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Jen Thompson, author, on her wedding day

One of the biggest fights we’ve had happened just a few short months after we were married.

We had traveled to see family over the weekend and had just returned home on a Sunday evening. We walked inside, both holding as much as our arms would carry.

The bags were put in our room and my husband proceeded to walk into the living room, turn on the tv and sit down.

Wait. What?
What was he doing?
What about the rest of the stuff in the car?
What about work tomorrow?
We need to unpack. This is priority number one.

Right?

For me, yes.
For him, no.

And in that moment a battle ensued.

I went on and on about why he should be doing what I wanted him to do and he went on and on about why he should be doing what he wanted to do.

Our words flew over and around each other, landing on ears unwilling to listen. We were both so sure we were right. We both knew the other was wrong.

And we just had to get our points across.

It was imperative the other didn’t necessarily understand where we were coming from, but really just changed their behavior.

This is the only fight I remember in the history of our relationship that ended with him leaving the house.

He just left.
He couldn’t take any more of the badgering and out the door and into the car he went to drive and to think.
And I was left alone to cry.

This was not the wedded bliss I imagined.
What was happening here?

It didn’t take long for us both to recognize all of the unspoken things we brought into our marriage. The ways we grew up. Our living habits we never thought to communicate when we weren’t living together. The things we brought into the marriage that we didn’t even know we were carrying. The expectations we had that we didn’t even know we had.

Like you always unload the car completely and unpack immediately after returning from a trip. Like watching your team play takes precedence and whatever needs to be done can be done later.

Fast forward to today and unpacking rarely happens the night we return from a trip.
And it’s definitely possible to miss games, and happens all of the time.

We have grown and we have changed and our priorities have shifted. We have learned to listen to what the other needs and try to compromise instead of being unwilling to budge.

We have learned that there is no such thing as over-communicating.
We speak our needs.
We share our concerns.
We listen.
We budge.

We know we are two imperfect people who will always be growing and changing and learning and the things that matter now, may not matter as much tomorrow.

The key is that we grow and change and learn together.

That fight stands out in my mind and I can see how wrong I was. My husband says he can see how wrong he was, too.

And that’s the beauty of it.

This was a learning moment in our marriage.

We won’t always see eye-to-eye, but the important thing is that we are willing to listen, to admit our wrongs, and to change our ways if needed.

Because our goal is no longer to be right.

But to love each other as best as we are able.

My parents, Richard and Susan Reinhart, on their wedding day—1962

Who could have known you would play a pivotal role in an almost 60-year love affair that’s produced 6 children, 6 sons or daughters-in-law, and 13 grandchildren. Goodness, if you hadn’t been at the party that night, I wouldn’t even be here to tell this story…

It was the spring of 1961. Think Mad Men. Dark, single-breasted suit jackets with narrow notch lapels. Crisp white dress shirts, dark ties, and matching slim pants, complete with wingtip dress shoes. 

It was the launch of a new season for Jantzen Sportswear. An iconic clothing and swimwear company and Jantzen spared no expense. As all the salespeople were men, who else would they invite to a new clothing launch at the then renowned Heer’s department store in Springfield, Missouri? None other than the lovely, Miss Missouri.

Fresh out of the Air Force, my dad was eager to start his career as a newly minted Jantzen sales rep—he also was keen on ‘meeting special someone’ who would eventually share his life. Walking into the pre-launch party that evening, my dad had every intention of meeting Miss Missouri. 

The icon Jantzen “Diving Girl”

He spotted her across the room and nonchalantly worked his way in her direction. Looking very Sophia Loren meets Annette Funicello…dark hair, captivatingly-sexy brown eyes, and a figure any woman of the day would envy–my dad made his approach. Minutes into their small talk, he realized this “gorgeous woman” was one of Jantzen’s few female marketing representatives at the time. At that moment, he no longer cared if Miss Missouri was even in attendance. 

Little did he know he would travel all the way from Furstenfeldbruck Air Force base in Germany to Missouri via Oregon only to meet a beautiful woman who had grown up down the street from him in Portland.

There was just one little problem…she had an engagement ring on her finger.

As dad has often recounted, “She wasn’t married yet.” 

So he asked my mother for dinner the next evening…and she accepted. (Which was a little scandalous if I do say so myself.) They both recall having “such a lovely time.” When my dad took her back to the hotel, he made sure to walk her all-the-way-to-her-door. Ironically, in the ultimate plot twist, Jantzen had set my mom up to room with no other than—drum roll please—Miss Missouri.

