It’s the little things that make a relationship work. Once you’re past the initial heady excitement of butterflies in the stomach and awe at every funny thing your partner says, you’re left with the bare bones of reality. Socks on the floor, a comfortable ease with each other than can stretch into boring if you don’t take care. On the surface, not the recipe for a happy marriage.
I remember reading an interview with Iman after David Bowie died, saying how he still made her stomach flip after all those years of being together. The NLM still makes my stomach flip, but not in the anxious “does he like me?” way of those first days, but a “I can’t believe he did that” way that comes with five years of marriage and eight years of co-habitation.
We’re not perfect. No couple is (no PERSON is, come to think of it). But we work and that, mainly, is because we view marriage and this business of raising small people as a job that’s to be done together. Of course he has habits (as do I) that set my teeth on edge. He still doesn’t know how to put his socks in the laundry basket and he has a blind spot when it comes to crumbs on the breadboard. I often find myself moaning about him “not getting it” to my mum mates. But on balance, those things really don’t matter.
Sometimes it takes a week at home together to realise how much you appreciate the other person in a relationship. Our usual daily grind is him leaving the house for a day teaching at 7.15am. He returns anywhere between 4.30pm and 8pm depending on if he has meetings or not, and evenings Monday – Thursday are often dominated by the bath, bed, work routine. We can go a few days without having a meaningful conversation and we’ve both come to accept that’s life with work and two small children in the mix.
The bits that make it worth it are the small things. The fact that every day this week over half term, when Baby Girl has woken up for the day at 5am, the NLM has taken her downstairs after her morning breastfeed and snuggle in bed at 6am without complaint. He’s let me sleep until I’m ready to wake (“I cope far better on less sleep, I honestly don’t mind”) and been cheerful when I’ve come downstairs, bleary eyed and often stressed at my To Do list for the day.
He makes cups of tea (“brews”) without me even asking, despite not being a tea drinker himself. He’s got stuck into our DIY kitchen renovation while small humans clamber at his ankles, with a smile on his face, despite coming across as unequivocally grumpy in every YouTube video I’ve ever made.
So he can’t put a duvet cover on a duvet to save his life, but he reads Frog a bedtime story every night without fail and never lets me go to bed without a kiss on the forehead and telling me he loves me. Even tall bald guys from Rochdale can be affectionate, see?
More than any of that, though, is that he appreciates the things I find important, even though they’re not the same things that motivate him. He couldn’t care less about mess and dust, for example, but he sees that these things stress me out. When I text him after a bad day he replies (mostly) with a “We’re in this together. You’re not on your own.” I appreciate that. It’s so easy to lose sight of it in the chaos of parenting.
My husband rarely buys me flowers. He doesn’t have the budget to get me an expensive bottle of perfume for every birthday, or take me to a five star hotel for every anniversary. I remember our first Valentine’s Day after getting together and he covered the whole flat with rose petals, making me a treasure trail of presents which led to a menu for a special meal he was going to cook me that evening. That’s never happened again, but it’s OK. I’d take what we have over those extravagent shows of affection any day.
Real love – the love that endures – is doing something for someone because you know they’ll quietly appreciate it. Tackling the house stuff as a team, taking on a DIY project because you know the other person will take huge pleasure from it, letting your other half have a lie-in without moaning about being tired, offering a cup of tea – just because.
It’s the little things that make a marriage. A sense of humour also helps.
Been meaning to comment on this post for ages, loved it very much. So much that I included it in a round of of ‘lovely things’. It is so true, it’s the small things that make all the difference.
Ah thank you Gem! x
laura redburn says
love this. i have no plans on getting married (he agrees, not just me being stubborn ha) but am in a long term relationship so obviously i can identify with this on some level. he is the least romantic person ever, i’ve never had breakfast in bed or random gestures of love (unless you count buying me chocolate bars from time to time) and sometimes when i’m ill he tells me to ‘stop being lazy’ – but i know that when it comes down to it, he loves me and cares for me and whenever i’ve really needed him he’s been there (or at least via text if he’s at work) for me. he’s so supportive and kind and just an all round wonderful person…unless he’s in a strop 😉
also totally agreed about a sense of humour! couldn’t be without that.
A sense of humour is a deal breaker as far as I’m concerned!
Love love love grandma from the north’s comment! This was such a great post to read Molly – I’d love to get married again one day and things like this make me believe there is someone out there for me. It’s nice to hear your take on it and is fairly parallel with my beliefs on marriage… it’s tough, nobody’s perfect and it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance but the payoffs (and lie-ins) are more than worth it 🙂 xx
There definitely is someone for you Alice. And whoever he is will be a very lucky man. x
Penny Alexander says
Beautiful post Molly, really resonated with me. Thanks for this ‘window into life’ how true it is – how many times I have stupidly wished for a bunch of flowers when the most wonderful ordinary gestures are happening right under my nose xx
You’re very right – the ordinary gestures are the ones that count. Flowers are nice too though, obvs (if you’re reading this NLM!).
Slummy single mummy says
My OH makes me a cup of tea in bed every single morning. It’s one tiny thing but it means so much to me 🙂
Ah a cup of tea in bed every morning sounds like the best way to start the day. Although – reading that back it sounds like a euphamism…!
grandma from the north says
Ah I am so proud of my son! And In can definitely confirm that bald headed guys from Rochdale can be affectionate – reference hubbie of 45 years! A lovely post. you are a great couple. Soul mates. xx
And proud you should be! x
Carie @ Space for the Butterflies says
He sounds like a keeper! And it’s solid advice, if you needed your marriage to be grand gestures of love and appreciation it would be unlikely to flourish with children in the mix – John does the things for me that I didn’t know I needed; usually making me take a break from work and be slightly more realistic about what I can do in a set amount of time!!
I totally agree. The NLM is the same at helping to calm me down when I get stressed!
Oh I couldn’t agree more! After twenty two years together, I think it’s the little things that still mean the most. I might be saying that because Mr Mostly almost never buys me flowers though! Ha!
22 years is some achievement! I’d take regular cups of tea and lie-ins over flowers any day!