New Kind of Sexy

Dearest One,

Today we mark ten years of marriage. Happily, even. With a touch of pride and a cautious joy. Given that a few short months ago I didn’t think I wanted to stay married I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

Ten years ago when I married you under the muggy late-spring sun on that post-thunderstorm day in May, I thought you were so sexy. You were standing up there in your rental tux, all dapper and grown-up and ready to whisk me away into a world of which we clearly knew absolutely nothing.

Let’s be honest, we were just kids playing a grown-up’s game, me still a teenager and you barely finished being one. We were in love though. I’ll swear it to my grave that we were. You know, of course, that at that point it was the kind of hormonal, romantic-notion love that is positively bursting pregnant with hope and naivete. The sort that’s certain the world has bestowed a never-ending burning love upon them. Love that aches when physically apart and smolders when together. Sexy back then was breathlessness and wide-eyed lash-flutters, heart palpitations and passionately united bodies unmarked by child-rearing and age.

Let’s be honest though, we were truly in love.  We spoke each other’s names softly when we held hands at the downtown jazz club, ordering things that made us feel grown-up like escargots and wine. We laughed and gazed in one another’s eyes, and we strolled along the boardwalk as lovers, doing all those things young love is wont to do. We dreamt of the love-saturated life in technicolor that we’d lead, bright future indeed, then went home to our tiny apartment to make love without worrying about babies waking up to nurse or toddlers wetting the bed.

Four months ago I had the worst Christmas of my life.

We were either fighting or simmering below-the-surface the entire day because we just couldn’t for the life of us meet in the middle. The middle of what? I don’t know exactly but it felt like a desert. Vast and expansive and completely parched, populated by bills and piles of laundry and peed on sheets and harsh words, in the company of a whole herd of tiny dictators that apparently we were qualified to birth and raise. We couldn’t even be happy together on Christmas. It was wretched. It had been that way more-days-than-not for a long while.

The day after Christmas I emailed a marriage counselor and asked if you’d come with me.

You did.

I had no idea how we got there, to that horribly unhappy place, but there we were. I guess it has to do with having a bunch of beautiful babies in a relatively short time, moving across the country, getting little sleep and even less alone-time, and watching your dreams and plans crumble. They say we humans tend to take out our stress on those we trust and love the most, and I’d wager that after several straight years of this we each just grew tired of it.

We grew tired of each other. I didn’t know you anymore, and the leftover tired bits were not altogether amiable, nor mine for you, if I’m being truthful.

We talked about it. Actually mostly we fought about it, but when we managed to talk civilly it was pointless. We had no magic solutions. We didn’t want to divorce, but we tossed the word around, wondering if it was a looming inevitability.

If something drastic doesn’t change, we said, there’s no way we’ll be together in a year’s time. I just… (deflated and hopeless). I just don’t know anymore. I don’t.

Trapped. Wounded. Our aching and bleeding frail hearts had grown paper-thin. The old tired wounds kept piling on hurt and anguish and brick-by-brick it continued until there was a mammoth wall looming in between us that we did not know how to dismantle.

It was wearying to keep our secret as we played married bliss to the world.

So, finally, hanging on by a bare thread, we dragged our marriage into a therapist’s office, cracked and bleeding, plopped down into the chairs where the air crackled with awkward tension. It was the sexiest thing I think you’ve ever done for me. For us.

You know, to be honest – I think we’ve come to a new kind of sexy now.

Today you showed up at the zoo to surprise me and the kids. You finished work early and ran to us. Kids that were whiny and tired, a hot and sunburnt wife who handed the deliciously chubby baby over for you to hold. And you came to us, your smile twinkled the corners of your eyes and you walked with us. You just came to be with us because you didn’t want to be elsewhere.

We stopped for ice cream on the way home and then you started teaching our oldest to ride a two-wheeler in the driveway while twilight set on and the baby chattered and crawled and ate dandilions. Our daughter rode her tricycle around and we all basked in this glorious life of sunshine and bare filthy feet and toddler drama, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything sexier.

Today sexy means fathering our children and making them feel loved. Making my coffee at night so it’s ready to go in the morning when you leave early for work? That’s sexy. Doing the hard things and swallowing pride down deep when conflicts arise and saying sorry and being sorry and loving me more than your own pride is sexy. That’s what sexy is. Damn straight that’s sexy. It’s sexy when you hold my hand tenderly across the space between our chairs in marriage counseling and when you look at me like that. Like you know we can make it, even if we can’t figure out how. Like you just desperately want to like/love me but can’t and so we ask for help and you are willing. Willing to do the hard things. Talk the hard talks and live the hard ways.

