Reclaiming Wife: Cecily, 14 Years In

As some of you may remember, I had the joy of meeting Cecily, who writes at Uppercase Woman, this September at Mighty Summit. In fact, when I got back, I wrote about a conversation I had with Maggie and Cecily about money, that shook me up and made me take a harder look at myself. Though Cecily and I were hardly the most obvious demographic match at The Summit, she was the person I walked away feeling like I’d known my whole life. So when she asked me if I’d be interested in her writing about marriage from the perspective 14 years in… I jumped on it. Cecily and her husband have been through more than most of us can imagine – addiction, death of twin babies late in pregnancy, and financial unraveling. But when I asked her what she most wanted to talk about, she said, “Just surviving the day to day boredom.” So here is Cecily (who’s blog you should totally be reading), being wise:

I met my husband when I was 18, and he was 25. We met at a bar, chatted each other up, had a couple of phone calls, and finally went on a date.

It sucked.

For the next few years we’d run into each other fairly often (Philadelphia really is a small town, and we went to small bars), but other than saying hello, we weren’t really on each other’s radar much. Until November 15th, 1992 when we ran into each other on the way to breakfast, ended up spending the day together, and fell in love. There were a couple of complications (er, he was married to someone else), but a month later, we began our lives together in earnest.

Yes, you read that right. My husband and I have been together since 1992, when I was a mere 24 years old and he was 30. It’s been 18 years.

We got married on October 19th, 1996. Ironically, we had a total APW wedding; we made the invitations ourselves out of our love poems for each other, we had a potluck reception and our entire wedding cost less than $1,200 including my dress. We were also newly sober, madly in love, and excited to begin this next step in our journey.

In our 18 years together, we’ve faced down some big hurdles. The drinking, then the drugs, then sobriety. Growing apart. Changing tastes. Reading of private journals. Infertility. A late pregnancy loss of twin boys, and my near death. Raising a daughter. Job losses. Financial struggles. Foreclosure. Bankruptcy.

Yet, without a doubt, I know that I am married to the man of my dreams, that he is my soul mate and my one true love. I never, ever, ever forget that, not for a minute, even when he drives me UTTERLY INSANE.

Yes. There have been times when it sucked. When our communication issues were so dense that they seemed irresolvable. When every single breath he took irritated me down to the bone and I didn’t think I could stand one more minute. When he felt like each little thing he did drew nothing from me but sharp criticism to the point that he felt unsafe breathing (see that connection there?). When everything seemed utterly impossible.

But we persevered. And? We’re happy.

I think there is are three critical things you need to have a successful and enduring relationship.

  • Communication
  • Time Together
  • Time Apart

Communication seems obvious, but dudes, you must keep working at it. It is SO easy in long term relationships to slide into habits that wall off the ability to communicate. Even now, 18 years in, we struggle to remember to talk to each other at the end of the day after our daughter is asleep rather than just open our laptops and disappear into the internet. The way I know we’re not communicating well is when every interaction ends in bickering. Sadly, it’s during times of heavy bickering that you want to communicate the least, but you have to push through the annoyance and TALK.

Time together also seems obvious, but I mean time TOGETHER. I mean sex, intimacy, long walks, sitting across from each other having dinner alone, nights away from everything – TOGETHER. When we haven’t had enough time alone, we find the first hour we DO spend together is usually irritable and edgy until we wear away the rough edges and begin to actually relax into each other. Again, you just have to push through. MAKE IT A PRIORITY. Doing laundry together, grocery shopping – all of this can be great time alone. Hell, Charlie and I have some of the greatest fun together we ever have grocery shopping (uh, when our daughter isn’t with us, I should add).

Time apart. Oh, in those early days, time apart seems so awful, doesn’t it? You miss each other. You call every half hour. Trust me, that does change. I often travel for work and while I miss my husband, I also relish getting to be my own person. Charlie enjoys taking his 72 Ford Maverick downtown and taking photographs or chasing trains. I like going to see crappy movies by myself. I miss my family terribly when I’m away, but I return feeling more like Cecily and less like Wife or Mother, and honestly, that’s GREAT for our relationship.

There’s far more to making a life together work, but I’m only going to say one last thing: in order to be happy in my relationship, I – personally – need to be happy. That means I need to be pursuing my dreams, doing things I love on a regular basis, and taking care of myself. The same is true for Charlie. If we aren’t strong and happy individuals, we have no chance of having a successful partnership. This doesn’t mean that we don’t each have weak times where we prop each other up – we do – but in the long view, we are ourselves first, and partners second. Well, these days, we’re parents first, but that would be a whole other post, wouldn’t it?

