Today I read an article from an old issue of More magazine. The gripping piece revealed a torrid love affair between a young single woman and a married-with-children man and her choice to accept his invitation to coffee years later after she had moved on, married, had children, and found happiness. She also chose to stay in touch with him after the coffee date because of the way her heart pounded with excitement and because the way he looked at her “instantly reminded her of what it felt like to be eighteen.” Her fling with the “man who got away” made her feel exquisite. desired. alive in her world of diapers and cheerios and pressed pants and dust rags and boredom.
I believe there is truth in the love languages. The problem is, I’m needy and trilingual, responding best to words of affirmation, physical touch, and quality time. And sadly, we sit on separate couches, work different shifts, and keep different sleep schedules. We run out of things to talk about. We are alone up here. Alone and together, two people who know everything about the other. Is it possible to feel so familiar yet so disconnected? Don’t you want to learn about me? Touch me? Find me smart and funny or precious or pretty?
I complain often that I liked us better when we were dating. I felt closer to him then somehow. We’ve been together for over ten years, he reasoned. It’s not the same. It’s not going to be the same. But it isn’t fair, I think. It’s not fair to make the wife sacrifice and not get to have the good stuff, the fun, the adventure. So I tell him. I use my words that I sometimes forget to speak because I’m accustomed to choking down disappointment.
And so he pulls me off of “my couch” and onto his lap. He tells me he remembers that I was wearing a tight red and blue striped shirt with a white collar and tiny jeans. A too-skinny late-blooming girl. Loose hair. Tight morals. Fifteen. And he was twenty, having all kinds of inappropriate thoughts. We went to feed his friend’s horses, a daunting task because one was evil. But I walked right up to the horse, not knowing it was mean one, talking gently and stroking its mane. I think he loved me then. Even then. And I remembered. I remember every rush of seeing him and knowing he saw me.
And as we age into old, into married, into old married couple, he reminds me again that I am seen. And I catch small glimpses, nostalgic sparks of what it feels to be fifteen, eighteen, twenty-three. And someday he’ll remind me of the rush it felt to be twenty-five and thirty, how well-loved I was. I am. How I adore him still and look at him with teenage-twinkle-eyes. I am lucky. I am lucky this hard marriage comes with so much history that makes it work. I am lucky that I don’t need to have some wild mistake to take me out to remind me of what it felt like to be alive. I like the contentment of knowing that every passion-flash of memory has been, will be with him, and that any little flicker-flame of reconnection can reignite.