Photo: Mary Maupin

Anyone reading this should take my words with a grain of salt. My husband and I went through a really rough patch last year. In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago that my husband and I were talking about the d-word. I write this now because I still hold a lot of shame regarding that period in our relationship. I feel like a failure that our relationship got to that point. And it is precisely because I still feel like that a year later that I’m beginning my Valentine’s Day article by releasing some of those feelings. I’ve said it. It’s out there. My husband and I don’t have the perfect marriage. But we do have a lot to be thankful for this Valentine’s Day.

When I sat down to write this, I asked my husband what 3 things we do to keep our relationship strong. He said we:

Hang in There

Hold On

Let it Go

I have a very smart husband as you can tell from his answer. We have 3 children under the age of 5 and every day is a simple test of how long you can hang in there. Can you hang in there for another three minutes until the tantrum blows over? Can you hang in there for another 5 minutes while your spouse goes to the bathroom and every single one of your children cries? Can you hang in there until the littlest one finally closes her eyes and falls asleep? I’ve had a lot of practice at hanging in there.

I also do a lot of holding on. Mostly I hold onto my husband. When I want to scream or cry or huddle in a corner, I hold onto him. No literally, I go up to my husband and I hold onto him. This is new for me. Prior to our near miss I never held onto him, physically or emotionally, but since he’s mentioned it, I realize how often I do this now. I hold on for dear life.

Letting go is the thing I struggle with the most and the thing at which my husband excels. I’m so practiced at hanging in there that letting go feels like failure. I can’t let go! I must make things right! But my newborn will sometimes cry in my arms and I’ll try everything I can do to comfort her and it isn’t until I put her down that she quiets and goes to sleep. I know I’ll get more practice at letting go as my kids get older; parenting is a whole series of letting gos that I am vastly unprepared for. But I’m getting better at the letting gos of marriage. Letting that sharp word pass because we were both up late comforting kids and feeding babies. Letting go of that forgotten phone call because work is crazy and it’s stressful being the sole earner. Letting it go that our anniversary date is still not etched in stone, even though it is etched on my husband’s wedding ring.

Here’s MY answer when I think of 3 things we do to keep our relationship strong:

Talk about National/World News

Talk about Our Kids

Talk about Dreams

You can see the common theme there. I fell in love with my husband by talking to him. We knew each other a year before we began dating, and even the dating was kind of a weird courtship of late night conversations and group coffee meet ups. I feel the closest to my husband emotionally and spiritually when I see his core convictions. He loves people, he wants to make a difference in the world, and he does those things by beginning at home.

We don’t often get each other gifts, especially not on Valentine’s Day. We don’t often go on dates, especially not on Valentine’s Day. But I often fall in love with my husband when I get a glimpse of what’s going on inside of him, because he’s a beautiful person, and I get glimpses of the most intimate part of him when we talk.

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