I came downstairs to dishes, toys, and covered countertops. It had been a long, frustrating day. Instead of cleaning up, I ate a brownie and headed back upstairs… past the stuff in the hallway, past the laundry that needed to be put away, and then heaved a sigh about the excessive dust in the grout around the bathtub as I turned on the hot water and climbed in.
A few minutes later, my husband found me and asked, “Would you like a glass of wine?”
“Yes. That sounds wonderful,” I replied.
“Okay. Is there anything else I can get you?” he questioned.
“No, but thank you,” I said as he headed out the bathroom door to grab the wine.
It was a perfect way to end my day. As I sat there sipping my wine, I looked over at the dust and smiled. You see, if I were the person I was five years ago, I would not be in this bathtub. There were too many obstacles. I would have cleaned the kitchen. I would have moved the stuff in the hallway. I would have put away the laundry. And I definitely would have scrubbed the grout with a toothbrush until it shined pearly white.
My whole life I’ve been a work-before-I-play type of a person. My parents never had to worry about whether or not my homework was completed if they saw me watching TV. If I was relaxing, you could be guaranteed there was nothing left for me to do. I’m sure it was a parent’s dream, but as I grew up the hard-working, perfectionist lifestyle was a little off balance.
Enter Nate. He worked, but he certainly didn’t seem to have trouble sitting down if the job wasn’t completely done. What? I didn’t understand. It was annoying. Eventually I realized that I needed to make a decision. Would I continue busting my butt while he sat, watching TV, with the anger building inside me, simultaneously loathing his decision to relax and my inability to do so? Or would I choose to put up my feet, next to my husband, and allow us to rest together? I slowly came to realize that being together was far more important than the infinite to-do list. And acting on that decision uncovered the reality that I lead a much more balanced life when I cut myself some slack and take a break from the busyness of life.
So that’s how I ended up drinking wine in my bathtub tonight. It’s not that I’m trying to encourage everyone to veg out in front of the TV all day or take a long bath every night. Not at all. There is a time to work, and a time to play, and it’s important to find the balance. What I didn’t realize when I married Nate is that his different more laid-back approach to life and work–which I at first found annoying–would actually help me to find that balance that I needed.
You often hear that “people don’t change.” And while it’s true that some people don’t want to change, and true that you shouldn’t marry someone in order to change them (which is more like manipulation than real transformation), it’s also true that marriage does change people. Marrying someone different from yourself can change you for the better, if you let it.
That’s what Nate and I found, at least. Just as I learned the importance of relaxation, Nate found that he could function with less down time. The TV selections became things we could enjoy together and the regularly played video games are now in a box somewhere.
True change is cooperative. A healthy lifelong relationship involves two people who choose to love each other so much that they are willing to change and grow to be better people, together. The key is to find a spouse who can acknowledge his or her weaknesses, wants to be a better person, and is open to receiving help along the way. The other key is to marry a guy who will bring you a glass of wine while you are soaking in the tub after a long day.