My grandfather, a man wise beyond his years, was also a great storyteller. A modest man from humble upbringing, he had, at the time that I truly began to listen to him, lived for 70 years, during which he enlisted in the military, met and married my grandmother, and raised 5 children. His hair, still jet black and never dyed, deceived his eyes, warm and brown, crinkled with age and knowledge.
My mother and I would visit my grandparents weekly, as they aged, aware that time, the greatest of teachers, was also fleeting. I would sit at my grandfather’s feet, and later, as I too got older, at a chair next to him, sharing our love of lemon cookies as he spoke. I thirsted for these nuggets of wisdom, of tales of his life.
On one such visit, I can recall him talking to my mother, who had recently separated from my father, offering her advice as to how to move forward, and also offering insight from his own marriage.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.” This was the phrase he had shared with my mother as she questioned how her marriage, from the outside a joyful one spanning 15 years, had suddenly lead to this point, a divorce impending.
I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. After all, I was only 12, yet to have a romantic relationship or even to truly understand the complexities of a basic relationship that didn’t involve my family. I didn’t understand then.
But now I do.
Too often, in any relationship, but more importantly, in a marriage, we as partners allow ourselves to become too comfortable.
We simply stop chasing.
At the beginning of a relationship, before last names and rings are shared, we are brought together by common interests or common friends. We put our best foot forward. We engage ourselves in conversations. We woo each other.
But after the relationship has been established, and the rings have been exchanged, all too often, we find that we may stop trying. Certainly, we don’t love our partner less than our pre-marriage days. We become comfortable in the knowledge that we have a partner who accepts our bad habits, who understands us and has seen us at our worst, and while these are all traits which are crucial to our marriage, we stop trying. We don’t date each other anymore.
Familiarity breeds contempt.
Too often, our partner becomes the person with who we share our complaints, rather than our compliments. As we each independently face the struggles that life can bring, rather than leaning on each other for support, we can become angry with the other person for not understanding what we feel. We can resent each other.
My grandparents have passed, but if I had the ability to speak to my grandfather one more time, I would let him know that I am taking his words to heart. He was never able to see me walk down the aisle. He never got to meet my husband. But I am applying his words to my marriage now.
I am trying, as often as possible, to date my husband. Scheduling demands can keep us from going on actual dates, but I still try to show my appreciation for him on a regular basis. Dating doesn’t mean gift giving either. To me, dating involves being fully present, being engaged not only in the moment but in the relationship as well.
I would offer the same advice that my grandfather had for my mother to anyone, newly married, or like myself, nearing our fourth wedding anniversary this year.
Husbands, never stop dating your wives. Remind her of the reasons that you married her on the days when she is questioning her beauty and herself. Remind her of why you fell in love with her, why she is the one you want to share your forever with.
Wives, date your husbands. Remind him of why you love him. Let him know that you appreciate him, even if it is a simple text.
Even when the demands of life command our attention, as they often do, even when work and children become our main focus, don’t let your partner become secondary. Never stop chasing each other.
Never stop dating.