There are two times in my marriage that I fell out of love with my husband.
The first was about two and a half years in. The honeymoon shine had officially worn off, and suddenly the pangs of marrying so young and with so much growing up left to do were too stark and painful to ignore.
I’ll always remember that feeling of falling out of love as tumultuous. It was riddled with anger and disenchantment and doubt—so much doubt—that we would make it through this.
But it’s also when I learned to listen. When I learned to reflect. When we grew up together and did make it through.
We called them the “dark times.” And we promised it would never, ever happen again.
And then we had our first baby.
The effect on our marriage wasn’t immediate, but the tiny wedges and cracks that developed during the hard moments of parenting took their toll, gradually expanding into huge voids where I felt completely disconnected from my husband.
Whereas the first bout of falling out of love felt juvenile in my mind, the work of two immature kids who needed to just grow up a bit, this second round felt markedly different. It felt angrier. It felt lonelier. It felt like—maybe—it might never end.
I felt overwhelmed by this all-consuming new role of motherhood while I perceived my husband carrying on like nothing had changed. His life appeared to have remained utterly unaffected by our family’s new addition, which boggled my struggling, sleep-deprived mind.
Things continued to fester for months until one day, I had a revelation: While I was consumed with my own drowning and my growing resentment for this man who didn’t seem to notice, I was doing nothing to build up my marriage.
I realized I had failed as a wife. I had failed to keep my husband and our relationship first, so consumed I was with giving our baby everything I had.
“It shouldn’t matter,” I would tell myself scornfully. “I’m doing everything for us. I’m still working for us. When I get up three times a night with the baby, it’s for us. It’s his problem if he doesn’t see it that way.”
But as much as I tried to deny it, it was impossible to ignore the fact that any problem with our family—any problem with our marriage—was very much my problem, too.
And so I finally started speaking up. I voiced my exhaustion, my resentment, my crushing mental load. And I was astounded to hear that he had been floundering too, uncertain how to balance the husband I craved with the father our daughter needed.
We both resolved to try harder, to be the team we had always intended to be.
We still struggled. We still fought on occasion. But slowly—sometimes so slowly you couldn’t even notice—things got better.
We grew up and grew together in ways I never could have predicted in the depths of those dark times. In ways I never could have imagined even on our best day.
We had fallen out of love, but when we grew back together, it was with a weathered strength that left us better equipped to handle whatever life (and the terrible twos!) could throw at us.
I left this second round of “dark times” differently than I had the first. I wasn’t so naïve as to think the dark days couldn’t roll around again, but I felt a newfound confidence that they couldn’t affect us quite as harshly.
Yes, there would be (hopefully!) more children in our future, and with them would come new changes and new challenges. But the lessons we learned from falling out of love were the kind I felt confident would carry us through.
When I look at my husband now, the man and father he has become and the incredible support he provides our family, I’m so, so grateful I didn’t give in to the dark days. That I let us fall back in love and become the couple we are today.
It’s not a fairy tale, and this isn’t the end, but it feels pretty happy after all.