My husband and celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in September. Raising a four-year-old, navigating my job layoff and his full commitment to entrepreneurship are just a few of the things life decided to throw at us in these first few years after we made it official.
After what felt like sometimes was "surviving" my marriage instead of thriving in it, it's understandable that my memory was a little foggy and I almost forgot how long we've known each other. After recalling a few random milestones and encounters that stand out in our memory, we came to the agreement that we've actually known each other for about 15 years.
Slumps or dry spells are inevitable for anyone who has been in a long-term romantic relationship, particularly when you're living with someone and find yourself going through the motions on auto-pilot most days. As great as our marriage is, there are definitely plenty of times when our connection takes a backseat to pulling overtime at work, "Back to School Nights" and trips to Target for bathroom cleaner.
When I remember the people we were when we first met, I remember us eating Johnny Rockets and laughing on my porch when he got off his late shift and making love on his pull-out couch in the living room with episodes of The Office playing in the background. In the past year or so, however, Netflix has become the main event and there's no "chillin", just starting the dishwasher before we go to bed and start another day full of responsibilities.
However, this past summer, a series of events happened that made me look at my husband in a different way. For whatever reason, whether it was the clients he worked with or a neighbor that was being a little too nice, women (who didn't know he was married of course) started shooting their shot like they were Stephen Curry with ten seconds left in the final quarter.
He'd come home and tell me how he'd politely decline and expected us to laugh at the awkwardness of it all. But of course, I'd get irritated and want ALL the details, "Were you flirting? Did they see your wedding ring? Why aren't you wearing a big ass neon sign that says 'TAKEN'?" There's nothing quite like an outside perspective to remind you of exactly what you have, so when hubby shared with me a general contractor he was working with had asked if he could talk blueprints over Cheesecake Factory, I couldn't help but laugh before thinking, "I will cut that h*e."
It didn't help that just a few weeks before there was a female friend that he had for years who suddenly began hitting him up for love and relationship advice. On the outside I was joking, "You should have gotten us some free slices of Oreo Dream Cheesecake," or "Your homegirl can't keep a man because she's too busy posting Instagram stories." But a part of me was annoyed and felt like my marriage was being threatened.
Admittedly at first, all I wanted was for all of these chicks to miss me and my marriage with the inquiries but it did make me realize something: Maybe I wasn't recognizing exactly what I had.
Meanwhile, hubby was out maneuvering through all of the advances and attention like Keanu Reeves back-bending under bullets in The Matrix. Still, a very insecure part of me went from 0 to 10 protecting my marriage. And all I could hear was Iyanla Vanzant's voice in the back of my head saying, "A marriage can only be destroyed from the inside." It wasn't so much anything that my husband was doing to invite the attention, but my response to him being open and candid with me was to question myself and what I might be neglecting to contribute to the marriage.
Furthermore, the increased attention he was receiving brought out a jealous side of me that I never had in our relationship. We had never been the type of couple to keep secrets, sneak and go through one another's phones, or get tripped up on things we considered "silly" like Instagram follows or acting like marriage made us pull a Stevie Wonder on other attractive people. But because of the vulnerable place, I was at with career frustration and the stresses of motherhood, my imagination went wild and I tried to make my husband into Terrence Howard from Ashanti's "Foolish" video while I created problems that weren't really there.
I recognized I was projecting my own insecurities in other parts of my life onto my marriage. My husband didn't ask me to marry him because he was looking for the Beyonce to his Jay. He wasn't expecting me to pop out a baby and then get my belly flat for the 'Gram within a week. What I began to realize was that I was unrealistically seeking perfection. I knew who I married and trusted and loved the man I knew he was, but with all the changes, and the realization that I had control issues, I recognized the subconscious pressures I was placing on myself.
I'll never forget the epiphany I had at the intersection of Broad and Poplar in Philadelphia one summer while dropping off our daughter.
A voice in my head stated: "You're finding fault in situations that aren't there because of your need to get in front of a problem and control the outcome."
By June of 2019, I had been through a new job that didn't end up working out, a rejected proposal for a short film, and a severe cut to the freelance writing income I had become accustomed to for years. With all of the rejection making it feel like the rug was being pulled from under me on a routine as regular as my menstrual cycle, a part of me wanted to predict the next problem in my life and get my defenses up. Fortunately, that problem wasn't my husband's loyalty, as much as my crazy ass tried to make it be.
My own insecurities made me overanalyze, overthink and make a few unwarranted advances from other women more than what they actually were. I also realized how much I was internalizing the toxic relationships that were taking place around me at the time. I had one friend calling me constantly to complain that the married man she was seeing was never going to leave his wife and another friend who was one "Ebony BBW" search away from leaving her boyfriend and his porn addiction. That's the thing about toxicity; if it lingers around too long it starts to seep into your own feelings and thoughts.
Even when you're making a committed effort every day, it can be easy to take the solid relationships you have in place in your life for granted.
It was funny because on my end, I thought we were doing the things that marriage counselors and life coaches would suggest. We made an effort to schedule date night at least once a month (even if date night was the predictable dinner and a movie). I made sure to keep up my appearance when I had the energy so he wouldn't start to think my satin bonnet had become my signature hairstyle. And whether it was his favorite body spray or a meal to take home for my man after happy hour with the girls, I made small gestures to let him know he was appreciated.
But marriage requires more than child-free nights and a new hairstyle. It's about checking in and make sure your marriage is growing and adapting to the changes that take place in it. It's also about giving yourself grace and understanding the young, fly twenty-something you were when you met your partner is no longer the woman you are nor should necessarily be almost two decades later.
Over the course of a few days this past summer, my husband and I had conversations about boundaries, communication, shared goals and expectations to ensure that we were on the same page. More than anything, all the drama and distractions from the outside were a much-needed reminder of the importance of checking-in and maintaining our marriage. I also began to allow myself to start living my life, including all of its ups and downs, instead of trying to defeat it.
The thing is, with any relationship you can't expect that because you've landed a good catch, those other fish will keep on swimming and pay that person no mind. And honestly, besides a few petty arguments, something unexpected happened: I suddenly wanted to hump my husband every hour of the day.
Maybe it was the fact that another woman wanted my man, maybe it was because the first time we had some conflict that was about our actual relationship and not who ate the last yogurt or gave the baby a popsicle before bed. It was a reminder that before kids and bills, all we had was each other and a whole lot of extra time.
Make-up sex shouldn't be the only sex you're having, but being reminded that outside of a husband, father and professional, your partner is a whole snack (and can keep his cool even when your jealousy gets the best of you) is not only humbling but one hell of an aphrodisiac.
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xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Featured image by Shutterstock.