Jaime's Side: Marriage means "together time"
While Brian and I dated, we drove together to work every day, and ate dinner together almost every night. I dreamed of what it would be like after our wedding—long, leisurely evenings with the two of us cooking together, discussing our day over dinner, and chatting as we washed the dishes. I assumed that would be our marriage, since that's how my parents' marriage was. Mom greeted Dad with a hug and kiss when he arrived home from work. They love being together and are rarely apart. That was exactly the kind of marriage I wanted with Brian.
So when we were newlyweds and Brian didn't come straight home after work, I was crushed. On the nights he had school, he'd get home around 9:30, we'd eat dinner in front of the television, and then go to bed. When he didn't have class, he'd bike and then study or watch TV. And on the weekends, he often left to bike before I got up and didn't come home until late afternoon.
I tried running and biking with Brian, but I'm not athletic and Brian ran competively in college. I saw it wasn't as much fun for him when I'd slow him down.
For a long time, even though I was hurt and frustrated,
I didn't tell Brian what was really bothering me: I didn't feel like a priority to him.
After six months, I knew I had to tell him the truth and make him understand how unhappy I was. "Marriage is about spending time together," I said finally one evening as he prepared to head out on another bike ride. "Lately it feels as though I'm last on your list of priorities. You say you love me, but it sure doesn't feel like it."
Brian acted surprised by my frustration. Why couldn't he understand that I missed him?
Brian's Side: I need my hobbies
While dating, Jaime and I invested a lot of time in getting to know each other. We'd have great conversations during our shared commute to and from work, and I made eating dinner together a priority—even though it meant I rarely had time for staying healthy through my daily run, or biking with friends. When we got married, we purchased a condo closer to work. Since we no longer had to drive together to save gas, I could head home earlier. I was excited that I could get to the trails before dark, have a long run or a bike ride, and then spend the rest of the evening with Jaime.
Growing up, I saw my parents maintain busy after-work lives that took them away from home at least two nights a week. But they maximized their time together—talking as they shopped for groceries, or turning off the radio in the car—while still indulging their individual interests. That's how I assumed my marriage would be.
I never anticipated how much Jaime would miss the time we'd spent commuting, or that she'd feel neglected when my activities didn't include her. So I was surprised when she confronted me and said, "We never see each other."
"What do you mean? We see each other every day!"
When she said she didn't feel loved, I was stunned. I'd thought everything between us was great.
My self worth is connected to staying fit. I was so happy to be getting back into shape, I never realized I was hurting Jaime's feelings. While I didn't want to let her down, I also didn't want to make myself miserable by giving up my hobbies.
What They Did
One evening they sat down to discuss their feelings. "Spending quality time with you makes me feel loved and valued," Jamie told Brian. "Simply seeing each other because we live in the same house isn't the same thing."
Finally, they started to talk about the origin of their expectations: their parents' marriage.
Brian told Jaime how his parents had maintained busy schedules, yet still found time for each other. "When I spend time running or biking, it doesn't mean I don't want to be with you," he told her. "I just enjoy staying in shape and having time with friends."
"When Brian explained that biking helped him feel better about himself, I understood why it was so important to him," Jaime says.
To compromise, Brian and Jaime committed to spend Friday nights together. "Sometimes we cook dinner at home, and sometimes we go out to eat," Jaime says. "We often take a walk at a local park." One Friday, Brian taught Jaime to play cards, and on another occasion, they visited a children's entertainment center and played mini golf.
"Reserving Friday nights for each other was a tangible way for Jaime to see that
I love her and I'm making our marriage a priority," Brian says.
"I've learned that I can't expect Brian to read my mind," Jaime admits. "I'm working on verbalizing my needs, rather than bottling them inside."
In addition, Brian and Jaime are more conscious of how they plan their weekends. When scheduling trips or days out with friends, they try to make their time away from home coincide. That way, they can maximize their time together.
"Now Brian often plans his bike rides around my schedule," Jaime says. "I appreciate when he chooses to spend time with me, but I've also learned that when he does something else, it doesn't mean he doesn't care about me."
And Jaime has been more supportive of Brian's hobbies, even attending his bike races.
"We have a stronger marriage now that we understand that it doesn't have to fit the mold of our parents' marriages," Brian says.
Jaime agrees. "In fact, I appreciate the ways my marriage is different. After all, my mother gets up early every day to pack my father's lunch, but my husband gets up early to pack mine!"
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