I had somehow almost fallen into a common trap of marriage, and I could easily understand how. It’s effortless to become accustomed to the everyday mundane, and to close your eyes to everything around you. It’s easy to exist, become complacent, and in essence be blind to what your spouse is doing right under your nose.
I was so busy washing laundry, raising babies, and everything in between that I almost missed my husband’s brazen actions. Until one day I started to pay attention, but still, I didn’t expect this.
While picking up toys one evening I bent over, and involuntarily I let out a wince. A sharp pain traveled up my leg and into my back, and it had been doing that for a week or more. I was expecting our third child, and I noticed that it was harder this time around. Simple housekeeping left me limping by the end of the day, and thoughts of propping my feet up sounded great. Great, I tell you!
But alas, I could no more stop picking up dolls and discarded gummy wrappers then I could cease to breathe air. It had to be done, and I bristled under the surface, frustrated because I knew I would be the one to do it!
I cleaned the living room over and over! I washed the clothes time and time again! I even folded them and put them all away. I knew if I didn’t our family would exist in a world composed of piles of toppling laundry, and I was certain I would go insane in that environment. Heck, if I didn’t keep things in order they would spiral out of control, and no one would even notice until they were drowning in trash and dirty dishes.
Every day my husband went to work, and he left me here to take care of the children alone. He would stay gone for thirteen hours, and when he finally did return the children would be clean, fed, and in pajamas. He’d have a hot meal waiting, and a clean house to relax in. Sometimes I had just wondered if he even noticed, you know?
And as I woke each day to repeat the same day over again I would certainly take note of all I did to keep this boat afloat. I’d pick up his dirty laundry, mumble irritated words under my breath, and serve his children in his absence. It was all very exhausting for me, and now that I was bearing him another child it was even harder. Maybe this one would be a boy!
But one day, for no reason in particular, although I imagine it was the whispers of the Lord, I decided to focus less on all my never-ending housework, and I decided instead to pay more attention to what my husband was doing.
You see, every day he awoke before I did, and each night he went to bed after me. He left for work early, and he came home late. He did this to support us. Yet despite the lengthy hours he spent at the job he always greeted me with a tender kiss when he came in the door. He would hold the children, and listen, really listen as I described our day.
If our toddler woke prematurely in the night I never knew. I never knew until I found him asleep on the couch with our precious, youngest child sleeping on his chest. He never faltered in his role as a father, and went beyond what many men would do. He ruled them with an iron fist when discipline was required, but always offered a caring, loving, and compassionate embrace afterward.
He made time to tell me I was beautiful, and to offer a physical touch when I needed it the most. He was never too tired, if you know what I mean.
The thing is I had always known the sacrifices he made for our family, but things really shifted in our marriage when I decided to focus on that. When I took my attention off what I was doing for our relationship and family, and instead payed more attention to his sacrifice, my load became easier to bear.
I didn’t just hang up his shirts to keep an uncluttered home; I did it because I loved him. And as I spent more time thinking about his work and efforts rather than worrying about my part, my job became less struggle and more of a service out of love.
And then I really became surprised. Somewhere along the way I had decided to vocalize what I was seeing, so I spent more time telling him what I noticed in him rather than waiting for him to compliment the freshly vacuumed carpet.
I told him more often that his efforts and hard work were appreciated, and I saw a shine in his very tired eyes that lifted my own spirit. And somewhere in this shift of focus I realized that he too was seeing me more. He was noticing my efforts more readily, and his comments and compliments on my own work came often.
I found myself offering to help him more. “What can I do for you today, baby?”
And through his genuine smile he would answer, “Nothing, honey. You already do so much around here.”
When he would leave out the door, aside from the perfunctory goodbye, I would say a heartfelt “thank you.”
And later that night as we would sit quietly together while children slept, he would say unexpectedly, “I really appreciate everything you do around here.”
To which I would answer, and honestly, truly mean, “I am able to do what I do because of what you do for me. That’s why we’re a good team.”
Indeed, we had always been a good team, but I think we became a happier team when we realized the key to a content, healthy partnership is keeping your eyes and mind from solely focusing on your own contribution, and instead paying attention to what the other person sacrifices each day for you.