Chris and I have been married for 4.5 years, and we are so blessed to have these amazing marriages to model ours after. Watching my mom and dad over the years, I truly learned what it meant to work at your marriage every day. On our wedding day, my mother gave me really good advice. She told me that if we each wake up every morning thinking and planning, "How can I make his/her day better," then we would be okay. Putting the other spouse first every day is essential.
Also, essential to a strong marriage is putting each other first above your children. Sounds radical right? Especially in this day and age where parents' lives literally revolve around their children. My parents were not like that, mostly because their parents weren't like that. I remember the conversation I had with my mom about marriage. I think I might have been a freshman in high school. Maybe a friend's parents were getting divorced because I don't really remember why or how the topic came up. But I remember my mom telling me that her relationship with my dad came first, before me and Philip. Making time for each other and doing things together - that was a priority. Because like my mom said, without the two of them, there would be no family. The marriage is the glue. I remember knowing as I grew up that Philip and I came in second to the relationship my parents had with one another. They went out on a date every single weekend for as long as I could remember. When we moved to Florida, away from my grandparents/baby-sitters, they decided that I was old enough to babysit Philip for 2 hours while they went to Chili's and walked around Lowes. (No one ever said a "date" had to be a huge event.) I was 11. They still go on a date every weekend. And every year, they go away together. Even if it's just for a quick weekend trip, they make a point to go somewhere, away from us, every year. Just like they make a point to go on a family vacation, where there is a lot of family togetherness and bonding (serious about the bonding), every year.
This is probably an anomaly today. But it was really important to me that we model our marriage after my parents. I wanted a family and children with Chris, but not at the expense of our relationship. I wanted Chris to still feel like Number 1 and wanted him to continue to treat me like the most important girl in his life (no offense kiddo).
So even before the 9 months of super fun pregnancy, we discussed the kind of marriage we envisioned after we had children. We talked about making sure that we continued to be the priority for the other. Neither one of us wanted to let having a family and children mean sacrificing the relationship we have with each other. We wanted to continue to go on dates and weekends away together. Since we have been married, we have gone on dates most weekends (when Chris' work schedule will allow) and we have definitely gone away together every year, even this past year. We went away before Susan, and we went away after Susan. When Susan was 8 weeks old, we went to a wedding in Rock Hill, SC and left Susan with my parents for two nights. Not many parents (especially mothers) would do that, but we felt it was important for us to spend that time alone and away together. We missed her like crazy, but it was so worth it.
Now, all of this is to say that Susan has definitely changed our relationship. I have definitely learned the true meaning of partnership as we both have relied heavily on the other while she changes everyday. And we have had some pretty big fights (we had some before Susan). Accepting and acknowledging that Susan is a stress on our marriage doesn't mean that it's a bad stress. But by acknowledging it, we have been able to actively work on how to still make each other feel really important.
And not only do I believe it's important for us to treat each other like number 1, I think it's important for Susan to know that she does not have that much power. I have seen parents whose lives revolve around their kids. And it is not healthy for those kids to know that they have that kind of importance. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that there is an important family hierarchy that should be respected, and I can remember my dad reminding me, "You are the child and I am the parent." And yes, sometimes there will be sacrifice. Chris and I won't always get to do exactly what we want to do, when we want to do it. But we can still make the other person the number 1 priority, even if back-to-back dance recitals and soccer games keep us from date night that one particular weekend. That just means the next weekend, instead of letting Susan have a sleepover, she gets a baby-sitter and we get to dine on Wild Wings and walk around Home Depot.
I love my daughter. Words literally cannot describe how she has changed my life. She has truly completed our little family in a way I cannot describe. It is hard to remember our life before her. But it is important that she does not become our whole life. The two of us, dad and mom, wife and husband, are the glue that hold this little family together. And I believe it is important to work everyday on making that glue stronger.