Marriage Takes Work

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It was a rude day when I realized that marriage takes work.  I am a simple minded gal and it seemed at first that our picture perfect love was going to coast us into a happily ever after (effortlessly).  Nope.

Marriage.  Sure, it is full of ups and downs.  I am not talking about that.  I am talking about the work.  The day in and day out of giving and taking.  Scott and I have recently reflected on our marriage’s course, the occasional messes we find ourselves in, and just … love.  December 19, 2013 will mark 15 years of marriage for us!  I found some encouragement from a piece I read from the New York Times, entitled That Loving Feeling Takes a Lot of Work by Jane Brody.

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It would be silly to think that love should just come without true, intentional, thoughtful and determined work.  Work meaning the sustained energy or efforts we give towards being together and making it good… really good.  Work being the fashioning of this love we want to share and making it happen.

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The work that goes on to enrich and keep love alive in marriage is not to be overlooked.  Putting marriage on auto-pilot will only get you so far.  Being mindful of each other’s needs, wants, desires, interests and bends, and then catering to them with a committed heart full of love and devotion isn’t for lazy folks.

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Scott and I have been having conversations, sometimes after a conflict and sometimes when we are doing great, about this idea of marriage being work.  He found the article in the New York Times and forwarded it to me.  The writer, Jane Brody, shares an interesting article full of take-homes for any marriage.  She shares some insights from a new book, The Myths of Happiness, by Dr. Lyubomirsky that describe a slew of research-tested actions and words that can do wonders to keep love alive.  Also, Brody cites Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a professor that has done studies regarding the positive energy in the everydayness of marriage and its benefits.  Here are some of the take-homes I was referring to:

In building companionship within marriage…
Take time to be together and talk.
Truly listen to each other.
Express admiration and affection.
Appreciation is important.  Don’t take  your spouse for granted.
Remind yourself and your partner of what you appreciate about him/her and the marriage.
Mix things up, be spontaneous!
Change how you do things, keep things fresh… meaningful…and positive!
Shake it up! Try new things together.  
Rekindle a so-so marriage with nonsexual touching and affection on a daily basis.  
In building energy within marriage…
Support each other’s dreams and goals.  Stay tuned in and listen with interest and delight.
Fill the home with words and actions that elicit positive emotions.  
Simple acts can enhance marital happiness… like sharing an amusing event, smiling at each other, or being playful.  
Do these strategies seem too simple?  If that were some sort of checklist for your marriage, would you cross every line off and say you’ve got it covered, no work needed?  When I read them, I felt like I was getting a nudge, an elbow to the side.  Come on, Anna, there’s more work to be done!

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Painting

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One of my hopes for 2013 is to paint more.  I enjoy it so much.  The painting above is my latest fun creation.  Madelyn, Brayden and I pulled out some canvas recently and started our own unique paintings.  We kept coming back to them, day after day.

Madelyn painted this robot down below.  She hung it up in her room as soon as it dried.  The color of her wall is similar to one of the colors in her painting background.

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Brayden painted a rocket, with a moon and star.

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The Dance

I was a little surprised.  He wasn’t even nervous.

I got the email announcement weeks ago.  I had to read and reread it just to convince myself that yes, my son was invited to such an event.

But why would he be nervous?  He has never been to one.  He has nothing in his life’s experiences that would have told him to go with hesitation or nervousness.

Of course, when eating dinner his littlest brother made silly remarks about him dancing with a girl and we all giggled.  JJ took it in good humor and smiled.

Khakis, a red shirt, and his favorite new blue coat.  That is what he choose.  (I did iron his pants.  Come on, I am his mother.)

Julian is at his first dance tonight for the 7th and 8th grade students at his school.

I did get teary upon him leaving.  And yes, I had to take a couple photos before he actually walked out the door.  Scott knew I wanted to be in one with him.

Julian is our oldest, the first to arrive.  This is our first dance, as parents.  I think it is big.  (Don’t we get some kind of extra points or something for actually getting here?)

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Life is short.  I feel the need to press myself to savor each breath a little more.  I am extremely thankful that our pre-teen is off at his school surrounded by kids his age, dancing, and loud music.  He is out there.  It is okay that my heart trembles at the age and stage our Julian is now.  In the wake of the recent events in December in Connecticut, I feel very lucky to have hugged our boy and sent him off.  This evening, I thought of those sweet little lives lost in the tragedy, and I thought about how they would never be able to be loved on by their parents again and sent to their first dance.  I feel the weight of that, and I am savoring… I promise I am savoring.

I felt like we were in a slow motion video as he was lacing his shoes, posing for the photos, and walking to the front door.  Am I crazy to think this was a huge moment?  I am understanding more and more why my mom got teary almost every time I left our home as a teenager.  I just thought she was over sensitive.  No, she was and is a parent.  A parent whose kid was going out into the world and was spreading her wings.

It is okay that he was most excited about the food.  It is okay that he insisted, “It is just a party.”

He is there.

Thank you, God, that he is there.

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