Three weeks ago, I invited you to join me in making May Marriage Month by going on at least one date with your spouse.
In the twenty-one days since that post was published, I spoke at two events, my husband undertook an epic mulching project in our backyard, we rented our house for an extended weekend, celebrated three family birthdays, hosted a going-away party for friends who were moving, held a student event at our house to start the summer semester, carted our daughters to six dance classes, and sat on the sidelines at (or, in the case of my husband, coached) twelve youth soccer practices.
We've gone on zero dates.
Even with this Marriage Month Challenge fresh in my mind because I'm the one who proposed it, it's easy to drift along with life's current and forget to set aside time to "date" my husband.
As I've tried to pinpoint why, I recalled a conversation with a co-worker when I declined an invitation to a weeknight outing with colleagues. My husband works most evenings and I have the three girls, I had explained. His response, "Well, you can always just get a sitter."
In my mind, I knew it wasn't quite that simple. Just getting a sitter meant that I had to find a sitter, pay a sitter, and still prepare dinner for the girls so they could eat with the sitter while I was gone. Just getting a sitter -- and all of its accompanied elements -- suggested work, and in my mind, the payoff of socializing with colleagues didn't outweigh the work that would be required to get there.
Although I understand it, I've never quite liked the metaphor that marriage is work. The term work too often connotes something negative and unwelcome. Hauling rocks is work. Basic training is work. Getting my children out of the toy aisle in Target is work.
The reality, of course, is that work is necessary, beneficial, and rewarding -- especially if you're working on something you love -- but the underlying association of work with undesired difficulty makes me pause at the implied premise, even though every marriage will face phases that are difficult.
If I had to propose an alternate metaphor, then, I'd say that marriage is a garden that needs to be tended. Weeds need to be yanked, behaviors and words need to be pruned, and kindness needs to be cultivated. For our actual garden, my husband has easily hauled a hundred wheelbarrow loads of mulch this past week. It's cost him sweat, one nasty sunburn, and time. In other words, it's been work.
Yet, when we look over the garden, anyone can see that it's well-tended. His effort paid off.
Last night after the kids went to bed, I sat outside on my front porch. It was the perfect spring evening -- the start of a sunset, a light warm breeze, trees rustling, the scent of cut grass. I reminisced back to earlier years when I would have gone out with Joel on a night like this -- piling into the car, windows down, radio playing. No responsibility. No kids tucked in bed upstairs. No reason we needed to stay at home.
It was already past eight o'clock -- certainly too late to call a sitter. Instead, we retreated to the backyard together.
I looked over at him. Want me to cut your hair? I asked. It was random, but within minutes we had set up a make-shift barber shop with an outdoor extension cord, his hair clippers, and a small plastic kid's chair where Joel could sit. He coached me on how to tip the clippers upward with each pass to achieve the desired taper. I concentrated carefully, working around his ears, trimming his sideburns, aware of the suntan already visible on the nape of his neck.
He trusts me to do this, I thought, aware that I wouldn't trust myself to do this.
And just like that, I was touched by the realization that he'd still love me, even if I accidentally buzzed his whole head. And I was happy that we've always been able to joke about the smallest things, like the fact that hair, thankfully, grows back.
It wasn't a necessarily a date -- the two of us outside as dusk settled: me standing as I tensely wielded the clippers, him sitting as his hair fell into the grass beneath our feet -- but it was a glimpse into the fact that little moments, even impromptu ones, are part of tending a marriage, too.
There's still time to join up with Marriage Month. I'm determined to go on a real date by the month's end. Will you? Have you gone on a date already? Let us know in the comments below!