After 12 years together, my previously happy marriage was in the doldrums. It wasn’t that I had fallen out of love. It was just that well… it had been 12 years. There’s a malaise that sets in to anything you do for a long time. And it’s easy for that spark that was once there to fade. And the truth is some of the things about my husband that I had either ignored or considered charming quirks, became qualities in him I wished would change.
His domestic abilities, for example. When we met I didn’t mind that he’d stop halfway through washing the dishes citing boredom or just not noticing more needed to be done. I ignored the fact that he never did laundry and even celebrated the fact. After all, if he didn’t do laundry, he couldn’t ruin it. And, I accepted the fact that he couldn’t function without a full night of sleep.
It never mattered before we had kids, but kids like to do a thing called wake you up all night. His need for quality sleep meant I was on duty all night all the time. As a wife and mom, those little things that I never minded before in my husband began to be things I held against him.
And so I started to resent him. I resented his need for sleep and got annoyed, even angry, when he seemingly half-assed his way through helping around the house. I needed sleep too, but someone had to help that crying baby. And it’s not like I wanted to do dishes or laundry any more than he did. Him leaving it felt like he was leaving it for me. After all, who else was he thinking was doing all that stuff he didn’t want to?
That’s when the spark started to wane—when I was knee-deep in laundry and he was sitting on the couch watching a show. When I was tired to the point of my eyes feeling like they were bleeding and he couldn’t function without a full eight hours.
The truth is, I wasn’t just resentful. I was pissed off.
And as much as I thought I was keeping it to myself, I wasn’t exactly shy about letting him know how pissed off I was.
I was the one feeling let down by my partner, but it turns out he was too.
The problem was, I hadn’t taken into account that I had quirks and qualities that were driving him crazy, too. I hadn’t taken into account that time had worn him down as well and that him not doing things well around the house weren’t a reflection of his regard for me. And it never occurred to me that he was biting his tongue, trying not to tell me that some of the things he’d accepted in me when we first met, were annoying him. It hadn’t occurred to me until he told me.
“You assume,” he said when things finally came to blows. “You assume that you are the only one who is accepting things in the other. There are plenty of things you’re not good at, plenty of things you don’t do that I’m solely responsible for. I don’t nag you about it all the time. I’m not pissed at you. I just do it. You’re not the only one.”
His words hit me like a ton of bricks because, in all honestly, in my mind I was the “right” one. I was the one picking up the slack and going the extra mile. I was the one feeling let down by my partner, but it turns out he was too. He just wasn’t reminding me about my shortcomings each and every day.
And so I made a decision then and there to bite my tongue, change my attitude, and notice what he was good at. So I was better at functioning tired? Okay, what was the big deal? As long as I could get help from him when I couldn’t function, why did I need to be mad at him because our responsibilities weren’t equal all the time? As long as they were equal over time, I decided, it didn’t matter if they weren’t equal every time.
Slowly, but surely, I noticed that the more I let him off the hook for not being perfect, the more the spark came back. We became happier again. We weren’t so mad at each other all the time.
Sure, he still doesn’t wash all the dishes and can’t do laundry to save his life, but he’s good at plenty of other things that I’m not. It took me realizing that both of us, not just him were responsible for a failing marriage. Thanks to him, we’re back on track.