My dad shrugs dismissively whenever I bring up what it was like to finally meet Miss Missouri? “Well, she wasn’t as good-looking as your mother, that’s for sure.”

Not wanting the date to end and knowing my mother was a devout Catholic, this dapper protestant asked my mom to Mass the next morning…and then to lunch. “I wanted to spend more time with her, and I knew she would want to go to church on Sunday. So, I asked if I could escort her to Mass,” my dad explained with a wink of his eye.

The next day, my mom flew back to Portland, Oregon, with a lot on her mind. For starters, what to do about a fiance. “Such a nice man,” my mom recalls whenever the story surfaces.

A week or so later, my dad flew back to Portland and asked my mom out to dinner—on one condition—she not wear her engagement ring. 

In a daring move, my mom took her engagement ring to the jewelry store to be cleaned, and when the jeweler said, “it would only take a few minutes,” my mom replied, “No worries, I’ll pick it up in the morning.” 

Needless to say, my mom called off her engagement a few days later, and this week my parents celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary—and the rest is history.

-Dear Miss Missouri, thank you. I’m sure you are a beautiful woman, and I hope you have lived a happy life, but still, I’m grateful it wasn’t you who caught my dad’s eye across a crowded room in the spring of ’61. 

Happy 59th wedding anniversary!

With love, your daughter, Lisa (Reinhart) Speers

Debbie Prather, Author, and her son

A mother’s love letter to her son and daughter-in-law on their wedding day—

“I love you, mom.”

“Hmmm?”

(A little louder) “I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, honey, so very much.”

I’d been deep in thought, listening to the song we were slowly dancing to.

I knew this mother/son moment of ours was supposed to be the time to say all the things, but this boy and I had already said all the things, so the lyrics to the melody played in our ears:

Hold the door say please say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but…

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but…

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

As we moved from side to side, I felt in a dream and took in everything my senses could hold: the supportive, joyful faces looking on; the army of twinkling lights decorated throughout, reflected in the antique mirrors on the opposite wall; the warmth of his strong arms as we held each other.

𝙃𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙆𝙞𝙣𝙙–

𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲, 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗻, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝗳𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗲.

I recall Spring Break of 2017. We traveled down to warmer weather and spent time with Brett, who, at the time, was living and working in Orlando.

He had recently been out with Abby, another student he knew in college when they were part of the same circle.

She had visited Florida, also, and messaged him, just two friends reconnecting, and they went out to eat together before she headed back to the midwest.

When he and I sat on the beach in St. Petersburg about a week afterward, I asked him to tell me all about their time.

He lit up, told me a bit, and then said, “I don’t know, I just have a really good feeling.” Because of his words, I did too.

When we met Abby that summer, I immediately saw the qualities that Brett had used to describe her: kind, thoughtful, playful, smart, beautiful.

Brett fell for her fast, and so did we.

Brett’s gut instinct was right.

Our daughter-in-law, Abby, gives us all good feelings because she’s funny, sincere, creative, empathetic, hard-working, faith-filled, and full of love.

She has a special tenderness for dogs of every type, and she gives the best hugs! Unfortunately, she and I have experienced similar past heartache.

Like myself, Abby lost a parent to cancer at the time of her high school graduation.

We talked often about those profound losses in the early days of getting to know one another.

Abby’s grief was close to the surface, as it’d been six years since her mom passed away at the time we met.

With over three decades out from losing my dad, I could express to her that the pain lessened a little more each year, although, never completely.

I suspect Abby was an old soul even before her mom went to heaven, but that event, and her awareness that life is fragile and precious, make her even more so today.

She’s the perfect match for Brett: the match we’ve prayed for since he was little.

As hard as it is watching our children grow up and leave the nest, there’s nothing better than seeing them start their own family, by marrying the one God had planned for them since the beginning of time.

The night of the wedding, when Brett and I were finishing our dance, the end verses struck me.

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line.

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

For many long years, to get where I was going, was to plead with God to give Craig and I strength and wisdom to raise our kids up right.

Now that they’re all but grown, I don’t take one second of it for granted.

I think of the generations that have gone ahead of us: their words of encouragement, their silent and spoken prayers, their admonitions and stories, their smiles and reassurances; extended from those who walked before and then alongside, getting us to this place.

Craig and I plan to assist, pray for, tell stories and jokes, and be there – please God be willing – in any way our children want or need in the years to come.

With a heart of gratitude, I thank the Lord for the blessing they’ve been to us, and for every single treasured, unique member that makes the love in our family vast and abundant.

𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗻𝗼𝘄, 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗴’𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲, 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗮𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲.

It’s a privilege, an honor, and an undeniable gift.

So are the riches of having humble and kind young adults that make me drop to my knees in gratitude . . . I’m a wealthy woman indeed.

Proverbs 22: 4 The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

All credit for Humble and Kind goes to Tim McGraw for his vocal talents and the writer of the song: Lori McKenna for her beautiful words.

Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

Marriage is not easy, my friends. And we hear this a lot. We’re told that marriage takes work. But do we really hear that message? We may know that marriage isn’t a fairytale, but are we really prepared for the effort required to make marriage successful and fulfilling for the long haul?

Our 30th wedding anniversary is today and I’ve been reflecting on our marriage and marriage in general. Somewhere along the way, I went from being a Wife in the Moment to being a Mom in the Moment, and while in theory, I should have found a way to be both perfectly, in practice that wasn’t so easy.

Even if we think we know what to expect from marriage going into it, there are just some things we can’t be fully prepared for. We may be used to working through the obvious issues, but it’s hard to be prepared for the way having children can impact our relationship. Yes, becoming parents enhances our relationship in so many ways – but it will also most likely add some strain to it.

In the early years, we moms face constant demands on our time, endure exhaustion from sleep deprivation and feeling needed all the time. This often leaves us feeling touched-out and craving time to just crash on the couch. We may feel like we don’t have much left of us for our husbands, and not only does this cause our husbands to feel distanced, it often leaves us feeling guilty.

Before I became a mom, I was really good at being a Wife in the Moment.

Back when we were a couple, and before we became a family, everything was about us. Plenty of couple time, time spent with friends, time to exercise together, time for trips together. We invested so much beautiful time in each other. Of course, I’m well aware of the guidance that reminds us that a happy family is dependent upon a happy marriage. And that the marriage relationship should always be paramount. I’m just going to be honest here, and I think many moms will relate….sometimes this is easier in theory than in practice.

Even after we became parents, the change wasn’t immediate. It happened gradually. We slowly lost some of “us” along the way. Little things added up, and less time devoted to each other exacerbated other issues that would have otherwise been tended to and worked out. Spoiler: we have found our way again and worked out these issues. Where there is love, there is hope. It sounds obvious, but the first step forward in hope is to be mindful of investing consistent time in the “us” relationship. Date nights are great, but simple time together is recharging, too. It can vary by the week, as long as there is a conscious connection. A walk, coffee, or iced tea on the patio and eating dinner separately from the kids are all easy ways to create a connection.

Sydnei and her love of 30+ years

While time is an essential building block of a strong relationship, another important factor in strengthening our love and relationship is good communication. Being tuned in to how we are feeling and then being completely open and sensitive in how we share that. Sometimes there’s accumulated resentment over past disagreements or negative patterns that make it harder for us to communicate from a place of love. When this happens, there is no shame in seeking help. I can attest to the healing power of couple’s therapy. Having a neutral person listen and guide us back to healthy communication, and facilitate us sharing and working through our feelings and needs, was less complicated than it sounds. And it was transformative for our relationship. As couples, we should never stop working on our relationship. Life will throw us curveballs, but it’s up to us how we choose to deal with them.

Love changes over time. We may know that with our minds, but feeling it with our hearts is a whole different thing. What begins as butterflies and dreamy love transforms into deeper, through-the-ugly, intentional love. We took vows on our wedding day and we must choose to keep those vows. We must consciously choose to love each other each and every day…and strive to be both a ‘Wife in the Moment’ and a ‘Mom in the Moment.’

By Ranae Aspen, writer https://www.facebook.com/ranaeaspenwriter

In a month, I will celebrate 22 years of marriage with my soulmate, Dan. Notice, I did not say “wedded bliss.” While some times have been blissful, others have been hard, really hard. 

It dawned on me while thinking about our upcoming anniversary that there are stages of marriage, just like there are stages of childhood development. Embrace each stage because you go from newlyweds to a seasoned married couple in the blink of an eye. 

Newlyweds, now that is the magic! This is the phase where you can’t stand the thought of being away from your spouse. At the drop of a hat, you are intertwined in blissful love. Bliss, this wistful state of love—where you breathe in love, you walk in love, and it is all-consuming. After a while, though, something happens, whether it is the birth of your newborn or just the routine of life, you realize you are not a newlywed, but you are moving into the business of marriage. 

