I stood there on the landing, balancing quietly on the step before he could see me. Sitting alone in the dark was the man I once spent all of my time with. The man I shared all of my joy, love, and passion with. I studied him. His face. The sadness and loneliness in his expression. His body. The body that for so many years seemed like it was attached to mine. I watched him. He was crying. I did this to him -- to us.
We used to do everything together. We were each other's world. There was never a day that we didn't put our relationship first. Together for 20 years, married for 16. We were committed to each other. Committed to our marriage, until I decided to put our children first.
I have read several posts about women who claim they always put their kids first. Most state very clearly that their husband will lose out every time. The kids come first -- marriage last.
I used to be that woman. I would have been standing right next to her, marching on in my crusade to be the perfect mom -- until the day things changed. The day my daughter looked at me and asked, "Why don't you and dad ever hug?"
In my quest to be the perfect mother, I neglected my husband.
A wise friend once told me, "You and your husband need to take care of yourselves. Mom and dad first, kids second. If mom and dad are not happy, the kids will suffer."
For many years, I adamantly defended my decision to put my kids first. I always put their needs before my marriage and husband. All of my love, time, and devotion was given to them. I truly believed that my actions proved that I was a good mom.
My husband would try talking to me about this -- about us. He expressed his concerns about feeling left out. Wondering where he fit into the picture. I would push him aside. Tell him he was being selfish. That I was the only one doing the right thing. It was my job to be a mom first, wife and partner second.
His emotions were torn. There was a part of him that really enjoyed watching me be a mom to our children. He would smile affectionately as I cared for them. Tell our daughter and son that they were lucky to have such an amazing mom.
He watched me on a daily basis give all of my affection to our kids, while he waited. At the end of the day, the kids were the ones who reaped the benefits of my love. They were the ones who received my passion, care, tenderness, and touch. My husband was left on the outside. Left to always wonder, "What about me?"
As soon as I started paying attention to what he was saying, there was a small part of me that knew he was right. Still, I was not ready to admit that I was setting my family and marriage up for failure. Most of my energy was still spent on proving that my kids needed me more than my husband.
Then it happened. The words that finally made me embrace what my husband had been saying for so many years. The words of a very wise 7-year-old.
"Why don't you and dad ever hug?" my daughter asked. "I love it when I get to watch you hug in the kitchen and give each other kisses. It makes me smile when I see you hold hands. It gives me comfort to know that we will always be a family."
She was right. The only way to have a strong family was to have a strong marriage. It was time to put my priorities in order.
We needed to change directions. When I looked at my husband, I couldn't remember why I married him. Why I promised that I would always love him, honor him, and cherish us. I felt empty. Lost. I couldn't imagine my life without him, but I also didn't know how to get back to the way we used to be.
I made a conscious decision to recommit to my husband and my marriage.
There is a newness to our relationship now. I'm reminded of the days in college when we would spend hours getting to know every detail about each other. Stealing glances. Kissing when no one was looking.
My husband still does that. Steals glances at me. Kisses me when no one is looking. I often catch him watching me and smiling. Happy. In those moments, I know he really loves me.
He always has a mischievous look on his face, but his eyes tell me how much he truly cares about us. In those moments, I am reassured that my children will grow up knowing what love between their mom and dad looks and feels like.
It is in those moments that I feel so blessed to have my partner and best friend back. So lucky to fall in love with my husband and my marriage all over again.