Not too long ago, I was deep in my closet, cleaning out the clutter, when I found an old tin box FULL of letters. Sitting on the floor, I began reading one after another. They were love letters, written to my husband, David.
My heart began to sink and my eyes filled with tears as I read sentences like:
"Hello gorgeous, how's my darling, sexy, charming, romantic, thoughtful, loving man doing?"
"I miss you so much I feel like I'm going to go crazy!"
"I feel like something wonderful is getting ready to happen in your life!"
All I could think was, Who is this girl?
Reading her letters, I was overcome by feelings of jealously. She was sexy, fun, romantic and totally in love with my man! Some letters had hand-drawn images and others were sealed with a kiss, literally -- with pink lipstick that looked as if it were just kissed yesterday.
I felt as if I were reading the letters of my husband's mistress, yet the truth was, it wasn't his mistress; these letters were from me, written as a twenty-something-year-old girl. I felt so many emotions, but most of all shame because that girl was long gone and in her place was a stressed out, anxious 40-year-old mother of two.
I no longer made Dave feel wanted, let alone desirable; but more like a roommate or friend. Reading the letters, I saw the loss of my girl, the one he fell in love with and married. Traci Shafer was encouraging, always laughing, dancing, singing and saw beauty in everything around her. Traci Bild, well... let's just say she had a lot on her plate.
In a strange way, I felt sorry for Dave. With my growing business, two kids and a home to manage, I simply didn't have the time or energy for him anymore. Closing the box, I tucked the letters back where I found them. I thought to myself, You've changed.For days I thought about those letters. The passion and emotion in them was intoxicating and I was tired of being tired. I wanted what my twenty-something year old girl had. More importantly, I wanted what she and my husband had together, so I set out to find her.
The first thing I did was make an effort to have more fun. When cleaning, I played blasting music, I traded the treadmill for kick boxing and the park bench for the swing next to my kids.
Next, I started bringing fun into my marriage. From disco dancing in the kitchen, going on pub crawls to taking road trips together, our relationship returned to its roots with fun front and center. Slowly, the woman Dave married returned. The truth was she was there all along -- she was just buried in responsibility.
Being a woman today isn't easy; there's always going to be more to do than hours in the day. What I learned from this experience is the importance of prioritizing the things that matter most and having Dave at the bottom of that list wasn't going to work. I pushed him to the top and our family is better off for it. Here are a few more things I did that had lasting effects on our relationship. I encourage you to give them a try:
Offer compliments! Make an effort to compliment your partner every day. I know, it's hard to even consider this being that no one ever says "Thanks for unloading the dishwasher," or "You look amazing today!" The goal is to focus on your own behaviors and see where they take you. Compliments such as "Thanks for trimming the trees today, they look great," or "You look gorgeous!" will change the tone of your relationship.
Spend time alone. Even though you live together, odds are you rarely have time alone. Consider making date night a weekly norm. If you can't do that, then create a 20-minute window to talk, have a glass of wine or slow dance in the kitchen. If the very thought of this scares you, it's long past due. Intimacy, while hard to maintain is the key to a great relationship.
Make it fun! Make a vow: No dinner and a movie dates! When dating, odds are you and your husband did things that were fun. Try new and interesting things like playing racquetball or going bowling, take a cooking class together or hitting a theme park and riding roller coasters! Does this take work? Yes, but it's worth the effort.
Create new habits. While it's easy to try these ideas once or twice, the truth is you have to put in real effort and be consistent if you want to see results. Our society is all about immediate gratification, but in this case, you have to work for it. The question to ask is, "Is my relationship worth it?" Compliment your man daily, give him a solid 20 minutes of you time every day, plan weekly date nights and have some good old-fashioned fun.
It's so easy to be apathetic and lament, "Why is this up to me, he doesn't do any of these things!" Could it be that your partner is so disconnected he doesn't event think it's possible to reconnect again? Does the thought "That this is as good as it gets" scare you a bit? What if he were to meet "YOU 20 years ago" tomorrow?
In marriage, the odds are against us. We must be willing to roll up our sleeves and put in some work. This also means letting go of all ego or concerns over who's pulling the weight. I was no longer the girl my husband married, but I realized it before it was too late because he was too kind to tell me. It terrifies me to think how different my life and that of my children might have been if I had ignored the warning signs and not put my marriage on the list.