What is the business of marriage? It’s mortgages, car payments, and in general, daily life. Raising a family is expensive, and if you are now a parent, there are expenses involved with diapers, clothing and activities. Then, as they grow older, there are even more fun expenses. The flow of money can be a source of distress or a source of joy. 

A lot depends on your planning and partnership when life hits you with unexpected expenses. Looking back, if I could do one thing before marriage, it would be to have extensive conversations about money. 

The day-to-day grind can be good, or it can be a source of stress. Life can become routine. You get to a point where it almost feels like the movie “Groundhog Day.” You get up, you go to work, and you come home. You eat dinner (sometimes the same thing you had last week), you talk about the same things, go to bed, and do it all over again. 

Dan promised me one thing before we got married—every year, we would have a vacation. It may not be a glamorous vacation but time away to have different scenery. For a few years, we’ve hiked in the mountains of Colorado. Another year it was an epic trip to the west coast, and sometimes it is a day trip to Lincoln, to tour around the UNL campus where I attended college. 

Getting into a rut can cause issues. I find when that happens, we tend to take each other for granted. I recommend changing things up, even if it’s something out of the ordinary on your weekly menu. Discover a new place to have dinner or when the weather is nice, take it outside. Take time to talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. 

In a way, a marriage is like a child. The early stages require a lot of attention and nurturing. The years pass, and it is more routine. You still need to go back and water the seeds of love—where your story began. Growing in your love with one another is very important. We all evolve as we journey through life, and our relationship needs to evolve as well.

I have leaned on the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 

While this is a testimony of God’s love for us, it is a recipe for the love we should have for our spouse. Twenty-two years have allowed for opportunities to be proficient in recognizing what our relationship needs to keep it going. Twenty-two years have produced a family that we have centered our world around. Twenty-two years is a long time, but it also goes by incredibly fast. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 22 years in our book of love. 

Cheers to my soulmate Dan; I am thankful that we are together and navigating the waters of this thing called life.

You can read more stories about marriage, midlife, and filling your nest on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/idoparttwostories/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/idoparttwo/

*Neighborhood photo by David McBee from Pexels and Mountain photo by http://www.rachelclaire.co/?ref=pexels; other photo credits are unknown

Danielle and Adam—Podcast hosts, partners in marriage, and parents to three

I heard someone say that forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. This put so much in perspective for me. When people ask me if I forgive Adam for everything he has put us through, I feel like I should be able to say yes since I am still with him. But the truth is, there are moments when I look at him, and I don’t forgive him; it all comes spilling back and it’s so overwhelming that I almost can’t cope. But there are more moments when I know I’m right where I should be, and I know that we will be ok. 

Danielle and Adam together for over 20 years

We are working hard consistently to keep doing better and heading in the same direction, together. I truly think we are better as a team than apart. But I don’t think in order to be with one another there needs to be this ultimate release of everything that has happened in the past. It’s part of our story, just like the good times.

I need to stop thinking of forgiveness as a finish line that needs to be crossed. I don’t think in order to proceed ahead I need to completely put the past behind me.

It’s the hardships that we’ve been through that keep us both wanting to do better, and make us appreciate the present when it’s better than the past, and will make us hope for a future that looks different and fresh from where we’ve been. I think we’re constantly forgiving one another and ourselves over and over.

There will never, in my opinion, be ultimate forgiveness because we will be human until the day we are no longer here, and that means more mistakes and misturns.

Danielle and Adam

I’ve often felt this guilt for harboring some resentment. What’s the official time period for being allowed to hold on to something that’s happened to you? I know, we shouldn’t be constantly scolded for what we’ve done in the past, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to think about it, right? 

Sometimes I just want to feel whatever I want without there being a right way, a correct amount, and a psychological or spiritual system attached to it. So, I’m not putting a timer on forgiveness. I’ll keep traveling at my own pace for as long as I need. Along the way, I’ll have setbacks, all while working towards feeling more peace, acceptance and growth. 

*Danielle’s story is shared with permission. I Do Part Two encourages you to check out Danielle and Adam every week on their podcast, Marriage and Martinis.

Jennifer Thompson, writer, with her husband

I will never forget something our pastor said to us when we were going through premarital counseling many years ago.

“A marriage isn’t two people each giving 50%,” he said. “It’s two people each giving 100%.”

This hit me. Hard.

I had always thought of relationships as 50/50 propositions. You each give. And you each take. You try to make it as equal as possible. Right?

Wrong.

It is give. And it is take. That is correct.

