He's late coming home again.
Stupid late. Of course it's for a good reason. Of course it's beyond his control. Truthfully, he has probably done it for me more than anyone else. But it was still a stupid late night that ruined my plans, at the end of a stupid busy week, when everything has felt stupidly haphazard for a month.
I've already changed out of the jeans and sheer sweater he likes, into fleece pajama pants and a stained sweatshirt that has somehow remained intact since college. I've fallen asleep putting the (possibly hyperactive) toddler to bed.
I wake up when the door opens. Nobly, I stumble out of bed and gave him a hug. Like a martyr I ask about his night, yawn, recap more stupid busy plans for the following morning.
He responds, “You know I have to leave here first thing in the morning tomorrow, right?”
No, no, I did not know. I make it abundantly, loudly, stupidly clear I definitely did not know. I make it even clearer how much this screws up the inner workings of my morning. Our morning.
If our family schedule is a well-oiled machine, his frequently changing calendar is endless grit between the gears.
He makes it abundantly clear, even more loudly, how much he thinks my attitude and response suck.
Earlier in the week, a couple of friends and I compared notes on spousal arguments. Their husbands are both the quiet-angry type. Very little yelling. One of them said, “But you and Jake, you guys fight.” It wasn’t an accusation. Rather, a simple observation. There is no quiet-angry person in this relationship.
I conceded, with a qualifier. “When we started dating, our families liked that we stood up to each other. We couldn’t push the other one around.” Because when you’re dating, it’s cute, all that stubbornness.
When you’re married fourteen years, it’s just damn loud.
When you’re married fourteen years, suddenly it’s almost midnight, and you’re two tired people yelling at each other in the kitchen.
I break my own rule and go to bed angry.
We are civil the next morning. No, more than civil, we’re working as a team again. At 3 am, in fact, when I notice the baby is wet, he hands me a diaper and lights up the flashlight on his phone. I hold the squirming baby’s legs as he tapes the left side. We are seamless, wordless, expert.
At 8 am we snuggle briefly, without talking, before getting out of bed. I’m about to speak when our three-year-old walks in, asks for oatmeal. We grunt in acquiescence, and so the day begins. I make coffee. He changes the toddler. We revisit the logistics of the morning, no yelling. I put the water on the stove, get the oatmeal canister. He measures it out, stirs, turns down the heat, reminds me it’s almost cooked as he heads out the door.
Such a good team, Jake and I. A well-oiled, complicated machine.
He sticks his head back into the room. "Are you mad at me?"
I shrug. "No. We just haven't had a chance to talk is all."
Or rather, I slept through the one chance we had.
I text him ten minutes after he leaves. “We should go to a movie.”
He texts back immediately. “We should.”
Subtext, in both directions: We need an effing date night.
People say it all the time. Hell, we say it: We know we’re a good team. We’re partners, best friends, each one the other’s closest ally. We can tag team bedtime and divide up the household chores and know which days each person is responsible for arranging the babysitter. We can manage four kids and two jobs and grad school and a business and homeschooling like it’s no big thing.
We’re such a good team.
Only, here’s the problem, and here’s why we need a date night: I didn’t fall in love with Jake because he’d make a good teammate. We didn’t get married because we collaborate so well together, or because our strengths and weaknesses balance out so nicely, or because together we feel equipped to take on the world.
All of that is true. It’s true, and it’s wonderful. I love it about us.
It’s not why I love him.
I love him because he’s funny, and caring, and unique, and generous, and smart. I love him because he challenges me and supports me, because his heart will always be bigger and better than mine. I love him for the reason I loved him on our wedding day, from the far end of a long aisle - because seeing his face feels like coming home.
It’s too easy to forget that, in the midst of carefully oiling the machine of another busy, hectic week. It’s too easy to remember what I like and what’s practical, functional, and forget what makes me love him.
Yelling in the kitchen, hashing out this stupid week, his strong opinions frustrate me and piss me off.
Out to dinner, commiserating on this stupid election, his strong opinions amuse me and turn me on.
I love him because he’s stubborn as hell.
Because when you’re dating, all that stubbornness, it’s cute.