I didn’t realize what a selfish person I was until I got married. Even after that, I couldn’t really understand the depth of my need for ‘me time’ until I had children. As the only child of parents who were in and out of the picture, I never really had to worry about anyone but myself. I didn’t have to battle anyone for the last brownie or compete for my mother’s attention. But it was extremely lonely, and I often found myself wishing I had a long-long twin somewhere!
About ten years into my marriage, I remember a certain conflict my husband and I had that taught me the principle of sacrifice. We had three kids ages two to eight. I stayed home with our kids while my husband worked and attended school, both full-time. It was an exhausting time for all of us, and yet now I find myself looking back on that time with longing. My children were all still babies, really—small and squishy and in constant need of something. Attending to their needs was physically draining, and I found that I couldn’t wait for them to become just a little more self-sufficient. Escape was my method of coping at that time: girls’ night out, book clubs, Relief Society activities, writing group, even drink-runs with friends. Anything to get me out of the house. What I couldn’t see was that my escape was leaving the one person who should have been top priority out in the cold.
My husband and I were in the car when I mentioned that I had just joined a new book club that would be meeting that week. He didn’t react well to this additional time out of the house, and I immediately became upset. My verbal defense was something along the lines of, “I need to get out of the house! What do you want me to do, never experience anything but you and the kids? I need more than that!” He then calmly brought to my attention the fact that I would be gone every night that week with all of my activities, and he wondered where he fit into things. While it took me a while to simmer down from this confrontation, I soon saw that I hadn’t been making our relationship a priority. So, I decided not to join that book club, which I resented at first. Once I did readjust my focus to my husband, I saw how very much I had neglected him. It is a lesson I will never forget.
It’s tough, putting your partner first—particularly when you have a small army of little people whose needs are so immediate. But, feedings and changings aside, no earthly thing should come before your marriage. Nothing. If any other relationship does so, then there is a problem. This is a lesson I’ve had several times, and I don’t expect it’s over just yet, either. Something I’ve come to see over the years (some of which I’ve prayed to know why life has to be tipped quite so far on the opposition side of the scale) is that marriage and parenthood (family life) is Celestial boot camp. In this stew, all the imperfect ingredients are boiled together, simmering until our reduction is the consistency God wants it to be.