But it isn’t giving half of yourself.

It’s giving all of yourself. It’s two people giving everything they can to each other. It’s two people trying their best to love each other well, each and every day.

Will it be perfect?

No way.

Marriage is two imperfect people coming together. There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect marriage.

Does the give and take always look equal? No.

There are some seasons when it is more give. And more take. I may need more from my spouse right now than he does from me. And vice a versa.

But it all balances out. It’s a beautiful dance.

You may hear this 100% giving of yourself and think, that sounds nice in theory, but do you know how exhausted I am? After caring for the kids. And my house. And my job. And all of the things. I am lucky to give 5%.

It may feel that way.

But giving 100% doesn’t mean you are giving perfection. It simply means you are trying your best. Just like we tell our kids when they get a lower grade than they wanted on a test. Did you try your best? Did you give it your all? That’s all we ever ask.

Marriage is two imperfect people loving each other. Supporting each other. Listening to each other. Accepting each other. Giving each other grace. Lots. And lots. And lots of grace.

It’s picking up the slack when the other person needs it most. It’s letting go of past mistakes. And not holding grudges.

It’s living in the moment. And addressing concerns as they arise.

It’s owning your mistakes. And saying I’m sorry.

And forgiving. Just as you long to be forgiven.What I give every day isn’t based on what my husband is giving to me. And that is the most beautiful part of the dance. I give 100% because of the love I have for him. And he gives 100% because of the love he has for me.

And back and forth and back and forth it goes.

If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).Read more of Esther’s story that inspired our interview: The Tale of Our Three Marriages

All About Esther—

Esther is a wife to one and a mom to four grown children (ages 20-28).  She was born a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, but has become a potato chip-eating, football-loving American, Christian wife and mom who has a fierce passion for marriage and family. She’s a little snarky, a little sappy, a little strong and hopefully more than a little Spirit-led.  She’s been driven to her knees in prayer and to raise her hands in praise.  She’s speaks words of hope and wisdom where the heart meets the home and faith touches the family. You can read more of Esther’s beautiful writings at the following: The Dolly Mama Blog, Instagram: Moms of Bigs, Instagram: The Dolly Mama, Facebook: Moms of Bigs, Facebook: The Dolly Mama

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According to numerous studies, and every article I’ve read, or podcast guest I’ve had that shares their expertise on relationships, a happy marriage is a spousal expression of gratitude.

Simple, right?

Not so much.

Gratitude is simply measured as the degree to which individuals felt appreciated and valued by their spouse and acknowledged when they did something nice for their spouse.

So, it really goes back to the power of thank you. By simply showing gratitude, couples can overcome negative communication patterns in their relationships that might be a stressor.

Okay, let’s break this down by simply saying, “It’s throwing your spouse/partner a bone”. Doesn’t that sound romantic?

Maybe they mowed the lawn or did the laundry on a day that you really needed it to be done and you didn’t have to ask. Bingo…right there. Just a simple “thank you.”

I certainly pulled the gratitude card from the box one night years ago.  Before I even dig into this story, I have to tell you that I married my college sweetheart.  It was love at first sight…..or the second kiss….one of those….and we’ve been married for twenty-seven years.

Circa “The 90’s”

I was gearing up for an event that had taken months and months of planning.  And in usual, Amy-fashion, I was the Chairperson of this gala. The performers and entertainment were lined up, the DJ was in place, the emcee had a handle on the financial goal for the event, and we were off.

And for those of you that can relate….we were off and running.  From set up in the morning, until getting the sitter arranged for the kids overnight.  It was a marathon day.

I had my hair done, my nails done, and my eyebrows waxed, which at that point in my life was the trifecta of self-care. Everything seemed to be aligned as the perfect storm for romance, or was it?

The night went off without a hitch. The auction made more money than previous years, the dance floor was filled to capacity even when the DJ went on the break, the lines to the bars were moving, and the checkout process was running smoothly.

Success.

My husband had booked a room at the hotel for the night several months before. This wasn’t my first rodeo running an event, and it wasn’t his first time seeing me try to rock four-inch heels, and by the end of the night, he knew I’d be exhausted. I could almost picture the end of the night, removing the hundred hairpins out of my updo, peeling off my Spanx, followed by the not so graceful plop into bed.

I’m sure when my husband booked the room, he figured he’d be ‘gettin lucky’.  A night away…no kids…

This was the perfect night for romance. No kids to worry about. No deadlines to meet. No committees to run, all the details and logistics stress was over. I could come up for air and relax.

