Parenting Blog

A Letter In The Night And A Marriage Improved

Sue Johnson Book Tour_A Letter In The Night_Jeff and JIll Bogle Photo

I guess it makes sense, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.

I’m a writer now. That’s where life has taken me in the last half decade, and so it would figure that I’d need it all spelled out for me inside the college-ruled lines of a 12 page opus dripping with tears, blood and guts.

Marriage, or any meaningful long-term relationship, is a tough gig to get and tougher still to hold down. The day-to-day operation might be demanding, the environment stressful, and the reward and recognition program is often found to be lacking. Morale can dip and, well, enough of these workplace analogies. I left all that behind on purpose seven years ago. Making a marriage work and work well is a difficult task, one made even more difficult when one of the key players (that’d be me, in this case) is so inside their own world that he misses obvious signals and signs that his sixteen+ year relationship is in need of immediate attention.

Sometimes he needs to read all about it in cursive, blue ink on white paper, for the severity of the situation to sink into his overcrowded head.

 A Letter in the Night_Marriage and Relationships.

There’s a ceramic heart-shaped decoration that hangs just to the right of my side of the bed, about two and a half feet above the top of the mattress. Its jangly wire hanger and the amber beads it cuts through are caked in neglect. It’s perpetually in need of a good dusting. The jet black text, written in a haphazard handwriting font, reads, “Never Forget To Kiss Each Other Goodnight,” and yet I do. Most nights, I don’t even think about that kiss. Forgetfulness is far easier to forgive than ignorance.

I’ve long prided myself on a possessing a keen awareness of all that swirls about me, and yet my thoughtlessness has harmed my marriage. But this goes far beyond a missing kiss in the dark. A good spouse needs to be attentive to their partner’s state of mind and state of being, and I’ve been sorely lacking on both fronts. Because there’s a new email that needs a response. A Facebook message thread, a text, a Twitter notification, a fantasy baseball free agent to be snagged, the next day’s lunch to make, a contract to sign/scan/send back, a basket of laundry to fold, a lawn to mow, a game to watch. There’s always something on offer, something that can, if I allow it, take precedence over the one with whom I’ve exchanged vows, the one with whom I verbally, in front of many a witness, said I’d spend an eternity with. An eternity, by definition, includes Tuesday nights after the kids are asleep, and spring Sunday mornings with nothing at all to do but quietly run my fingers through her red hair and lovingly caress her cheeks.

We’re told often in the 2nd decade of the 21st century that It Can Wait behind the wheel of our car, but I needed that same PSA message at the helm of my relationship with my wife. It all can and will wait. She, on the other hand, needs me now. And I needed a letter written deep into the night, while I slept inches away, to finally understand and accept her innate need for me to see her, to really look at her and into her beautiful wanting eyes, to kiss her like I mean it when she walks through the door after a day at work, her urgent need for me to close the laptop and snuggle her late at night, to make her laugh hysterically when she’s down, to be present more than absent when I am right there with her.

And so I dust off that ceramic heart, make contact with my old romantic self, keep her heartfelt pages close to me at all times, and work every day to be more present for her, for us, forever after.

Join me and a few of my pals for the #CreatingConnections Twitter party on Thursday, May 14 from 2-3 p.m. EDT, hosted by @Dr_SueJohnson and @NM_Seminars. RSVP now and have a shot at winning prizes including a Norwegian Cruise Lines gift card ($2,000), an iPad mini and copies of Dr. Sue Johnson’s books.

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Speaking of goodies to win, enter for your chance to get copies of Dr. Sue Johnson’s most recent publications, Love Sense: the Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships and Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

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3 Comments

  1. I can most definitely relate to this. From both sides. I think it’s a pretty common misstep for people our age and especially if we have kids. For years we had to choose to focus so much attention on the kids, because they needed it. Now that we have a little time to breathe as parents, (I think) it’s hard to redirect the attention to our spouse when it feels like we’d rather take care of our own needs for a change. And it’s easy to forget that the other person needs attention, too. Or rather that they deserve it more than you at any particular moment.

  2. Nice.
    It’s easy to let relations get placed on the back burner and coast. I’m sure my wife would agree we do that as well.

  3. Thank you for your beautiful and honest post. My husband and I have been married 11 years, and much of what you have said rings true for us. It is so easy to put your partner on the back burner.

joc