My husband and I went to Chicago and remembered we don’t hate each other.

by renegademama

How the fuck is somebody supposed to stay married and happy while raising children? Is that even a thing?

Oh, whatever. Fine.

Mac and I are “happy,” sure. In the bigger picture, if you zoom way out and look at us from, say, Saturn, we’re the happiest motherfuckers who ever lived.

But on a daily basis, we more resemble two individuals who low-key hate each other. I’m something of an irritable, impatient asshole, and he eats chips too loudly.

See?

No for real though, I don’t get to shred my husband online because I’m not that big of an asshole, but he has idiosyncrasies that often make me want to stab myself in the eyeballs with small sharp sticks, and I have those too, and we’re just fucking over our lives a good portion of the time.

Maybe we’re defective. We’re definitely defective.

We bicker a lot, lash out at each other regularly, but the big shit is gone. Separation is not on the table. We haven’t been a question in at least 9 years. And yes, if you do the math, we’ve been together 17. IT HAS BEEN A LONG ROAD, OKAY?

It isn’t that we don’t like each other, it’s that our daily lives don’t offer many opportunities to remember how much we like each other.

We are overwrought in general, and he’s the closest person to me, and I’m the closest person to him, and thus, we take that shit out on one another. We aren’t having BIG problems: cheating, abuse, total and complete emotional distance.

We have more of what I’d call: I’m tired and you’re irritating me.

Those Instagram couples traveling around the world with their legs entwined and chakras aligned, enjoying deeply spiritual sex next to a lake and strategically placed canoe, are living a slightly different life than we are.

We work. We drive. We take care of kids. We clean the house. We cook. We try to pay off student loans. We plan.

And in between, we try to be a married couple.

 

It’s a lovely idea that we “put marriage first,” but in my experience, this is easier to say than do. Kid needs are more immediate. It’s easy to set marriage aside when being pummeled by ninety different kid issues.

And yet, we’ve done okay at it.

Sort of.

If you lower the bar significantly.

I’m not sure if it’s self-centeredness or a mature devotion to Keeping Our Marriage Alive, but Mac and I have always insisted on going out together, alone. Let’s say it’s the second one, although really, does it matter? We are vaguely old and definitely tired, and it’s often a huge pain in the ass, but fairly regularly, we go hear bands or see plays or go to dinner, alone, or with friends” sans small people.

We didn’t fucking disappear when we had kids. We’re adults, goddamnit. We like things. We like things that don’t involve children.

We are primarily able to do this because we have grandparents nearby. Lots of them. That was part coincidence and part choice. One of the reasons we’ve never left our area is, um, to have grandparents nearby, lots of them.

But the truth is, even with our little “dates,” which often leave us doubly exhausted the next day, we sometimes spend our time together rehashing bullshit in our family – talk the whole time about some kid, or some situation, or a fight we had five years ago but must address again just for funsies.

And sometimes, if we go on long enough like this, I can forget what we are, what we were, what we’ve always been.

Friends.

For the first time in fifteen years, Mac and I went on a trip together, alone, for more than a weekend. We spent five nights away together, in San Francisco for a night, then Chicago.

And we remembered we like each other.

It was a celebration for the publication of my book. I wanted to make sure he came on tour with me at some point, and since neither of us had really been to Chicago, and it’s quite far from our lives (and thus feels pretty special), I rented us a fucking 39th floor condo (with a rooftop hot tub) in downtown Chicago and we went to Hamilton and ate the best food in the world (for real, wtf, Chicago? How is your food so good?), and we strolled around the Art Institute and slept in and had a lot of sex (sorry for saying that, Dad), and held hands walking down the street at 1am and at one point, I looked over at him and realized I was remembering that he’s the best friend I’ve ever fucking had.

And still the hottest man I’ve ever seen.

And maybe the kindest, and warmest, and with everything stripped away, with a few days of “just us,” I saw our 17 years together, with all the distraction and mayhem and separation and beauty and pain, as nothing much beyond “just us.”

At its core, it’s always been “just us.”

We went to Chicago, and remembered we don’t just love each other. We really fucking like each other.

I’m not telling you to do that. We were lucky as hell and it was a great privilege (as I say, once in 15 years), but I guess what I’m saying is that such things are possible, and I wonder if we really tried, if I could pull from those moments a little more often, to look at him and see my friend – my friend, apart from the rest, always, just a touch – and trust he’ll see me the same.

Or that we can, at least, head back to Chicago, if not in body, in a little bit of soul.

 

I took a selfie but caught him looking at me instead of the camera which kind of gives me feelings.

***

Hey friends, you’ll notice that there’s a little slide-in pop-up with my dog’s face asking you to subscribe to my newsletter. I have written this blog for seven fucking years and never engaged in such behavior (the pop-up. dog face is irrelevant).

In short, I’m doing it now because Facebook is a fucking dick who shows my posts to virtually nobody, and I don’t have $2k per post (not kidding) to throw into ads, so IN OTHER WORDS, I have been forced by The Man to invent ways to get my work to you to feed my family and sell my book to keep writing and you know what?

I hate this. It’s weird.

But the facts remain. Here we are, and I’m immensely grateful for every single one of you.

Also, your messages and emails and comments about said book. I am overwhelmed, but more on that later. I think I need to talk to you in a Facebook live video (and…back to that bastard). I can’t explain it all right now.

Also, when you sign up for this shit (my newsletter), you will get an ebook I wrote called “To the Mom who Thinks She’s Disappeared.”

No answers, of course, but I definitely see you.

GET ME IN YOUR INBOX

  • Dani

    God, one day I would really love to have someone look at me the way he looks at you. 35 years old, was in a relationship for 12 years, apart from the last 18 months I have only ever been single for a few months at a time, and I still have never had someone I didn’t actually create look at me like they feel that way about me. But what the hell, there’s always ice cream. Enjoy it, treasure it and know that you deserve it.

