Because I failed to create any type of plan or structure to ensure preparation and acknowledgment of special occasions like Valentine’s Day, our wedding anniversary, my wife’s birthday, etc., my epic ADD-ness, procrastination and sometimes lack of money created a bunch of negative or lackluster moments in my marriage.
When two people are in a romantic partnership together, there’s always a little bit of give-and-take as it’s impossible and impractical for each partner to satisfy exactly half of all shared responsibilities.
But when someone doesn’t get anything back when they give, give, give, they eventually run out of energy. They eventually stop giving.
Until the final couple of years of our marriage that I should have (but didn’t) recognize as the End Times, my wife was always incredibly thoughtful and an organized planner about almost everything, including things specifically for me.
It wasn’t a courtesy that I returned. I’m prone to procrastination and poor calendar management because I’m all kinds of ADD that was undiagnosed and unidentified during my marriage. I got comfortable. Lackadaisical. And lost sight of the importance of investing in my wife and marriage.
She put effort and energy into doing things for me, and planning things for us to do together.
I did not return that same level of effort and energy. I very rarely took the initiative to plan shared activities for the both of us.
And now I’m divorced, and this EXTREMELY EASY THING TO CORRECT is a significant reason why.
Here’s the simple truth: When you make conscious, mindful, regular investments in your wife and marriage, and create opportunities to do fun things together, and demonstrate as a matter of routine that you have HER and the BOTH OF YOU top of mind and are investing effort and energy in your togetherness… you probably have a strong and healthy marriage.
And when you don’t?
You end up like me.
It Wasn’t Always That Way
I was still 18 when I met the girl who would give birth to our son 10 years later.
A mutual friend had been talking about hooking the two of us up for months. My future wife was super-involved in school activities at the university we attended, whereas I mostly just drank beer and smoked weed at awesome parties.
She was the feature baton twirler for the marching band during football season.
She was a competitive ballroom dancer.
She was on the dance team for the college basketball season.
She always had practice or a part-time job to go to, or homework to do, so she was never at any of our parties. After months of being told we’d make the perfect couple, we’d still never met.
Then one night, I heard she was going to be there—at the off-campus apartment where most of our freshman-year parties took place.
I was drinking and smoking and having a great time with my best friends like almost any other keg-party night, so I wasn’t ready for her to walk in.
She’s the kind-of pretty that makes your stomach hurt. Smiling eyes. Gorgeous cheekbones. The kind-of smile that makes you mirror one back to her, even when she isn’t looking.
She was smart. Funny. Easy to be around.
She was everything teenage-me could have ever wanted. Everything except available.
Our mutual friend didn’t realize my future wife was dating someone. And even if she wasn’t, she didn’t have free time to actually date, nor am I sure we’d have ever made it while she was being super-responsible and I was being super-irresponsible.
Our “perfect-togetherness” would have to wait.
We stayed in touch. A phone call here and there. A hug and friendly chat somewhere on campus whenever we’d cross paths.
I dated someone for a couple of years in there, and so did she.
But here’s why I’m telling this story: One random afternoon while I was riding around with one of my friends, I had him stop at a store because I wanted to buy flowers and a card for this gorgeous blonde I was crushing on.
Just something to let her know I was thinking about her.
The Framed Greeting Card
It was the kind of card that folded from the top down.
She’d kept it for a few years in between me giving it to her, and us getting together in a couple’s capacity when we were 22.
I liked that she kept it. I liked it a lot.
It sat in a little horizontal frame on a dresser or nightstand throughout our years together. I read it a few times, but I can’t remember what I wrote inside, and I don’t think it mattered.
What mattered was me taking the time to get a card and flowers, to write a thoughtful, personal note to her. There was no particular occasion or reason to.
I had just wanted to.
Call it a broad generalization if you want, but I think girls like it when you do something for them—just because.
For more than a decade, that little card sat there.
Once a cute, heartwarming reminder of a thoughtful guy who would call a Life timeout simply to invest in making the woman he loved feel good. For no other reason than he wanted her to feel good.
But later, I think that little card became a disappointing reminder of what might have been. Not a symbol of goodness. A symbol of a guy who is capable of making her light up and feel good, and who day after day after day, seems to choose stuff he cares about, and doesn’t seem to think much about her at all.
A little card that’s almost certainly not hiding in her nightstand drawer—but decomposing in a garbage landfill somewhere.
Which is fitting, because a waste is exactly what this was.
Just an everyday text: “Thinking about you.”
A weekly phone reminder to plan a mutual (or family) activity for the weekend.
A conscious effort to prioritize this concept of investing in and giving energy to things that benefit our partner, or actively demonstrate that we value and appreciate the person to whom we promised Forever.
That we want them.
That we love them.
That something we do for them is worthy of sitting out as a reminder of something good and meaningful. Something that won’t be discarded to rot in the ground, buried and forgotten forever.
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