Fighting for chemistry in my marriage

This is not us. These people are much swankier. 
My husband and I married young. I was newly 20 and he was on the brink of 24--a fresh college graduate. We dated for six months before he proposed to me with a fortune cookie at a cute little park in our college town. There seemed to be an instant chemistry between the two of us. He made me laugh in an honest way, and he seemed to love me despite how different we were. It was an easy thing to fall in love with him (hopefully he can say the same thing). Now we are ten years into this marriage gig and are having to work hard each day to maintain the chemistry that once came so easy to us.

Now, we have two seven year-olds clamoring for our attention. Our careers demand time and focus. The floors always need swept and globs of toothpaste decorate our bathroom surfaces. Dinner needs to be planned and cooked. The dog is constantly rolling in smelly piles of unknown substances. We're both softer around the midsections and prefer gym shorts and t-shirts to normal clothes. The dishwasher is always full. Our own hobbies beckon us. In an attempt to build relationships with others, we open up our home to others and serve when called. We're tired. It's easy to let the chemistry between us slip away when we're juggling everyday life. 

I know this is normal; I know it's a part of nearly every marriage--but can I just be honest right now and tell you how much it freaking sucks?! A piece of me loves this beautiful, messy, and sometimes comfortable stage of life, and another piece of me longs to be 20 again, madly in love with my new husband as we struggle to figure out how to be married. When he leaves every damn cupboard open in the kitchen, and when I trip over his shoes for the 100th time on my way to bathe the stinky dog, I don't love him like I did when I was 20. Instead, I picture myself married to a scruffy banjo-strumming hipster with a book in his back pocket who cares about issues of social justice as deeply as I do. It's easy in the crazy of everyday life to let my head spin out into a series of "what ifs" and daydream about the possibilities. 

And here's another thing that makes fighting for chemistry in my marriage difficult: Chemistry with other people. Before you nickname me Jezebel, hear me out. Attraction or chemistry between people is natural and scientific.

One of my favorite podcasts, The Sorta Awesome Show, tackles this very topic. Throughout life, we will all meet people who get us, and there might be an instant attraction to this person who understands us the way we understand ourselves. The show hosts explain that for those of us in committed relationships, it's smart to acknowledge this attraction. Acknowledging that chemistry exists outside the marriage can help protect the chemistry within a marriage. Additionally, it's reality that most extramarital affairs occur when a person's needs aren't met within his/her own marriage--in other words, when chemistry isn't maintained in a marriage.

This last weekend my husband and I engaged in our nightly pre-sleep conversations about our days, what's bothering us, what's on our minds, etc. I laid next to him with my head propped on his chest and mentioned the podcast about chemistry. We chatted with surprising ease about our own marriage and how difficult it is to maintain it. We threw out names of people we found attractive either physically or by personality. We talked about our own needs in our marriage and how we could each do better at meeting these needs.10 years ago this conversation would've driven me to dramatically storm out of the house in a bleary-eyed mess. Now, safely in our thirties, it seems that suddenly there's a sense of openness and familiarity in my marriage that is satisfying--like a cool night at the end of a hot day.

It was an easy thing to fall in love with my husband 10 years ago when the only responsibilities we had were making it to our classes on time and paying for a bill or two. With kids, a house, careers, maintaining other relationships, and just the general crazy of being a responsible adult, maintaining chemistry in a marriage can be downright tedious. It's a labor of love, for sure. But the good things in life, they don't come easy. When I inventory all of the best moments in my life: graduating from college, earning my master's degree, teaching, running marathons, adopting two kids from foster care--all of these moments took incredible effort. My marriage is no different. In fact, because I'm a person of extremes, to help me remember this I'll write: The good things in life don't come easy on all of my husband's shoes, so when I trip over them again, I'll have a reminder. Nate: If you're reading this, HIDE YOUR SHOES. 

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