s the camera? I gotta get a picture of this.”

This being us. Her mother and father embracing.

Her smile was bright and exaggerated, but mine was a bit dimmer, because it was in that moment I realized what my children are seeing. That it is so unusual for their parents to touch that they want to document it on film. You see, my husband and I never fight in front of the kids, but we never love in front of them, either. It took a photo and a 4-year-old to remind me that what I put out there, even the silent energy of our home, is seeping into them every day.

There’s an inevitable space that occurs once you introduce little humans into your household—and certainly when life hits. Because life is hard as heck and people are complicated. So combine forever with flawed humans and you’re going to have some speedbumps. Anyone who lives in the honeymoon stage forever is fooling you or themselves.

But by seeing my marriage through my daughter’s lens, I remembered that love is worth capturing; it’s worth fighting the good fight for. I didn’t walk away from that preschool photo shoot wanting to swing from the chandeliers, but when I saw the off-centered, blurred image of two parents leaning into each other, I felt something I don’t always feel: a trace of connection.

Marriage is full of free-will, that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to be in it, but if you are, it might be difficult. There might be dry spells of disconnect. There’s just no relationship on this planet that takes zero effort and still produces a desirable outcome. Not one. How silly of me to think I could coast by in my marriage and still have it be fruitful.

There’s a girl trapped inside this mom bod who desperately wants to refresh her marriage, and this moment made me realize that if we want things to change, we need to invest more time in each other. We need to reminisce on memories—and make new ones.

And maybe, just maybe, we need to lean in, say cheese, and commit to doing the dirty work.

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Stephanie Hanrahan

Stephanie Hanrahan is wife to a sick husband, mother to special needs kiddos, and a woman who often unravels then finds her footing again. Learn how she traded her pretending for a panty liner on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Tinkles Her Pants, where she leaks nothing but the truth.