[Editor's note: This story is a letter from a woman to her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]
I am not the same woman I was when I married you.
When we met, I was independent, confident, adventurous and free. I was ready for new challenges, I was focused on my career, I was dedicated to taking care of my health and fitness. I wanted to travel, go out to dinners and have drinks with friends.
Four years and two kids later, I am different. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I would change anything about our lives together, especially anything about our two precious babies, but I need you to know that I am not the same. And I need to know you can handle that and that you'll still love me.
You see, I have never "needed" much from another person, let alone a man. So it's hard for me to admit that I need this kind of reassurance from you. But, my love, I am knocked off kilter. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can't set my own compass straight and I am constantly teetering on the edge of nostalgia and a new version of myself that I haven't quite yet identified.
In my past, I have dreamt about this beautiful family we now have, but I am realizing I never quite thought about what I would identify with in this phase... what would make me, me.
Is it the way I make dinner? Change diapers? The words I choose to use when disciplining our toddler or comforting our infant? The decorative pillows I purchase for our living room? Or maybe it's the running list of things I purchase and do each week to keep everyone in the house fed and clean (queue the diapers, wipes, dish soap, laundry, drop-offs and pickups, the food… all the things that go with the food, the planning, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, packing of lunches, cleaning everything).
Is this me? Is this what makes me who I am now?
Sometimes I feel our house, our familial life, is like a shiny, new, high-functioning computer and I am the hard drive just silently humming in the background getting it all done. You see, I love taking care of you and our kids and doing all of these things. I really do. It is just that it never ends, it is constant, and someone always needs something. And so at the end of the day, when it is just you and me, I need to reset. And sometimes, I need you to be the one to hit the reset button for me.
I need you to look me in the eyes when we talk, to put your phone down, to make me feel like I am the only thing that matters when we are alone, even if it is just for a few meaningful moments each day.
My husband, this is not to say that I don't recognize all that you do for us. Simply stated, I could not do this without you. Nor would I ever want to.
But that is just it. That is what I am scared of. I am afraid of losing you. Maybe it's because I feel like I have lost part of myself and I don't know yet how to find it. Maybe it's because I constantly feel less than desirable—given my constant swap between yoga pants (that I don't even do yoga in anymore) and pajama pants (that are far from flattering).
Maybe it's because I am somehow lonely even though there is literally another human attached to me at any given point in any given day. Maybe it's because I know that what I need from you is different than before, and I am terrified that you won't be able to give it to me.
I need more affection and attention from you. I almost hate to admit it—it feels uncomfortable for me to say so, but it is true. I know I didn't need you to tell me that I am beautiful every day and that I am doing a good job at x, y, or z when we first got married, but I do now. And I don't mean that it would be nice or that I would like it if you could please compliment me every once in a while, I am telling you that I need it.
I need you to physically get up and walk over to me and give me a hug instead of asking me to come to you. I need you to initiate intimate connections and be the assertive one in bed more often than me. I need you to text me or leave me a note telling me that I am a great mom and wife or that you love me... and then tell me why.
I need you to sound happy to hear my voice on the phone during the day because I dream of you getting home and being with me. I need you to give me a big hug when you get home because even though I could use a "touch-break", I don't want you to be the one to take the cut.
I need you to look me in the eyes when we talk, to put your phone down, to make me feel like I am the only thing that matters when we are alone, even if it is just for a few meaningful moments each day. I need you to say thank you and I love you and to find ways to acknowledge this new me.
I am asking for your help. I want to find myself again, I want to feel confident and sure of myself again. I know we all need that to happen and I want my children to reap the benefits of that. And so, dear husband, I am asking you: for right now, while I will keep taking care of all the people and things I take care of day in and day out, would you please take a little bit more care of me?
No, I am not the same woman I was when I married you, but I pray you'll still love me for who I am today... and who I will be tomorrow. And, my love, please know... I am doing the same for you.