It’s not easy being married almost a decade and realizing you really kind of hate the person beside you in the bed. When the empty space in the sheets between you may as well be a chasm for all the touching we’d done lately. Our feet used to find each other in bed as our dog-tired eyes drooped shut and we were in between awake and snoring. Then somehow they stopped and the space in the sheets grew cold and our hearts got all bent outta shape and frail.

So we fought for it. We stumbled on redemption in the unlikely sexy acts of taking out the smelly-diaper trash, going to marriage counseling, and texting each other apologies for misspoken harsh words.

Tonight, while in the driveway, your eye caught mine between helmet tightenings and you gave me the lovey eyes. You haven’t done that in a long time. Your smile crinkled your eyes up and you did that thing with your eyebrow that you do when you’re content. We had an argument the other day and it felt like the exception rather than the rule, and last night our feet found each other again in bed.

The hard work of Every Day Life brings restoration to a crumbling marriage and whispers sexy back into a couple of hip minivan parents with tired circles under their eyes and a spirit bolstered by a hope that simply refuses to die.

There’s none other in the world I’d rather do that hard work with than you.

All of my love forever,

B

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpQFFLBMEPI]

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve been dying to read this post for the past two weeks. Just now sat down to it with my Sunday afternoon coffee. Your story and your telling is amazing. Thank you so much for writing it. Thank you!

  2. Ashley says

    I am weeping right now. My husband ronnie and I got engaged the spring of 2003. At the beautiful ages of 17 & 18. Young age and drama tore us apart and we didn’t speak again for years. I had 2 children by then. Off and on we would talk but never REALLY got back together. We lived our own lives and grew wiser while keeping eachother in the background. I guess it was finally time, because in 2011, I out of the blue asked him to move in with me. We were married 2 months later and will be celebrating 2yrs in august! We have a BEAUTIFUL 10month old daughter and have never been happier. Time has showed us both that family is what is sexy. Being a wonderful father is what makes me love him so dearly. Im not sure we would’ve made it if we had gotten married in 2003. Don’t give up hope! True love endures! God bless you and your beautiful family!

    • says

      Ashley, thanks so much for sharing your story. How beautifully it ended up! I am a big believer in the endurance of love, and have no plans of ever giving up. I’m so blessed to have so much encouragement and love in this comment section. Thank-you! xoxo.

  3. says

    This was wonderful and resonates so much with me. 4 babies in 5 years and I find a good marriage to be a fight. Praise God for your work!

  4. Amy says

    Beth,
    Thank you so much for sharing you story. I’m so glad you both were willing to do the hard work to heal your marriage…and to find a new kind of sexy. Kids make you crazy and can cause the passion and fire to wane and turn into something completely different. I am married to an amazing man (this is my 2nd marriage….my first marriage ended because he couldn’t handle the hard work once kids came into the picture, but that is another story for another time). But my husband married me with a 3 year old and we now have a chubby, adorable 7 1/2 month old and I think he is amazingly sexy – when we are alone, when he is helping me fold mountains of laundry or when he is tickling our babies. Our definition of sexy has to change as we change. Praise God for keeping your hearts together and making you stronger!!

    • says

      Yes, the definition must change as we change. So important, yet something that I think so many can easily miss. Thank-you for sharing your story and your encouraging words!! :) xo.

  5. says

    We have found that it’s during our “should-be-a-wonderful-marriage” times, like being missionaries in Kenya or going to BIble school, that that’s where our marriage went through the hottest fires. Such trying times, and yet coming through them brings the sweetest results. Loved hearing your heart and getting a sense of your spit-scared honesty. Such beauty! xo

    • says

      Interesting that you would say that, Andrea. ‘Tis indeed A Thing among missionaries, eh? Marriage is hard enough when life is “easy” but when you throw in a new culture or moving or new baby or, or, or… then it can get crazy hard. So thankful for the grace of God, and I am looking forward to sweet rewards ahead. Hope you guys are doing well too. Your little belly is just beautiful, and I’m keeping you in my prayers. xoxo.

  6. says

    amen, Amen, AMEN!!!!! Hurray for gutting it out through the truly crappy times of marriage! I believe we will be rewarded in our golden years for this forced march through the “for worse” times.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this- it helps so much to know we’re not alone. We’ll have been married 8 years next month, and we’re going through a really rough spot right now. We’re in counseling too, and though it hasn’t been long and we still have some significant stuff to work through, I’m hopeful.

    That song resonates so much with me too. <3 Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Good for you, Anna! For the counseling, for being hopeful, for doing the hard work. Keep at it, my friend. Don’t lose hope and don’t give up. Thank-you so much for getting this and for fighting for your marriage. The world needs more of that.

  8. Nicole says

    Thanks for sharing this. This is real and vivid for so many of us. My heart resonates with “Damn straight that’s sexy”!

