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What Really Kept Our Marriage Together After Kids

When I was single I used to admire those couples I’d see who did their grocery shopping together. They looked so happy, pushing their carts up and down the aisles and cooing at each other as they picked out apples or conferred about which kind of cheese to buy. I imagined them going home, unloading their groceries together and then holding hands as they arranged their canned goods in the pantry.

I thought this was what I’d do when I was in a relationship, until I brought it up to my then-boyfriend (now my husband) and he said something to the effect of it being absolutely ridiculous that two adults couldn’t go to the store and pick up a carton of eggs on their own. Deep down inside I knew he was right, although being the eternal romantic, I did insist on gazing lovingly at him as he brought the bags in from the car.

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We've been happily married for 23 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gone grocery shopping together. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of things we do apart. Besides the practical aspect, we have such different interests and tastes that it’d impossible to do everything as a couple. We like different music so more often than not he’ll go to concerts with his friends and I’ll go with mine. We go to a lot of movies on our own since he prefers science fiction and action films, while I prefer heartfelt stories where someone falls in love with a cute boy, adopts an entire orphanage or has a life epiphany while eating a sandwich in a dimly lit cafe.

'I hope he appreciates you letting him do that.' This puzzled me, since it implied that he somehow needed my approval to do anything.

Occasionally, in the name of love we’ll give in and indulge the other person. I went and saw a Star Trek movie with him (but only one, and I don’t remember which one it was) and he’s sat through at least two of my 500 viewings of “Love Actually.” I only know one Pink Floyd song, but he really wanted me to see The Wall Live so I agreed. (I loved it and it also gave me a great story to tell, about how the ticket agency gave us tickets for the wrong night, and we ended up having to buy the last two tickets they had on sale at the box office which turned out to be better seats, and how the ticket agency paid for all the tickets because they felt so bad.)

I think doing things apart has helped keep our relationship healthy and interesting. And while we love doing our own thing, we also support each others pursuits, too. My husband is in a band, and a while back I posted about it on Facebook and talked about their dedication to practicing weekly. Along with all of the supportive comments, there were a few that said things like, “I hope he appreciates you letting him do that,” and “He’s so lucky he gets to spend all that time on his music!” This puzzled me, since it implied that he somehow needed my approval to do anything, as if I kept him locked in the basement and let him out occasionally to pluck his bass or bang on a drum.

But just because we don’t share all of our interests doesn’t mean we don’t spend time together. We’ve always enjoyed traveling as a family and now that our kids are grown we still enjoy going places, just the two of us. We eat dinner together pretty much every night; he works late hours, but the kids and I—or sometimes just me—will wait for him no matter what time it is. The other night I started grilling ribeyes at 10 p.m., which was perfectly normal to us although the neighbors were probably wondering why they were smelling charred meat while they were getting ready for bed.

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As our kids get older and eventually move out, I suspect my husband and l will start doing even more together. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get him to come to the grocery store with me one day. Look for us some night. We'll be the couple meandering down the aisles, consulting with each other on what to buy as we pick out a carton of eggs together and hold hands while we gently put them in our basket.

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