    • Heather

      This. My first thought when I saw that photo was, “I want someone who looks at me the way Mac is looking at her in this photo.” <3

  • Sarah

    I love this! We are approaching 17 years and what you wrote…is our fucking life story! Brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face! Thank you.

  • Nicole

    I love your posts about marriage. I get so caught up in the “I’m tired and you’re irritating me” moments that I forget he’s actually my best friend and actually did choose this cluster fuck called married life with kids for a reason. Thanks for the reminder! 💓

    Also, I have to be THAT person. How did you like Hamilton!?!?

  • Nicole (but a different one from above)

    Gorgeous and beautiful and raw. And so totally true and relatable.

    PS: $2K?

  • Chris

    Omg. So much of this. Out of the blue (ish), my husband suggested a weekend-ish, not quite a week, vacation for our 20th. He wants to go back to where we had our honeymoon and I’m excited about it. Just us. It’s rather an exhilarating feeling. To not have to worry about the many things that are worrying about normal life.

  • Sarah Simmons

    This is so spot on. Like the other ladies said you are describing my marriage to a T. Also your book is so much more than addiction. My addiction is cookies and yet I identified with because by the mother who just can’t fit in no matter what. I feel like a contradiction of sorts but that’s human. And you put so many of my crazy thoughts and questions and feelings into paper flawlessly thank you and please keep writing.

  • Lorain

    Absolutely spot on. My husband and I spent our 37th anniversary in Chicago, and all we did was eat, go to the Art Institute, and lie around in our hotel room. It was swell. We are now together almost all the time, but somehow being together in another place was fabulous. And, yes, we still fight. We just don’t fight about the kids anymore. Keep that relationship going. Love is the most wonderful, maddening, crazy thing on the earth, and it’s so worth it.

  • Kathy S

    You were in Chicago and you didn’t call?

    • Tina

      @Kathy: She had sex all week, come on! A hottub!

  • Alice

    I love this. I’m glad y’all made the time to reconnect like this. My husband has been my very best friend for 18 years (married for 16 this year). 4 kiddos later I get it. There is nobody I’d rather be with happy, mad, sad, or otherwise than my husband. He’s honestly the best person I’ve ever known. I’m pretty lucky to know he would say the same thing about me.

  • Imelda

    Now, look what you did, you made me cry. at work. Where I shouldn’t read your blogs of course 😉

    Yesterday, we might have been arguing about the proper way (read: my way) to fold the laundry. Which almost ended in WWIII. And divorce. Because I’m too aggressive and he’s too much like his mom.
    Sometimes I just miss my best friend so much, even though we’re sleeping next to each other most of the time.

    We need to get out more. Thank you for this wake up call.

  • amanda

    all of this! married 17 years this summer and also have 4 crazies, er, kids. You nailed it

  • Alison Ziskind

    Oh my God, you’ve described my life and my marriage and the exhaustion and the ecstasy and the desire that comes from liking the hell out of one another. This was a gorgeous piece of writing, and I’ve subscribed to your blog. Which I NEVER do, because frankly, who has the fucking time to witness millennial navel-gazing?

    But for you and this kind of writing? I’m IN. Keep writing, girl. We need this in the world.

  • Jenny Johnson

    Married 21 years and have six kids…I hear ya!! Just yesterday my husband was seeming weird and expressed all this… that he always feels like he’s the last thing tended to, late at night when we are both exhausted. Part of me wanted to say, “Stop your pouting, your expectstions are too high, our life is great!” And part of me really gets it. Maybe I’m more resigned and he’s still holding on to some romantic idea of family. Anyway, thanks for noticing the struggle here.

  • Beth H

    I love this so much! My husband and I (married for 12, together for 18 years) try to go out together on a somewhat regular basis as well. It really reminds me why I like him so much and why I fell in love with him. Plus we get to actually have a conversation without “Dad!” “Mom!” and all the constant interruptions (seriously – how do they KNOW that we’re having a whispered conversation in the bathroom?)…

  • Paige

    I’ve eaten food in Chicago. I also don’t understand how it’s so fucking good. maybe they’re trying to make up for the shit weather.

  • Antoinette

    Been following your for at least five years( spending days reading all your posts ever posted) and it always makes me happy to see an email saying you have a new post.

  • Andrea Mae

    Teared me up reading today. Remembering how much fucking fun we had and how much I miss just him. Talked about it last weekend. I hear and feel you for sure.
    Well done on the room and thank you for the kick in the ass to whip up some magic in my camp.

  • Melissa

    This may be the most relatable post I have ever read. I will definitely find a a way to get away with my husband.

  • Marian

    Ya’ll are sexy people, Janelle! I devoured your book in two days, then gave it to my mom to read. Honestly, if you wrote a label for a jar of mayo, I’d read it. <3

  • Rosemarie

    once again yes! keep writing cause damn I love reading you

  • Natasha

    I started reading your blog because you are real and honest. I do the same on my blog but it’s a completely different niche. The entire point is, I love sites that are real and relatable.

    This post reminded me of my husband and I. It feels good to know that it’s not just us, there are other people that bitch and are irritable on a daily basis yet, that’s life. He is my best friend, no doubt about it. The kids come first as they always will. We are overworked, underpaid, and overtired. And I love that there are other couples just like us! Thanks for posting. You are one badass woman!

  • Charlotte

    THIS: “It isn’t that we don’t like each other, it’s that our daily lives don’t offer many opportunities to remember how much we like each other.”

    I’ve been looking for a way to describe this marriage with small children thing and coming up empty, but it’s this! Thank you for the words.