  9. Anna says

    I read this and had a good cry. I went through a very friendly divorce with the father of my son, and we remain close friends even years later. It wasn’t until I got engaged again that I realized that my first marriage could have been fixed with a little work.

    I’m not going to change the course of my life now, but it makes me sad to know that my son could have his parents happily married if they had been encouraged to work things out. Instead, everyone around us told us to let it go before things got worse – they encouraged us to divorce. Now we co-parent from across the country and navigate all the issues that come up when stepparents enter the picture, and our son is having a hard time with it even though we’re on good terms. It’s just sad.

    • says

      Anna, my heart is sad at your situation too. Thanks for sharing. I pray you are encouraged in your current marriage, and that your son finds blessings amidst the difficulties.

  10. says

    This is such a beautifully written post filled with wisdom. Bless you & your husband for working through the hard parts. 10 years is a huge achievement in this day & age. May God bless you with many more joy filled decades!

  11. says

    I love this and am glad to have been sent here by Marissa from Becoming Kindred. I’m three years past the 10 year mark, and I can tell you that with the commitment you’ve made, your marriage is about to re-discover itself. You will be able to step back a bit further from those babies and in doing so, have the space to find one another’s hands again.

    • says

      This is so beautiful to me. Thanks for this sweet encouragement – it did my heart good and gave me such hope! Thanks Louise.

  12. Julie says

    That was truly beautiful and so true!

    My husband and i are going to be married for 20 years this year. (How is that possible?) We are going through the exact same thing except without the marriage counselor and a lot of the time that great big canyon in the bed is not crossed.

    So many times I’ve nearly left. I figure he’s got the best chance of giving the kids a decent life since he’s the one with marketable skills and I’ll move back to the state I left my heart in and try to get through school. I don’t know if that’s possible anymore but that’s my back up plan in case we don’t work out.

    We used to be so very happy together for so many years. I never thought we’d be back in this place of doubt and darkness. Our oldest pours gasoline on the sparks and we end up blowing up all. the. time. I feel so horrible that she’s moving out of state to live with her online boyfriend and I’m actually feeling relief that we won’t have to deal with her cray cray anymore. I feel like the world’s worst mother. I see pictures of a certain couple online that remind me of us and how we used to be and I’m hit with twinges of jealousy and I can’t stand myself for feeling that way.

    Thanks for writing this. I hope it helps you to know you’re not the only one. It helped me.

    • says

      Dear Julie, 20 years, wow. Good for you. You know – the difficult part is just being brave enough to ask for help. That was the clincher for us. It set us on the path of healing and fixing things, rather than continuing to spiral into despair and bitterness and hurt. It can happen to anyone, but it is NOT too late. There is no stage that is too late. I encourage you to take that first brave step. Find an excellent counselor/therapist and GET HELP. There’s not much in the world that’s more worth fighting for than a twenty-year marriage. I wish you so much love and light and peace… it’s there and it’s possible, I promise you. Sending you loads of hope and prayers and love. xoxo.

  13. Diane says

    So brave and poignant, Beth. Marriage is hard. No doubt about it. Thank you for sharing the wiser and stronger and honest side of yourself. There is no hope apart from throwing yourselves broken onto the mercy and love of the Lord. I will be praying for you both as you journey through this difficult phase of your life with three little ones.

    • says

      Thanks Diane. It’s always nice to hear those further down the marriage road acknowledging that marriage is indeed difficult. Praise to God, we do have hope.

  14. says

    Dear Beth,
    Thank you for being so brave, open, and honest in writing this. Please remember how truly blessed you are. Blessed that you have a husband willing to fight for your marriage, for you, no matter what.
    Happy 10th anniversary to you both, I remember your wedding day so well :), and prayers for MANY more years together, to grow old and grey together, seeking to to put God as the center always.

    Love,
    Krista

    • says

      I hear you, Krista, and I know, I really, really know that I am blessed. Thank-you for your kind and encouraging words, they mean so much. xoxo.

  15. says

    Beth, that was so beautiful. It’s really inspiring to read not just the “perfections” of wedded bliss, but to actually read something real. Brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know if you are into country at all but the song Remind Me by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood also hits the same note. As relationships are tested and changed, I think it’s so important to remind yourself that this is where you are meant to be, and that every marriage is hard work, no matter how they seem on the outside looking in. You are blessed. Keep fighting the good fight..xoxo

    • says

      Samantha, thank-you so much for your comments. I love knowing that this resonated with you and others – what a crazy blessing. I have so much love and appreciation for this. And thanks for the song rec – I’m going to check it out as soon as I’m not in Sbux :) Thanks, xo.

