My wife Kate laughs about how I’m a very happy drinker. All it takes is a beer or two and I start getting lovey-dovey and dolling out compliments to everyone around me. Last night, after hanging out with old friends, I posted to Facebook:
“How am I married to Kate? Seriously? How am I this lucky? How am I the one who gets to…GETS TO, be married to her? For life.”
The expected stream of jabs from my friends started rolling in just as I would jab them if they posted something sweet about their spouse. The funny thing was the first person to comment was Kate saying, “Clearly you’ve had a few beers. XO.” Why clearly? It is no secret I’m a curmudgeon about certain things but Kate is something I put highest on my list of priorities. Has my sarcasm, work schedule, and exhaustion from parenting caused me to stop conveying my love to her? I know she knows I love her…but I thought I’d say a little something about it on here today just to remind her why.
Today is not our anniversary, a significant date in our history together, nor anything special other than a bright & sunny Monday morning in Wichita, KS. However, I am consumed with love for my wife because she is my best friend and still makes me feel warm and wonderful when she is around. When she isn’t around I am looking forward to seeing her again. This morning I woke up and smacked my alarm clock buzzing on the nightstand nearly knocking my coffee to the ground. Kate gets up before me and makes the coffee…she even makes two pots since I drink decaf. Then, because she is a nice person, she sneaks into the bedroom without waking me and leaves me a cup next to my bed every morning with just the right amount of milk in it. After I’m done showering and getting ready for work I find breakfast waiting for me at the dining room table, not because I expect it to be there, but because she knows how happy I am when I get to eat a hot breakfast. At night she cooks homemade dinners for “her boys,” as she refers to me and Max (our 2-year-old). This is something she does because she likes cooking and I’d otherwise live off frozen goods. This is my daily interaction with her as we scurry around chasing two boys and scratching out a life for our family. In all the chaos…she still tries to take care of me…but that isn’t why I love her.
The things we do for each other day-to-day as people are just the surface. What binds us is much deeper. Last night we had friends from another decade of our live’s visiting from New York and we began discussing marriage, identity, and how that changes with time and children. The couple had been married for less than a year and they reminded me so much of the relationship Kate and I had all those years back. Kate and I have been together for a decade and this fall we will celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary. When we got married we stood in front of each other and read our handwritten vows aloud for the first time and were humbled to find that they were nearly identical…a gorgeous reminder on your wedding day that you are marrying a reflection of yourself. Since then we have vowed to amend and renew our vows every year on our anniversary since life moves forward and thus marriages must as well.
DATING: Kate and I were two individuals living together and supporting each other emotionally. Sacrifices were made when needed to support the other individual and their needs. Career changes, moving across country for grad school, months apart, and so on. We were very happy together and after 2 years I knew I wanted to marry her.
ENGAGED: For 3 years I got to say “my fiance,” two words that fill a man’s heart with pride and joy. For me it was bragging rights. I knew I had the catch of the century and that my life was going to change because of it. Kate was the girl that everyone liked. She still is…how could you not? She’s smart, funny, creative, patient, gorgeous, and polarizing to be in her presence. I’m a meat sack with a constantly running mouth. We continued through life as two individuals with common goals who supported each other.
MARRIAGE: At first nothing changed. Our vows echoed the theme of being individuals and always retaining that…but we were in our 20’s and had no idea what having kids does to a person…what it does to a couple. We were becoming more and more aware that if we wanted to transition into parenthood there would be changes in our marriage and some individuality would be lost…but we wanted kids. So we jumped in.
MARRIAGE WITH CHILDREN: While identity is not lost, you do go into survival mode at first when they are babies and so demanding. It is during this phase that you begin to give up your individuality. At first you clammer to hang on to it as if you are losing your identity, then you figure out how to go with the flow. If you don’t go with the flow you risk losing everything. Kids change everything. They NEED you…they are helpless without you…they will die without you. That kind of relationship mixed in with unconditional love changes things in your chemistry. Then you realize you are no longer two individuals working toward a common goal…you are a family.
In the family relationship I have found that I have more love to give then I ever though possible. Its like you’ve spent your life trying to cross a high-current river to get to the other side…to your goals. The older you get the wider the river is and the faster the current gets. Then one day it hits you: The river is the destination. You turn your boat downstream, the paddles only steer now, and your family is in the boat with you. Sometimes you steer, sometimes you paddle, sometimes you ride, sometimes its scary, and sometimes its calm. Whatever it is…you’re all in the same boat. Then one day the kids will hop out for a swim and find a boat of their own…but that article is years away from me writing it.
Today I love Kate more than ever. She has always been my best friend and the person in my corner, though I don’t feel I need a cornerman right now because we are both in the ring together. I still have my identity as a person but my individuality has changed since my son started calling me “Dada.” I’m still Ryan at work, out with friends, and online…but inside and at home, I’m “Dada.” My career is no longer my path, it is the means to provide me opportunities to be with my family. I am at peace with my world and love the role I am still learning to play. Though we’ve been married for 5 years and together for 10, I feel like I’m just now learning how to be a husband. I know that there is no better feeling in the world when the kids are asleep and I have Kate all to myself for a few moments. We hug, we embrace, we hold each other tight…because that hug means I’m home. Kate is my home. Not the roof over our heads, the city we live in, or the foundations we’ve laid…Kate. She is my home, my religion, and no longer a reflection of me…she is part of me. I hope I am part of her. So, on this sunny Monday morning in Wichita, KS without any intoxicating libations to blame my loving words on, an audience beyond the reach of our social media, and nothing fueling me other than the feelings I have for you every singe day of my life:
Kate: I love you. I love you more every day. You are my best friend and I’ve spent my whole life searching for you…now I have found you. I get to be married to you and I’m honored that you have chosen to ride this river with me. Our boat may not be the fanciest, it may spring a hole every now and then, but we’ll never smash it upon the rocks. We’re rowing and steering together now and I often catch us just throwing our hands in the air and shouting “Wheeeee!” When you need to rest I will row, when you need to row I will ride, and when the kids need us we both will be there. I’m having fun on this ride and it is thanks to the companionship and co-navigation. Thanks for the coffee, for breakfast, for the kiss on my way out the door, and for the dinner I’m sure you are planning right now. I appreciate those things…but I love you because you are you. See you for dinner. Eternally your boat-mate,
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