My husband and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary this September, so I would like to think that we have a sense of what it’s like to be married.
And we do: it’s really hard. (And he’d say the same. I’m far from the perfect lifelong roommate.)
Simon and I have always really loved each other as human beings, but all of the warts, the insecurities, the annoying habits? We haven’t always known how to deal with them.
For instance: When we're having an issue, Simon, a Brit, and me, an American, both uphold our cultural stereotypes. Simon likes to “keep calm and carry on,” maintaining a stiff upper lip, while I pester him to express his feelings and share hearts so we can find a meaningful resolution. (Yeah, turns out pestering isn’t the best way to get a person to open up.)
Then we had kids. Three of them. Boys. You may know the drill: diapers, crying, whining, disagreements on how to parent, lack of sleep, less time for just the two of us.
Keep in mind Simon is incredibly loving and patient; he does laundry; he thinks I’m attractive and tells me; and he puts the kids and me first always (sometimes to a fault). Still, sometimes I wondered how we’d make it to the other side of raising three kids still liking each other.
Then COVID-19 hit. Would all of the time together create more arguments about the most mundane of things? Would we emerge having said things we wish we wouldn’t have, our hearts a little more calloused?
Anxiety crept in as our world shrunk down to five humans, a Wheaten Terrier, and a tarantula.
The thing is, we both kept running, always making time for each other to get in miles, knowing how much we both needed the movement and time alone.
In April, Simon ran my #sexypace to help me match my old half marathon PR that I didn’t think I was capable of. (Simon is the best pacer for me; I think it comes from helping me through three births. Giving birth: uncomfortable and painful. PRs? Also uncomfortable and painful.)
As we ran, he knew not to mention the fact that we’re running. He talked about the kids, current affairs, future plans...all the while knowing I’m not very conversational on the run.
At mile ten he asked, “How’s this going?” I told him I thought we were close to my PR. He’d had no idea. "Well cool, let’s push this. We’ve only got 5k to go.”
At this point, I sort of hated him; when I’m struggling, his heart rate is probably at 130. (That speedy bastard!) I trust him to help me get where I want to go. (Both to a PR and also in life.)
In September, I biked alongside Simon while he took on 13.1. The night before, he didn’t want to talk about his goal. He’s not into verbal affirmation or attention. Just wants to get on with it. #british
I’m a mediocre biker at best and honestly worried I’d crash into him. I didn’t let my concern show. Instead, I tried to return the favor and entertain him with stories that didn’t need responses. Being the caretaker he is, he chatted back. I carefully passed him Tri-Berry and Espresso Love GUs, then handed him a water bottle to chase them down.
As we got to miles 11 and 12, things were getting tough, so I reminded him that he'd done the work. At the very end, he hought he was shooting for 13.2, so he was pretty excited when I told him that half marathons end in .1 and that he was done!
It hasn’t been all about running, of course.
We drank red wine and listened to old dance music from our 20s.
We allowed frequent family movie nights that included classics like “The Princess Bride” and “My Neighbor Totoro.”
We got creative using forgotten toys and books and took daily “I spy” walks around the neighborhood to keep the boys entertained and active.
We worked as a team to get work—our kids and ours—done. Simon would wake up early to get ahead on his job as a special education teacher. I was in charge of guiding our then 2nd grader through his assignments while Simon managed preschool skills with our youngest. (The tween was self-sufficient.) In the afternoons and often late into the evenings, I focused on my jobs.
Of course we have our rough times, but that's to be expected fifteen years into marriage and seven months into a pandemic. I'll kick him out the door to run—or he'll do the same for me—and when one of us returns, it always feels better.
Read more Seven Months into the Pandemic essays.