Long, long ago, and oh so far away -- 28 years ago in Wheaton, Illinois, I met Greg. At first glance, he was not as dynamic! and exciting! and showy! as some of the other guys at the college, but at second glance, I knew he was a good, good guy.
We went to a homeschool meeting several years ago when the topic was marriage and parenting. We were given several handouts that night, but the one I have gone back to over and over is entitied "Marriage Satisfaction across the Family Cycle for Husbands and Wives." You were even going to get to see the actual handout, but Google apparently can't handle uploading it. Alas.
The idea, as I understand it, is that research has shown there is a gradually lessening of marital satisfaction from the time of being a young couple without children to the time the first child enters adolescence. Things start looking up at the point where the children begin leaving the nest, typically between the 45th and 55th years of their parents, in terms of marital satisfaction. Of course, there must be intention on the part of both spouses to stay connected during those years. Greg and I are on a little different timetable. For one thing, as young marrieds we spent a lot of time processing our own childhoods, so we would hopefully not bring those unresolved wounds into our parenting. (Did it work? Well, sort of.) We also married a little later than a lot of our friends. Greg was 27 and I was 23. Then we waited pretty long to start a family.
Sometimes when I consider my life as an outsider might view it -- my beautiful children, my loving and faithful husband, my loving parents and sisters, my education, and all the wonderful experiences I have gotten to have -- it mystifies me why marital satisfaction would go down during the years of raising children. Of course, the reality is that children do take a lot of time and effort and more energy than either of us have. I find facing the reality of the wonderful challenge of children does take courage, and I find comfort in knowing that many other husbands and wives experience something similar during the years of raising children. It's not THAT mysterious.
But through it all, through all the years of trying to have children, then having them, and having them, and having them, and thinking we were all finished and having one more, Greg has been a husband who is trustworthy, loving, faithful, and almost always willing to dig deep and find something to give, no matter how tired or burned out he is. Case in point: last Monday morning I needed to drop my van off to have some bodywork done, and I needed to pick up a rental at the same time. Greg took the initiative to go to the car place ahead of me, meet with the rental car guy, and ask for a nicer car (2011 Toyota Camry -- yes!), and sign all the paperwork for the repair and the rental both. All I had to do was show up, transfer all my junk from the van to the Camry, give Greg a kiss and a hug and drive off.
Of course I could have handled all those details myself. I wouldn't have asked for the upgraded rental, but I know how to look at a rental car with the guy and see if there is anything that needs to be noted on the little form. The thing is, as facilitators for the Building Blocks for Marriage class at Crossroads, we had just been talking about love languages over the weekend, and he was reminded how much "acts of service" mean to me. Greg went to the car place and did those details because he was thinking of me, and of what he had learned over the weekend, and was looking for ways to show me he loves me.
I never need a Valentine -- he shows me his love every single day. Even though it can be hard at times to manage his travel schedule, me getting behind on the laundry, needing to go to the store for milk AGAIN, and all the details of life with five active children, I never ever doubt that this man loves me. All week long as I have been driving this car, I have been reminded over and over what he did for me on Monday, and I just wanted to tell the world that even if it's hard to find the time these days to go on dates, or to stay awake long enough, whatever marital dissatisfaction arises sometimes pales in comparison to the long-term satisfaction of loving and be loved by my sweet man.
Sometimes it matters. Sometimes it doesn't. Tonight it did.
Last year we spent six weeks with three lovely couples, all of whom live in a higher economic level than we do. That wasn't an issue at all last year. This year we spent six weeks with these three lovely couples, plus one more lovely couple. Tonight was the sixth meeting. Greg and I were really uncomfortable, because most of the conversation was about topics about which we simply do not have anything to say -- cruises, vacation cottages, shopping in foreign countries, dinner with important people -- well, except that last one -- we have dinner with important people every time we eat dinner as a family.
But, dang. I just think the new couple, well, especially the husband, is so used to his lifestyle --that of the movers and shakers -- that it maybe doesn't occur to him that not all of us know the CEO of whatever company. Last year, we met in one couple's home all six weeks. This week, we all took turns. I really came to a place of peace about having them all to our house, even though three of our houses could fit into one of theirs. So, it's not that I'm ashamed of having less, or living in a smaller house. It's just that we didn't seem to have as much in common with them this year.
But, I'll tell you -- when we walked into our house this evening and Kepler came up to me with his sweet voice wanting a hug, all the rest of it faded away. I wouldn't trade this life for any of theirs.