Alisa Bowman is a recovering divorce daydreamer, professional writer, and blogger at http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com.
How did having a child impact your marriage?
I'm a freelance writer and my husband was unemployed when I got pregnant. I suggested he get a job--even if it was at McDonald's--by the time the baby came so I could have some maternity leave. Instead he decided to open a business. Instead of no income, he had a negative $40,000 income thanks to the second mortgage we took on the house to buy inventory for the business. I went back to work after only 5 weeks off. Our daughter had colic and did not sleep well, if at all. She napped in two 20 minute bursts and was up every two hours at night. I was breast feeding, so I was the one getting up at night. I had the baby home with me during the day because I didn't think we could afford daycare on my salary and because I had this mistaken belief that I could work around the baby. My husband was working 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. When he wasn't working, he was riding his bike or out with his friends. When he was home, he was in front of the TV. I was wiped. I could not communicate. I couldn't even think straight. Early one morning, I sat in the car in the driveway with the motor running because I couldn't remember how to turn on my headlights. I fantasized about driving my car into trees. I was in bad shape.
We obviously had this issue of him doing whatever he wanted and taking me for granted, and of me not speaking up for myself. Before the baby, it was just a minor issue because, honestly, I am very independent and really didn't need him all that much. After the baby, though, I DID need him, but I felt too weak to ask for help. I wanted to be that super mom who can do it all herself. I would actually say things like, "Don't you think I am the perfect wife? Don't you love me for doing all of this?" And I wasn't being sarcastic. I really wanted that validation. It was SICK.
So things really went downhill. We stopped having sex. We stopped communicating. I felt resentful and taken advantage of. I started to hate his friends, his bike, his favorite hangouts, him. I fantasized about him dropping dead because... gee that would have been so convenient!
What one thing would you credit to turning your marriage around?
My friend Deb. On Mother's Day of 2007 I had dinner with her and I ranted about my husband over and over and for a very long time. She was very patient. She eventually asked, "Why are you staying together?" That led me to me asking, "When will I know it's time to give up?" And her telling me, "Have you tried everything? Have you tried counseling?" We really hadn't tried anything. So I came home. I gave him an ultimatum, and I went on Amazon and ordered 12 marital improvement books. We broke our issues down into categories: forgiveness, sex, intimacy, communication, romance. And we took one step at a time within one category at a time toward a better marriage.
What do you do now to keep the love alive?
Whenever I am pissed off, I say something. I talk to my husband a lot more than I ever did, and I don't feel guilty about it. When I need help, I ask for it. When I want something, I ask for it. When I'm sad, I tell him. When I'm tired, I tell him. When I can't stand playing Chutes and Ladders for another second longer, I tell him. When I'm about to lose it with our daughter, I call and ask him to come home from work. I don't keep anything to myself. Heck, I tell him when I feel fat, when I have a migraine and that I feel grumpy from PMS. He knows it all. I try to be as transparent as I can possibly be, so he never has to guess at how I feel, what I want, or what I am thinking. He knows.
I also try to compliment him and validate him whenever I can. I hug him. I tell him he looks skinny. I thank him for whatever he does around the house. I make comments about how nice the yard looks after he's cut the grass.
And I have really made our sex life a huge priority. I'm continually thinking up ways to keep things steamy and spicy in the bedroom.
And he does the same for me. He tells me he likes my butt in a certain pair of jeans. He makes a big deal about my cooking. After I clean the house, he'll walk into a room and say, "I don't even know where I am! is this my house? This can't be my house!"
We also put our marriage first and make time for just us, without our daughter. I really think that's important in terms of romance, not to mention personal sanity.