If you get married in your early 20’s I’m sure life after marriage, especially newlywed life, is comprised of sex, unicorns, and rainbows! However, I think when you get married in your mid 30’s or later the concept of romance and intimacy after marriage profoundly changes. So many television shows and movies over the last century have romanticized newlywed life for so many.
In several months I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of marrying my one and only, my main squeeze, and my partner in crime. I can only share with you what I’ve learned thus far and I’m sure the life lessons will continue to roll in as the year’s progress.
Being a newlywed comes with so many new adventures, challenges, and compromises. I think we were unique as a couple with respect to understanding the intimacies of daily life because of my situation with spinal cord injury. My “now” husband had to intimately understand everything that comes along with my care, my life, and the issues I face. I find so many couples don’t really get to know one another until years after marriage. Still, there are advantages to having a disability as you need to show your partner your whole self because they need to know what they are getting into if they want to be with you for life.
For the two of us, our life (outside of my care) has changed drastically since last May of 2019. We purchased our first home this past November and are in the middle of renovating our new condo to make it more accessible for me. My husband started a new position within his company that has him working nearly 16 hours a day while I am trying to work, live my spinal cord injury life the best I can, and I am practically living at the new condo to oversee the construction.
Frankly, we don’t have much time together anymore at this stage of our life. We are trying to build a home and create security down the road. This certainly doesn’t sound super fun and I have to admit I envisioned a newlywed life with a little bit more traveling, passionate sex, time to be together, and a few other things.
So, how are we still able to connect? I know this is a problem for so many newlyweds as well as marriage veterans who get lost in their lives, work, and then many years down the road later realize they’ve been working towards something, but lose each other in the process.
I’m very cognizant of this fact and it’s important for me to make sure that we remain as one unit and don’t stray in different directions as we continue to build this life. I’ve been pondering this over the last month and I realize that while we don’t have as much playtime and free time as we would like – our intimacy has grown much more intense. On the surface, it may not seem like that to either one of us, but if you look just a little deeper you will find there are so many aspects of our lives together that flow more coherently than when we were just dating.
When you are very young and dating the sparks have to fly, and the passion has to remain hot. It’s no secret that over time companionship plays a greater role in a relationship than the physical connection two people share. However, I’ve really started to pay attention to the small details.
Love is not all of those grand gestures, but the small ones you can’t see and that you may not even think about.
Coming Home from Work
For example, when I get in bed each night I have to lay in a very intentional position to make sure that the sheets are smooth and I have a pillow under my feet to prevent pressure sores; I have all kinds of pillows and stuffed animals left and right of me for comfort; I have this hanging Camelback water bottle so I can reach water by myself all the time, and so many other small, but critically important, details that make me comfortable at night.
When my husband walks in the door after a long day, and I mean a really long day where he sometimes leaves at 4 AM in the morning and doesn’t get back until 6 PM at night, the first thing he does despite the mountains of work he still has is to come into the bedroom, and kiss me. It’s not a fiery, passionate kiss where we rip each other’s clothes off, but one that lets me know he was thinking about me all day and loves me very much. He then proceeds to check my caregivers work with respect to making sure my heels are not touching the bed, I have enough water and ice, and all the blankets are precisely where they need to be, etc.
It’s almost like a reflex that he just automatically performs. Naturally, he doesn’t have to do this as I have my caregivers to help, but he wants to. He wants to make sure I don’t get any pressure sores and spend another year in bed as he met me at a time in my life when I had just undergone pressure sore surgery. He cares, he’s compassionate, and before he starts anything for the night, he makes sure I am all settled. To top it off, every half an hour, he comes into the bedroom to make sure I don’t need anything or want anything. Sometimes he just stops what he’s doing to come and give me another kiss to let me know that he is sorry he has to work so much, but that he’s doing it for us.
These gestures may seem small, but they are huge! We are a team. On the flip side, I make sure that he always has healthy food to come home to, a smiling wife, a clean home, and someone who he can share his day with.
While he is out at work I make sure that construction of our new home is going according to plan and that we have somewhere beautiful to move into in the next month. He trusts me to take care of this and listens if I need his opinion on something.
Don’t misunderstand me; we are definitely not the perfect couple with respect to not fighting. We never outwardly have yelling matches, which I don’t think is very healthy, but we do have our tiffs & disagreements on a variety of things. What I have learned, which I believe is the key to a healthy marriage, is truly how to pick my battles. I get this advice from married veterans all the time.
I get nitpicky on certain things that I feel are very important while he avidly disagrees that it’s important at that moment. Sometimes it’s healthy just to walk away and give each other a few moments or an hour alone. I’m sure everyone will agree with me on this. However, in our situation, it’s a little bit more complicated in that he can’t just leave for an hour while I am alone in bed. So, sometimes we just go to different corners of the house to cool off for a little bit until we can have a more reasonable conversation.
I would be lying if I didn’t say I missed my alone time, but those are just the cards I have been dealt with spinal cord injury. I don’t have that luxury of being alone and going out for an afternoon by myself. This is just part of my life that I have learned to live with, begrudgingly accept sometimes, but mostly just try and go with the flow for my mental sanity.
Out on the Town
Another example is when we are out on the town. Sometimes I slip down in my chair, my feet move sideways, and my clothes ride up in my wheelchair. I don’t even have to tell him and he just knows what to fix, and how to fix it. I, on the other hand, plan our adventures so he doesn’t have to worry about what we are going to do when we do have free time together. I present the options and we make decisions together.
When we do have sex or make love there is such an understanding of what the other person needs, wants, and likes. It takes years to build that trust in a bedroom for any relationship I think. Before I met my husband I would have no problem casually having sex with other people, but the moment they left me I pretty much forgot about them. I never really developed a strong connection with any man from a sexually emotional standpoint. I had a purpose for them and that was it. I know that sounds pretty cold, but that’s how I lived my life prior to getting married. Since marriage, I discovered a whole new world of intimacy – both sexually and emotionally.
Ultimately I believe intimacy comes in those small moments that many cannot see or understand. Sometimes we look at older couples who don’t hold hands or don’t seem to have those intimate moments together that so many of us think should be present in a marriage.
However, intimacy can be as simple as finding your partner an article that they may love to read, making their favorite coffee in the morning or making sure they are not late for work. Intimacy comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages that may not be immediately obvious to any of us or the naked eye.
Throughout history people married for all kinds of reasons, however, mostly for financial security and reputation. We are so fortunate to live in a day and age, and mostly in first world countries where democracy is prevalent. where we can get married for companionship and love.
If you find yourself struggling to connect with your partner try and think about the little things they may do for you that you might not be immediately aware of. Personally, I took my time to get married and waited until I was 36 because I only wanted to do this once. Divorce, unless there are extenuating circumstances, was not an option in my mind. I look at so many couples who get divorced and the heartache, anger, and time it takes to get divorced was more than I ever wanted to have to go through in life. I decided years ago that spinal cord injury was enough heartache for a lifetime, so when I did get married I was going to do my very best to make sure it was only once! Wish me luck and I think we’re off to a great start!
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