This month, my husband and I will celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary. Unlike the last three anniversaries, we will actually be in the same time zone to celebrate this one, thanks to the military.
Over the past few years, we have faced a lot of challenges, stress, and uncertainty. We have moved three times, bought our first house, and had three beautiful babies who are our entire world. However, when I look back at our wedding photos, I don’t even recognize those two young, rested 20-something-year-olds staring back at me.
It makes my heart hurt knowing how lost we both feel in our marriage.
I have always heard other veteran couples reference the seven year itch. This is when happiness in marriage can decline. I never really thought much about it or what it even meant until now. It sounded so silly and was actually first used to describe a skin condition, not a marriage.
But at night, sometimes I sit in the silence and wonder how we got here. How we became the couple who barely talks over dinner. The couple who after putting the kids to bed goes their separate ways at night—one to play video games and the other to write or watch mindless reality television. The kids are always the topic of conversation and our love and devotion to them seems like one of our only commonalities these days—our time and focus is on them.
Once a month, we will have time to actually watch a movie together, or half a movie, before we pass out and become those people we used to joke about. We only have date nights when my parents come to visit which is only a few times a year. We have fun for a few hours and maybe have a couple of cocktails, and a sliver of our young adventurous selves shine through. The next morning it’s back to busy schedules and very little time to connect over the endless cooking, cleaning, and diaper changes.
This is just the chapter we are currently in, but I remind myself it won’t be like this forever.
We have made one positive change in our relationship recently when we decided to start marriage counseling. I knew it could only help us if we put in the time and the work. It was our final attempt to turn things around and better our marriage. We speak openly and honestly about what is bothering us and what we are not getting from the other person. We brainstorm how to communicate more effectively without it resulting in an argument. We know we have different love languages and have to be mindful of how we express our love so the other person can receive it.
Our therapist focuses on how important it is to carve out time once a day to really connect, to share our feelings, and listen to each other. In this time, I shared with my husband that I felt like all these efforts seemed like “too little too late.” His response was one that caught me by surprise. He responded, “That is just the attitude of someone who is giving up, and we are in this forever.” I was speechless, which is unusual for me.
My husband is far from perfect, but he is not a quitter in life or in our marriage, and hearing that was the positive push I needed at that moment. He wasn’t going anywhere; he was in this for better or for worse.
I woke up the next day with a renewed sense of hope.
I was hopeful for our future together for the first time in a long time. I was hopeful we could get back to a place where we both felt loved, cherished, and appreciated. Where we look forward to a hug and kiss, and spending time together after a long day. We have a long road ahead, but I have faith we will discover the happily ever after we both promised to each other on the beach seven years ago.
Originally published on Columbia Mom