During the evening, I flitted around from table to table to make sure that everyone was taken care of, and all of their needs were met. I made sure that the waitstaff had every detail covered and the dessert would be served just as the live auction kicked off.

I can remember my husband grabbing my arm at one point during the night and saying, “Honey, this is amazing.”

I also can remember in that moment, saying a quick, “Thanks,” and then I was off to take care of someone or something else. It wasn’t a look you in the eyes kind of thank you. It was a mere brush-off—of “Yea, thanks.”

As the evening came to a close, and the tables were cleared, the checkout lines were empty, and the committee members had left for the night. I remember having my heels in hand and walking over to my husband, who was patiently waiting for me, sitting at a table filled with empty wine glasses, wilted flowers, and candles burned to the last bit of wax.

I knew if I sat down, I’d never get up and would fall asleep in the chair, so we left the ballroom and headed upstairs to our room for the night. I can remember walking to the elevator with his arm wrapped around me, holding me up.

We got to our floor, and as we opened the door, it wasn’t that wedding night moment of my husband carrying me over the threshold, but two exhausted people, one with his bow tie untied and shirt unbuttoned, and one frantically taking her pins out of her hair and removing her sparkly earrings that felt like weights tugging at her earlobes.

It was almost as if we were in a race to see who could hit the pillow first.

It was at that moment, that exhausted moment of flopping into bed, that I realized my efforts of pleasing everyone at the event and checking every box, paled in comparison to the love and support my husband had given me through the planning and execution of this gala over the course of that past year.

He was the one I hurriedly brushed off when he grabbed my arm to simply say, “You’re doing great.” There were far too many times over the years that I’d taken my husband for granted. He’s seen me on my best days and certainly my share of not so good days.

There wasn’t any hot and heavy romance that night. I curled up next to him and before we could finish a sentence, we were asleep.

“We should all find a quiet place, a peaceful space, to bury the chaos and rest for a while” – Christy Ann Martine

I’ve never seen Hot Tub Time Machine but I do believe in the magical transportation of a good soak. My favorite time to tub is early in the morning. A summer sunrise, the first bird’s song, children sleeping, and a cup of fresh coffee all point to perfection–now add warm bubbles–bliss.

While the hot tub plays a large part in my self-care routine, it has also rescued my marriage. 

Our hot tub was an Amazon Prime impulse buy. Two days later, a semi-truck dropped it off in our gravel driveway and took off. At least 100 feet away, over rough terrain, was the deck where it was going. What did we do? Rolled it. Yep, we decided to “roll” a square, 500-pound hot tub over rock, gravel, and seemingly endless grass. We were sweating, laughing, and swearing, but in hindsight, the tub was already bringing us together in fresh ways.

Thankfully, the roll didn’t ruin anything and my husband’s brute strength combined with a makeshift pulley got it on the deck where it will stay forever–or until it’s time to sand and stain the deck again. 

Our first time sitting in the tub was a summer evening. The grass was freshly cut, our beverages were strong and sparkly, and I could feel his sense of accomplishment. My husband is a very humble man but there was a rare glimpse of pride. I realized the steam and jets were creating a physical space for relaxed transparency. We seek that intimate space daily. 

By transparent and intimate, I don’t mean the hot tub makes everything easy and we have it all figured out. Far from it.

What I do mean is very basic and practical: it is hard to get real pissy about tight finances, your in-laws, a leaky skylight, when to schedule an oil change, work, college savings, or what to make for dinner when a water jet is literally easing your tension.

Our hardest and most honest conversations are reserved for “the tub.” But, it’s not because of the 104-degree water massage. It’s the intentionality of the space. How many times have you asked your spouse a question that morphed into a heated conversation and then exploded into a fight– because the timing and space the original question required wasn’t available? I do this. He does this.

We are trying to be better because we realize it is easy to get huffy when asked about a late notice while the kids are pulling on your nightgown and patience, the eggs are burning and Paw Patrol is on volume 1,000 in the background. It’s not so easy to be defensive when asked, “Do you need any information from me to look into that bill?” by bare wet shoulders glistening in the twilight. Good space–good timing–good heat. 

I show my first-rate “processor” husband respect and care when I wait to ask the hard questions or start a tricky conversation until we can both be fully present and relaxed. When he is thoughtful, engaged, and encouraging—he shows me, an impulsive Amazon-primer, respect, and care as well. 

The result, for us, is many hours in the hot tub and a more gracious, authentic, and supportive marriage. 

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