Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Keeping The Home Fires Burning

We often hear of the term "keeping the home fires burning" in reference to the importance of one parent staying at home full time. The idea being that part of this person's role is to make the home a warm and welcoming one (just like a warm fire makes a home feel warm and welcoming). There is another kind of "fire" in a home that needs some effort to keep alight though. That of the relationship between a husband and wife.

My DH and I have been married for over 11 years now. In some ways it seems like yesterday that we got married. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime of ups and downs through that decade plus. I don't know what the average length of a marriage is these days, but I do know that now more than ever we have to be prepared for a lot of hard work if we wish to keep our marriages for a lifetime.

For those of you who have been through a marriage or long-term relationship breakdown, my heart goes out to you. Please don't feel in this post that I'm saying you could have avoided that happening. I understand that relationships break down for all kinds of reasons, some of them unavoidable. I guess what I'm really trying to do with this post is reflect on my own marriage relationship and what we've learnt so far.

My DH and I have what I would describe as a reasonably good relationship. We seem to be well matched personality wise and we're more than just husband and wife, we're best mates as well. That doesn't mean though, that it's all plain sailing and that our marriage so far hasn't been without it's problems.

To be honest, in some ways it surprises me that we survived even the first year of our marriage. It wasn't the easiest of years. DH was working very long hours in the family business and being paid a pittance of a wage. I was working part-time in a job that caused me a lot of stress and while my income wasn't huge, we chose to put that away in case we fell pregnant - so that we weren't used to living on 2 incomes. Combined, DH and I were earning around an average income. We took on too many other commitments so much of the time we did have together was spent focused on these pursuits. There was a marriage break-down within DH's family that tore us apart in ways we weren't expecting and alienated us from his family. Issues with other siblings and so on. It felt like we were living in a pressure cooker.

When we had our first child after not quite 2 years of married life, DH continued to work long hours while I stayed at home with the baby. It wasn't until we had our second child and DH was around a little more that he even realised how much of our first child's early years he had missed out on. I struggled with a certain amount of loneliness and isolation that being at home with a young baby can bring and the times that DH was around, I was ready for him to give me a break from the baby. There wasn't a lot of energy left to connect with him.

There was a certain amount of conflict with DH's work and our need to live closer to where he was working. Unfortunately, when we finally moved out to the farm, while we did get to see a little more of DH (on and off throughout the day), it also brought the conflict to our back door. We still felt like we were living in a pressure cooker.

I was the kind of mum that was very attached to my children. The thought of leaving them, especially overnight, caused me a great amount of grief. On the couple of occasions that we did manage to leave them, I would feel so sick the whole time that it was hard to relax and connect with DH.

Over and over I have heard people say that it is important for a husband and wife to spend time together away from their children. Whether that takes the form of a "date night" or a few days away together is probably less important than the fact that you get away and have that time without children on a regular basis.

It's only now, almost a decade after having my first child, that I'm finally learning the importance of that when it comes to "keeping the home fires burning". Comments like "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "quality time is more important than quantity time" leave me somewhat confused.

What I've found in my marriage relationship is that the less DH and I talk to one another, the easier it becomes NOT to talk to one another. That the more time we spend together, the more time we WANT to spend together. And that we need QUANTITY time together before we actually reach the level of QUALITY time.

I guess that's another gift that Simple Living brings to our lives. The opportunity to spend quantity time together. To relax, chat, go away for a few days or whatever. In the past, we've often been too busy. A couple of years ago we instituted the idea of a "date night" where we'd drop the kids off at Granny's and have a meal together. The idea was there but the institution proved somewhat difficult and I think we managed to get out about 3 times during that first year, instead of once a month like we'd planned.

This year, with life at a slower pace, we've managed to get out more often. And now, in the past 2 weeks we've been away from the kids overnight TWICE. lol. It wasn't originally planned quite that way but it's how things have worked out. We find when our lives get busy, it's our time together that's the first thing to be sacrificed. I know it *should* be more important to us but I guess it puts up the least resistance to being dropped and so that's what happens.

I think it's also one of the sad things about families living so spread out these days. It gets harder and harder for couples to get away and leave children with extended family while they get a break and the opportunity to rekindle their relationship with one another. We were very blessed this week as my parents are not as busy as usual right at the moment so they had the time to come over (they don't live all that close to us) and stay with the kids in their own environment while we went away. Add to that the fact that DH's parents own a shack which is empty at this time of year and we were given an opportunity that didn't even cost us a lot of money. I know it isn't always that easy so I feel very grateful that we were given this opportunity.

On the first morning we both slept in until 9.10am which was quite a surprise when we're used to being woken up much earlier. LOL. So surprising in fact that we hadn't bothered to set an alarm and we had to leave at 10am as we had booked the car in to get the windows tinted. Funnily enough we managed to have a cooked breakfast as well as shower and get ready to go in less than 50 minutes. When you've spent a decade getting kids ready, you forget how long it takes to get ready when you're just the 2 of you. :-)

So, we've had a lovely time away. The opportunity to catch up on some sleep as well as some beautiful meals together. And we've talked and connected and recognised the fact that this is something we need to do more often if we're going to "keep our home fires burning". :-)

With all the lovely benefits of DH not working so much this year, I'm not sure if I'm going to want him to return to a full workload next year. It's going to be interesting to see what happens.


Kin said...

Was wondering where you were LOL.

Glad you had a nice time away with hubby. We had a rough patch last year (7 year itch anyone???) and we both put it down to the fact we stopped talking. Since then we make more of an effort, and in the next couple of weeks DH is taking a day off work (when the kids are in daycare) and we're going out on a boat for the day.

lightening said...

Sounds like a wonderful idea Kin - I hope you both have a wonderful day. :-)

Kez said...

Great post. It's something we need to spend more time on - we're celebrating our 12th anniversary on Sunday. We're having a weekend away at the end of October - 4 wonderful days!

In some ways I think it gets easier to spend time away from the kid(s) as they get older but as you say it gets easier *not* to talk the longer you go without talking.

Ali said...

mY husband and I just celebrated Glad you had another lovely time away!!

our first wedding anniversary on 10th Sept! We love it when J has an RDO and my daughter is at school so we get to have a day together ~ just us two!!

Fortunately J's parents live nearby and they have M for the evening sometimes so we can go out ~ it is important to have "special" times together alone