Have you ever read something that just takes your breath away?
This post by Melanie Dale over at Coffee + Crumbs did that for me this weekend. In her piece, Dale talks about the “middle” part of marriage that so many parents—myself included—find themselves in. It’s not the beginning part of marriage, filled with fresh excitement, but it’s also not the part of marriage where the kids have flown the coop either. It’s that part in the middle where we’re just trudging through only to look over at each other, wondering if we still even like each other after the relentless sleepless nights and fog of the baby years.
I am 100% in the middle part of my marriage. It seems gray and dark and a little fuzzy and I wonder if there’s a future ahead, even when I’m so far in I can’t really remember the beginning. There are some days that I look around and think, “How on earth did I get here?”
I can’t even tell you how often I look over at my husband and feel like he’s a complete stranger—someone who just happened to stumble into the madhouse that is our household of four kids. I look at him and feel like I’m 17 again, checking him out in the hallway of our high school and then I realize that 13 years have passed and part of me has no idea how any of it happened.
How incredibly bizarre that I went from thinking “Oh, he’s cute!”, to pushing his baby out, to trying to believe him when he tells me my postpartum pooch is beautiful because it’s part of our family’s story.
And in a way, it’s actually a complete rebirth. To the point that I’ve been freaked out by how my husband can feel like a virtual stranger to me sometimes.
The whole thing seems crazy. And I’m slightly suspicious that any of us truly have happy, blissful marriages all of the time. I’ve become one of those bitter, middle-aged women wrinkling my nose up at newlyweds, tempted to whack them with my cane and warn them that’s it’s not all roses coming their way.
Because the thing is, marriage changes. Just like I’m not the 21-year-old girl my husband married and he’s no longer the baby-faced boy I said “I do” to, our marriage has shifted and evolved. And in a way, it’s actually a complete rebirth. To the point that I’ve been freaked out by how my husband can feel like a virtual stranger to me sometimes.
There are times when I feel like I don’t know him at all—or that he doesn’t know me at all. But you know what? Maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe giving into the fact that we are new people—as parents, as older adults, as husband and wife—and getting to know each other all over again is exactly what makes the middle part of marriage work.
As Dale puts it, “This middle part of marriage seems to be all about finding each other in the middle of chaos.” In the middle of herding kids places, in the middle of busy schedules, in the middle of a life that seems like it’s whizzing by.
I may not always see the love in my marriage in this crazy stage of life, but maybe it’s in the murky middle you find the beauty that was there all along.