Lonely. That’s how I felt as I sat on the back verandah watching my two year old son play in the sand pit. It was only 9am. I’d been up since 5am with the baby (thankfully now asleep in her cot). As I stared out over the huge backyard, I felt a heavy weight descend upon me. How was I going to get through the next 12 hours on my own? My husband, absent at work, would be home at 2am. I missed him. I rarely saw him since he’d taken on three jobs so we could save enough money to move from the shoe-box house we inhabited, situated on a busy main road in Sydney.
I wanted to scream. This was not how I expected my married life to be. The loving feelings we shared for each other before and early on in our marriage were a distant memory. Now, any time we spent together we whinged about how tired and frustrated we felt. I also felt angry towards my husband for working so much, even though I knew he was only doing so for our family’s future. Where had the spontaneity and joy in our relationship gone? Were we even in love anymore?
And then I remembered the piece of advice shared at a pre-marriage education course we attended. We were told that “there would be many times throughout your married life when loving feelings would be distant, possibly absent, causing you to wonder whether you still love each other, and whether you should stay together. This is normal. Love based on feelings is fickle and unlikely to last because feelings change constantly. Rather the secret to a long and happy relationship is when both partners choose to love the other, even when they don’t necessarily feel like it.”
At that point, my mood lifted. I realised that our family and financial situation would not be forever, that things would improve and that we had to hang on and support each other through this tough time.
I decided then and there that I would talk to my husband about my concerns for our relationship and how we could help improve it. From then on, we were conscious to choose love. To spend what precious time we had together as a couple and a family in the best way possible – with love and joy.
Love is a decision. It is choosing to be considerate, generous, forgiving, understanding, patient and caring even when you might not feel like it. Sometimes it even requires personal sacrifice. Some may say that this sort of love is too difficult. But choosing to love someone you like, who you respect, who supports you and encourages you to grow and do the things you enjoy, is really not that hard at all.
What my husband and I have discovered over the past 26 years of marriage is that when we choose love, the loving feelings return. Doing loving actions fosters loving feelings, and that makes for a long and happy relationship.