We fell in love fast and hard. I can honestly say I was IN love with her. I knew we would have fights and disagreements. I knew marriage was work and difficult. But I also knew that our love was strong enough to get us through anything.
As the years went on we became less and less affectionate. We began to talk less and rarely did anything just the two of us. One day I looked at her and I almost couldn’t recognize her. She wasn’t the woman I married and I knew that I no longer loved her.
I contemplated getting a divorce but we had 2 children and honestly I was happy. We were teammates. She washed the dishes and I swept the floors. She read the girls their bedtime stories and I tucked them in. It worked, so I decided to just let it be.
Then one night she came into my office in tears and told me that she thought we should get a divorce. She voiced all of my previous concerns and told me that she was sorry but she had fallen out of love with me. I just smiled because I knew I could calm her fears.
I explained to her that love was for children and we had something greater. We had a real relationship, we were a family, and that love was just the fleeting emotion that brought us together. I thought I was being reasonable and that she would understand what I was saying. I thought she would laugh too and go back to watching the Bachelor. But she didn’t.
She began to sob harder into her hands. I jumped up to hug her. My arms felt weird and uncomfortable around her thin waist. I tried to remember the last time I had hugged my wife. We had sex occasionally and she kissed me goodbye in the mornings, if she happened to already be in the kitchen when I was leaving. But I couldn’t for the life of me remember the last time I ran to her and put my arms around her and truly embraced her. That thought made me more uncomfortable than the aforementioned hug. I quickly released her and I began to cry as well. “What happened to us?” I quietly asked.
That night we talked. We talked about our goals and our needs. We reminisced about the beginning of our relationship and smiled while soaking in how truly in love we were. Finally she turned to me and said, “I’m happier when I’m in love with you” and I replied with the same. “I think I could easily fall back in love with you” she said and I replied with the same.
Then we made a list of all the things we loved about each other, all the activities that we did when we were first falling in love, and all the moments where we knew we were in love. To be honest it was more funny than romantic and at times a little bit sad. She mentioned how she loved it when I used to pretend to care about all of her girlfriend drama and I realized that I couldn’t even name the women in her book club. I told her that I liked going out and holding her hand and she began to cry because she missed that too.
The next day we hired a babysitter and recreated our first date. It was awkward and familiar all at the same time. The first time I went to hold her hand I could feel her whole body tense up. The first 20 minutes of mini golf went by in complete silence. We decided not to talk about the kids or work since those wouldn’t have been things we talked about 8 years ago. However, without those buffers we had very little to say to one another.
I tried to remember what we talked about on our first date. I remembered complimenting her a lot. She truly was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen and I was still in shock that she had agreed to go out on a date with me. I remembered wanting to make her laugh and trying to stand as close to her as I could. I remembered getting lost in her features and just staring at her for a solid two minutes while she attempted to make a difficult putt. I remembered the look of excitement when she finally made it. She jumped up and cheered and smiled a smile that I knew I wanted to see every day for the rest of my life. I couldn’t remember the last time she smiled that way.
So that was my goal. I wanted her to smile the same way she did on our first date. I began to make jokes and even reminded her of her excitement. She smiled her small grin that I had seen a hundred times before. It hadn’t occurred to me all these years that that wasn’t her real smile. As she attempted a difficult shot I waited for the smile. But when she sank it she just turned and moved on to the next one. In that moment I wondered if I had taken her joy. If I had turned this vibrant women who once could find the joy and excitement in everything into a woman who now was just moving through life waiting for bed time. I ran to catch up to her and asked her, “What makes you excited?” She laughed and looked at me with confusion.
“Am I allowed to say the kids.”
“Then nothing, I guess.”
I’d like to say that I did or said something that made her smile her smile. But I didn’t. The date went on and we talked a little more and holding hands was a little less awkward but we ended the night similar to how we started it. Out of love and ready for bed.
There was a big part of me that wanted to give up. We were happy and things were fine. Our kids were healthy and loved. We respected each other and lived a great life together. If she wanted a divorce than that was just her being selfish I told myself. If she wasn’t happy and thought she could find a better life with another man, then so be it. I told myself that she was turning into a miserable woman who couldn’t find joy in her life and that I wasn’t to blame. The more I thought about our circumstances that more angry I became. I grew so mad that I couldn’t control myself. I stormed into the bathroom where she was getting ready for bed and I told her exactly what I was thinking.
I told her that she was chasing after this idea of love and that it wasn’t real. I told her that I was happy and that she just needed to choose to be happy too. I told her that she needed to choose to find joy in her life. To choose to be happy and content with what she had. I told her she was acting like a spoiled child. That she used to get excited when I just came over to her apartment to watch a movie and now nothing I did excited her. I told her that we worked and that if this life wasn’t enough then I would gladly sign divorce papers because she deserved to be happy.
I felt like I had tried all night and that she had given nothing in return. So when she just stood there, still offering nothing, I felt justified in all that I had said. I was trying and she was not and that was the problem. I left the bathroom sure of two things 1) we would be getting a divorce and 2) it was not my fault.
She came into my office about an hour later. She sat down across from me and said, “Love makes me excited. It’s the core of everything for me. I was in love with you and that’s why I was excited when you came over to watch a movie. Honestly, I was excited just thinking about you. You made me excited because I loved you. Now, I love the girls but they’re young and they’re work and loving them doesn’t bring me the same joy that loving you once did. Choosing to be happy means choosing to love someone who loves me back the same way. Maybe that’s not the best way to live a life. I’m sure it would be better if I found happiness by myself. But I didn’t. I found my happiness with you. I found my happiness in being in love with my best friend. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to wake up every day and love you. I don’t know if it’ll work. I don’t know if two people can ever really fall back in love. But I’m willing to try if you are.”
That’s when it all hit me. I made this woman fall in love with me. It wasn’t fate or some random occurrence. I chose her and worked like hell to get her to choose me back. I chose to love her and gave her every reason in the world to choose to love me back. I convinced her that she could find her happiness with me. That she would be safe, protected, taken care of, and loved by me. She was happy by herself but I promised her that she would be happier with me. Then I broke that promise.
I found my happiness in other things. Like providing for my family and cheering for my favorite teams. She took care of my family and let me watch sports whenever I wanted. All she asked in return was that I helped her stay in love with me. The first time I saw her smile I told myself I would’ve done anything to be able to see that smile every day. I needed to be that man again. I needed to choose to love her now the same way I did 8 years ago.
It wasn’t easy. At first I didn’t know what made her happy. Flowers and candy were my old go to but she didn’t seem too impressed. I surprised her with a candle light dinner one night and she seemed genuinely excited. At the beginning of the night we didn’t have much to talk about. I saw the book she was reading for her book club on the counter and asked her about the club.
I asked if there was any drama, like I used to back in the day. She told me a little bit about one of the members and trailed off saying how she knew I wasn’t interested and we could talk about something else. I told her that I really was interested and I wasn’t lying. I loved the way she told stories. She was animated and described situations in such vivid ways. She loved trying to figure out the reason behind the reason for a person’s behavior and I loved trying to think of scenarios and solutions with her.
We talked for hours and invented background stories for each member of her book club. When dinner was over she leaned in and kissed me. It was the first “real” kiss we’d had in ages. I realized that I missed our connection and that I also found my happiness in our love. I knew that I needed to work on our relationship for both of us.
That was all about 2 years ago and it hasn’t always been easy since then. Sometimes I get busy at work or just plain lazy. Sometimes I forget to choose to love my wife and sometimes she forgets to choose to love me. But we both try hard to remember because we know now that it is a choice and it’s a choice that makes us happy.