Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, Same Old Stuff

Last holiday season, Dan and I were having a tough time.  We weren't on the same page, or even in the same book.  It was a really hard time, with months of lead up to a boiling point in October, and spanning all the way through to Christmas.  We worked and worked together to improve our communication and be more considerate of each other, and our Christmas gift to each other last year was a 2.5-day kid-free mini-break.  We needed it to reconnect with each other--one of the biggest difficulties in our relationship is trying to maintain our identities as husband and wife (and best friends) while also trying to handle three energetic kids.  I know a lot of couples have that same difficulty, so I try not to get discouraged about it...but last year, we were so far from where I wanted to be.  My parents recognized our desperation and took the kids for us so that we could have some time to work out our troubles and just be us together without the daily stresses.  We live really close to Old Town Alexandria (a great town right outside DC), so we opted to stay close to home and go to Old Town for our little vacation.  Dan and I love exploring cities--whenever we've had a chance to get away, that's usually what we pick to do.  When we were in college, we would go to museums in DC.  Our first married Christmas, we took advantage of a layover in Dallas to stay a few days and soak up some Texas culture (before we moved to Texas and had way too much of Texas culture!).  A year after Abby was born, we escaped to Chicago for a few days to check out Frank Lloyd Wright houses and bike around the city.  When Dan graduated from law school, we treated ourselves to a few days in San Francisco, walking or riding the cable car everywhere and eating sourdough.  We have lists of cities we want to visit and explore together...but with three kids, it's harder to carve out the time to take longer trips, just the two of us.  So Old Town it was for our few days away.

a happy couple by the water in Old Town

We stayed at a boutique hotel (we try to avoid big-brand hotels when we travel, favoring more unique places) and walked King Street, loving the Christmas lights decorating the trees and the festive mood around us.  It really fed my heart to have that time with Dan to de-stress and enjoy each other--it helped reinforce that despite some of our difficulties, we were right when we chose each other.  When we click, it all makes sense--much like when we don't, it doesn't.  We ate, we walked and shopped, we relaxed.  Then we checked out of the hotel and met good friends for dinner on New Years Eve, and rang in the New Year at their house--it was a great time.  In the early days of 2012, everyone commented about how much more in sync Dan and I were--it was noticeable to folks who didn't even realize we had been going through such a rough patch.  It felt to me like a weight had been lifted a little bit, and life was easier for a while.

New Years Eve, 2012

I voiced my concern repeatedly at the beginning of 2012--my very real concern that the old ruts in our relationship are deep and easy to fall back into if Dan and I aren't diligent.  He assured me that if we were to get back into our old routine, at least now we have the tools to dig ourselves out, hopefully easier than the last time.  Now, looking back at the year, I see that my concerns were valid and did eventually ring true--we are back in our ruts.  Not as deep as we once were, but forging ahead and wearing that groove down.  Fast forward to New Years 2013, last night.  Dan and I are again at odds with each other--although it would be easy for me to be my usual pessimistic self and say that our foul moods are indicative of our relationship as a whole, I think the current issue is that we've been sick.  Being sick in close quarters for days on end has not brought out anything good in each other, to say the least (never thought I would say this, but thank goodness for school and work starting again tomorrow!).  Ever since the Good Wife Challenge, I've been feeling relatively upbeat about my relationship and my efforts with Dan...but it's a two-way street, and since I've been sick the last week or more, I haven't been politely honoring the rules of traffic.  I've been barreling ahead, grouching it up and rolling through stop signs without looking.  I am the peacemaker in our house--I'm not a doormat, but when it comes to keeping the kids happy or sacrificing for the greater good, it's usually me who makes the concessions.  Without my efforts (I feel so much less pleasant when I'm sick), the house has gone off the rails--the kids are sick and cranky, Dan is in rare form, and things have been ugly.  It's been a good eye-opener for me, because it's very clear that when I'm not trying, no one tries...  I'm reminded of why I started the Good Housewife Project, and why it's so important to me.

We got the kids to bed before 8pm last night, and I settled in for what I hoped would be a nice, low-key New Years with my husband.  I had recorded a dumb movie the night before that I had hoped we could watch together while waiting for the ball to drop--I've been in the mood for something mindless, and Dan has been in the mood for nothing I'm in the mood for.  We've just not been on the same page, again.  So when I said I wanted to watch the movie, he said he would prefer to go to the bathroom upstairs...I started the movie without him.  I watched the whole movie without him.  I watched another entire movie without him.  At 11:45pm, I was about to go wake him up (I figured he must have fallen asleep?) when he came downstairs and said he was upstairs working on a case for work and was taking a break to watch the ball drop.  Sigh.  We rang in 2013 on the couch, and as the ball dropped, I considered (as I do every year) what I wanted my first words of the year to be--in 2011, it was "I love you" to Dan over Skype while he was in Iraq and we were filled with much excitement because the dreadful 2010 was over and 2011 was the year we would get to be together again.  In 2012, we kissed with our goofy hats on and blew noisemakers with our friends, and I again said "I love you" to my husband as my first words, feeling a renewed commitment to make 2012 a happy one for our marriage.  Last night, somehow it just didn't feel like a new year already, and the ball dropped before I could formulate the perfect first words in my illness-fog mind--I ended up saying, "Happy New Year" through my sniffles, as Dan exclaimed, "And we've now fallen over the fiscal cliff!"  Hmmm...are these less-than-thoughtful words harbingers of a weird, slightly off year to come?

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