  16. Vanessa says

    Oh, Beth. How very honest and hard and relatable this is. After the fight my husband and I had this morning, I was feeling empty and achy and so alone. I opened my inbox and saw your words and found comfort in the truths you speak–marriage and child rearing are the hardest things we will ever do! Love is different now then when passion burned. I wish you well on your journey. Thank you.

    • says

      Love is different now than when the passion burned <— exactly!! And I think it would be good for more people to realize that that’s ok. Thanks for your kind words, Vanessa, xoxo.

  17. Addy says

    Oh how I admire your vulnerability and openness, that takes a lot of guts. My husband and I have been married less than a year and I was shell shocked to feel many of the things you’re talking about. It’s bed a terrible year for us… Lost our baby, I had to have surgery to be cleaned out from the miscarriage, my husband lost a dear friend a month later very suddenly, and then to add insult to injury my hormones have gone completely crazy since the miscarriage which further intensified my depression. We seem to have reached the end of the storm for a while and our life together is getting better again instead of worse and worse. Thanks for sharing your story. It was so encouraging.

    • Elizabeth says

      Addy,
      I am so sorry to hear of your miscarriage. That can put strain on even the best relationships (I know because I’ve had several losses myself). Have you heard of Share (www.nationalshare.org)? They support those who have lost a baby at any stage. There may even be a Share support group near you… you can check it out on the website.

      Blessings,
      Elizabeth

    • says

      Oh Addy, my heart aches for your sadness. What a rough go you’ve had. I admire that you’ve stuck through it, and are hanging on to hope. Bless you, friend. xoxo.

  18. Wendy says

    I felt every word of this – it’s not enough for me to say thanks for the “real-raw-honesty” of this piece. My hubby and I have been here…sometimes still are though it’s better now…my pride…his predilection for ‘one right way’ mean(t) fiery times. But can I say…at 30 years this summer (can it be that long?), that I cannot imagine this good and wonderful life without him, challenging though it is at times. It’s taking me forever to learn this marriage is shaping me into something better, that our differences don’t have to break us but can add new dimensions to our life together, and that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. So thank you – and “Happy” Anniversary…and more – many more – to come…a lifetime of them.

    • says

      Wendy, I am so, so grateful to you for sharing your voice of experience. It is so good to hear that those who are further along this road than I am can understand the hard times, but also offer hope for the other side. This is such an important thing to hear and talk about, and yet it seems taboo, especially in our church culture (for those of us “good kids”).

      “…this marriage is shaping me into something better, that our differences don’t have to break us but can add new dimensions to our life together, and that nothing worthwhile is ever easy” < — LOVE this. :)

  19. says

    Oh Beth – how powerful and vulnerable and inspiring. The fragile beauty of your life together, all the more precious for the hairline fractures that tell their own story, that add to the treasure that is these ten years. Much love to you and looking forward to reading about the next ten! xoxo

    • says

      Karen, thank-you so much for hearing my words, and really, truly hearing them. In a kindred kind of way, not just a passing glance. I am grateful for your encouragement and sweet words. xoxo!

  20. says

    Wow. This is some serious writing. It was beautifully worded and hit my heart.

    I’m sorry you went through this. I’m glad you’re coming out of it. I’m proud of you both for sticking through. Thank you for the reminder that when you stick through – it can get better.

    I’ll be praying for your marriage as it continues to grow stronger. xo

    • says

      Thanks Laura. For the encouragement, and for the writing compliments. As a fellow writer, that is especially meaningful from you. xoxo.

  21. says

    Awesome words!

    Marriage and love and life are never what we think they will be, but if they were we probably wouldn’t be happy with that either. There’s definitely a new sexy to chaos of life and work and kids. Heck….My husband killed a snake for me the other day in the yard…I thought that was pretty darn sexy…especially since he hates them as much as me :-)

    Thank you Beth!

  22. Anita says

    Great, great article! Happy anniversary to you and you husband! In our church there is a lot of focus on the marriage and we attended several functions over the years and one of the things that I have in mind is a quote that someone said: ” if you see a happy marriage that didn’t just happend that couple worked hard for it!” Keep up the hard work, I think it’s worth it ;). We are celebrating our tenth anniversary in August!

    • says

      Yes, I so agree with that quote. It’s easy to assume that happy marriages are easy for other people, but the reality on the inside often tells a different story. Congrats to you also on your tenth! :)

  23. says

    Beth…bravo. this is awesome. I am so glad you made the hard decisions that allowed you to write this post. And I love how you help us to see, reminded us, how sexy this season of marriage can be. Congrats

    • says

      Thank-you Trina, I’m blessed and honoured that you would read and that you heard my heart and offer love and encouragement. Thank-you.

  24. says

    Ah Beth, this is beautiful and hits so very close to home. We heard that song for the first time the other day and held hands because its been us.

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