The childbearing thing is such a good example. My wife longed to be a mother. She had a very difficult first pregnancy but the smile rarely left her face. On the day of delivery, instead of the Lamaze experience, we had trained for — a couple of pushes to Yanni music and then, bliss — we had a five-alarm fire. Our baby got stuck too far into the birth canal to do a C-section. Both my wife and child were in extreme jeopardy. The troops poured in. I counted over 20 people in the delivery room in the final minutes. In a last desperate act, her OBGYN performed an episiotomy with hedge clippers and no anesthesia. I’ve never heard such a scream of agony.
In the aftermath, I was expecting to live the rest of my life without sex. About an hour after our son was born, my wife told me she’d do it again. I pulled a nurse aside and asked for a psych consult. The woman was out of her mind. If men had babies, we’d be extinct by now. But that’s the joy thing.
“True love is eternal, infinite, and always like itself. It is equal and pure, without violent demonstrations: it is seen with white hairs and is always young in the heart.” – Honore de Balzac
2) Stay Sexually Connected
The needs, sexual triggers, and responsiveness between men and women is so different, it’s amazing that we ever get together. Before children, there is time to work those out. Children bring a heightened level of responsibility and much more work and stress in and out of the home. For all the joy and fulfillment children bring, they kill intimacy. Sex devolves to stolen moments, in the dark, under the covers. When I lead men’s spiritual development groups, one constant lament among men with children was the loss of sexual connection with their wives. Loss of connection makes men vulnerable to temptation and leads to resentment and emotional detachment.
I’ve done my best to keep romance and tenderness in our relationship, but it’s my wife’s continued receptiveness to my sexual advances that have made it work for us. I guess “brace yourself!” isn’t really all that romantic. I never told the men in my groups how much sex my wife and I have managed to share, they’d kill me out of jealousy.
Sex after children has to be a commitment and not an idle intention. My wife suffers from depression, the demons attack her self image and the drugs kill her libido. If I had to wait for her to initiate sex, it would be a long time between sessions. Still, she has found the time and the tenderness to keep our sex life alive. I’ve never strayed. I’ve never even been in a situation where that was a possibility. I cherish what we have too much.
3) See the Good in Your Partner
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” – Sam Keen
My wife is a big believer in “signing up for the whole package,” the good and the bad. She’s been tested on that belief. It’s so easy to find fault with our partners. We just don’t go there. I still refer to my wife as my “bride” and she is. She brags about my handyman skills to her friends. We never air grievances in front of others. We laugh about our Mars/Venus moments. I often remind her that I’m not a mind reader.
We support each other’s outside interests and we give each other a lot of space to enjoy them. A few years ago, at age 54, my wife entered the Mrs. Minnesota Competition, having never been in the beauty pageant game before. We spent money we didn’t have so she could have a chance at something she wanted to do as a little girl. She didn’t win a thing but I was so proud of her for trying.