He stood on the opposite side of the bed, looking back at me. Hands resting on his dark hair, his face gave way to bewilderment at the blubbering mess across from him. With What to Expect When You’re Expecting in one hand and Babywise in the other, I was having yet another meltdown. Tears running down my face, I shook my books at him trying to explain my anxiety over what felt like yet another monumental parenting decision—something like burp cloths.
Being a first-time mom had proven more overwhelming than I had expected. Certain I was doing it all wrong, I obsessed over every decision. For three months my husband had been incredibly gracious while I filled our conversations with talk about nipple cream, sleep schedules, pacifier clips, diaper brands, baby lotion, poop, and drool: the sexy talk of which all husbands dream.
That night, as I sat on our bed, desperately flipping through my books, my husband attempted to tell me about his day. His patience came to an end, and he gently asked for my full attention. He looked me full in the face, the heart evident in his big blue eyes as he asked, “Will I ever get my wife back?”
I grew angry. How dare he ask more of me! I steamed. Doesn’t he understand how hard all of this is? But the more I looked in his eyes, the more I saw the longing behind them. He wasn’t asking me to do more for him; he wasn’t even asking for sex. He wanted his wife—his partner who liked to eat frozen pizza and watch reruns of FRIENDS, and who loved to laugh at his ridiculous jokes that no one else ever understood.
Motherhood had changed me, and in many ways, it should. But I didn’t realize that when I welcomed motherhood, I’d said goodbye to my husband. I had allowed being a new mom to consume me, and my husband felt cast aside.
While I’d love to say everything was fixed in that moment, the reality is that ten years, five boys, thirteen moves, the death of a son, and multiple career changes later, we’re still learning to be both parents and “us.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the weight of life’s demands and lose sight not only of each other but also ourselves.
In order to grow closer rather than apart, we have learned we must fight together for our marriage. Connectedness doesn’t just happen. Over the years, we have made a few simple changes. Prioritizing conversation over flopping down on the couch after all four boys are in bed, and making sure we both get time doing things that renew our energy. For me, this looks like taking a nightly bubble bath, and for him, it looks like mornings at the gym. Most of all, we know we need time together to have fun, whether that’s a real date or our every Sunday stay-in date night that usually involves some form of takeout.
Most of all, I continually remind myself: My husband didn’t marry a mother; he married me. Our love grew out of connection, conversation, laughter, and adventure. When we fail to incorporate these things into our daily lives, that connection can easily slip away.
In sixteen years, when all boys have left the nest (not that I’m counting…), I don’t want my husband and I to be strangers. I don’t want to stand on opposite sides of the bed, wondering, Will I ever get my marriage back? Because before there were ever kids, there was us. And I really, really like us.
Sarah Westfall’s story is marked by both deep grief and unexpected grace, both of which have become a catalyst for her as a writer and a speaker. Sarah invites women to lean into God, right where they are, and to look for Him in everyday life—in the beautiful, the broken, and those seemingly mundane in-between spaces. Sarah lives in Indiana with her husband Ben and four boys. You can connect with her on her blog or Facebook.