A few months ago, I asked about our marriages. How are they? How are they holding up under the early months of parenthood?
I’m making a list of all the things to say to new parents when I meet their new bundles, you know. I’ve said it before but in my list you won’t find a single “Isn’t it the best?” or “Cherish these moments.” because it wasn’t and I didn’t. Instead, you will find “It gets better.” and “It’s okay if you don’t love it right now.” and “How’s your marriage?” because those are the things that I needed to hear. The things that shed some light under the crack of the closet door I tried to lock my skeletons in over this past year.
This was a hard year on our marriage. It was hard on us as individuals and I suppose that’s what made it hard on our marriage. No taking turns. We were both depleted… And people do different things when they’re depleted.
I, for instance, need every little thing entered into my calendar. No surprises. Not an impromptu grocery trip. Not a spur-of-the-moment house project. Nothing that I can’t see coming well in advance. Spontaneity derails me.
Fred, on the other hand, needs everything in its physical place. Spotless. Not an article of clothing misplaced. Not a sock unmatched. Not a floor unswept. It unnerves him to have clutter, laundry, or dishes out.
We’re different. Our differences are what help us fall in love but they’re also what drive us apart. During periods of this past year, our differences made our marriage cantankerous. We’ve been working on it, of course (as clashing clans, brothers on opposite sides of battle lines), but it hasn’t been easy. Each unable or unwilling to give in first.
My version of the story is that Fred is highly OCD and has unrealistc standards for new parents with a house and a shedding dog. I don’t believe my house is unkept (in fact, a girlfriend of mine just voted it in the top tier of homes in our friend rotation), but our routine – or lack thereof – was driving my husband insane. Bitterly insane.
I couldn’t keep up. With two of us working full time and dinner and trying to read as many books to Emma as we can before she passes out and bath time, we ran out of options. We had tried to keep during the week when Emma went to bed but were exhausted. We tried to scrub and organize everything during the weekend but we desperately wanted to engage with Emma, to encourage her steps and exploration and babbles.
So a few weeks ago, Fred hired a cleaning service to come in every so often and press the reset button. It feels like a shameful thing to spend money on to me. To ask someone to come into my home with a duster and clean the cobwebs off the skeleton in my closet – to expose my inability to keep up.
After the first cleaning, I asked Fred if it gave him the peace he needed and he said it did. If logic trumped feeling, it would be the end of this story. Our version of marriage counseling. If we were in the context of the workplace, I would praise us both for coming up with a great solution to an impasse. But logic doesn’t always trump feeling and although I know it was the right thing, it doesn’t feel very satisfying to me.
Scheduling the first visit was a cease fire, in a way. Since then, the pressure of not keeping up has eased. It’s out in the open – good, bad, or indifferent. Fred has asked me to share my calendar with him. We even had a dinner date, the three of us, where we laughed and shared across the table in a way that felt comfortable and familiar.
I’m starting to wonder if God isn’t using this time to encourage me to seek help more often. To allow others to use their gifts to lift me up. Here I am trying to forge ahead and encourage others and God is asking me to be vulnerable and let someone else help me clean the skeleton in my closet.
If so, it’s been a hard lesson to learn… But no doubt a valuable one.