Picture: by the lovely Maile Wilson

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  • A usual poster going anon

    First of all, I love seeing posts that are from wives whose baby families have grown into more mature ones. It’s a way for the rest of us to get a clue, particularly if we don’t want to (or can’t) ask the ones around us about the practicalities of marriage further in.

    But, as ridiculous as this may sound, my favorite part of this post was the knowledge that all the “hard stuff” has been manageable, and that it’s the “little stuff” that should be the main focus. It was my favorite because it was reassuring. I recently married an alcoholic, and he’s absolutely wonderful. In all the time I’ve known him he’s only had 1 bad lapse (but boy was it bad). But we went through counseling, worked through it, and I trust in our future. But during that time I had gone to an Al-Anon meeting and the pervading sense was how God-awful everything could be, and almost would be. Which is scary. Yet to know that others have relationships where there are addiction issues, and still know that their main concern is “normal” relationship issues is a relief.

    Anyway, thanks so much for posting this and maybe we’ll get more guest posts from Cecily. And I’ll definitely be checking out your blog!

    • A usual poster going anon

      So much for going anon, I forgot about Gravatar and that picture!

      • I think that if you use a different email address it won’t keep your photo, for next time!

      • hehe, don’t feel dumb. i have tried to get my gravatar to work a few times and my picture still doesn’t show up! oh well.

    • Thank you so much for you comment! I think it makes so much sense to focus on the ‘normal’ and the ‘big’ stuff will work itself out. I think that’s a huge part of enjoying life, you know – realizing what is here and now instead of the big things that could be. And, if you do find yourself in need of another al-anon meeting, there are those out there that focus more on the wonderful aspects of people and life, including the wonderful aspects of those in our life who suffer addiction, instead of how bad things can be. If that one meeting was focused on the bad, I’d skip it and look for another one, if you decide you want to return in the future.

      • memery

        agreed. mine is full of awesome people who make me feel awesome (and so not alone.)

    • We have a fellowship in common there (and boy did it help my marriage!)


  • B

    Hi Cecily :) Thanks for being so honest about your relationship on here – it is very much appreciated!

    One of the main things you said that grabbed me was that when you haven’t had enough time alone together the first hour you are together is usually irritable and edgy before you relax into each other again. That really strikes a chord with me. I sometimes feel bad because my fiance is much more comfortable and easygoing than I am and he seems to welcome my presence easily, where I occasionally need more time to adjust to being ‘us’ again and not JUST ‘me’ (although I don’t ever stop being me…I hope this is making some sense!). It was lovely to hear that it’s not only me that needs time to find how I fit with The Boy again – wearing away the rough edges and relaxing into each other describes it perfectly!

    Again, many thanks for the post and congratulations on making it through everything to where you are today :)

    • Trisha

      That really grabbed me too. i’m a rather solitary, definitely private person by nature. Even with my closest friends, if I have something I want to talk about, it takes me a couple of hours to get to the point where I’m ready to talk. How much more so with my husband sometimes, in a relationship that I’m so much more emotionally invested in. If we don’t spend enough time together, I definitely need to readjust to having him so close before I feel entirely comfortable.

  • Cecily, thank you so much for talking about these things. Your and Charlie’s perseverance is inspiring – so many relationships fail because of the things you two have faced (and probably the boring day to day stuff is the most common culprit!). It’s a great reminder that no matter where you are in life or how easy (or hard) it seems now, it takes work to maintain a strong relationship.

  • This:

    “In order to be happy in my relationship, I – personally – need to be happy. That means I need to be pursuing my dreams, doing things I love on a regular basis, and taking care of myself. The same is true for Charlie. If we aren’t strong and happy individuals, we have no chance of having a successful partnership. ”


    Also? This post reminded me of an Oprah (I know, I know) episode in which she was talking to a woman who had been married for 70-ish years. When asked the secret to a successful marriage for so many years, the woman responded along the lines of “We spend time apart from one another. Often. We’ve remained individuals who take care of ourselves, and of each other.” She then talked about life since retirement – how, in the first years after they each retired, it was like a new relationship…lots of struggles and arguments and frustration…they finally realized that what made their relationship work was being apart from one another for a majority of the day, so they found activities to keep themselves busy/out of the house for a majority of the day. It was a way, she said, of having something to talk to each other about, because if you spend your life witnessing the entire life of another person, you will lose communication points quickly. There won’t be “Did you see/hear/read/do this?” You’ll know exactly what they did, when they did it. And there is allure in certain “secrets” and the revealing of those secrets.

    • Leona

      See, this is where I’m having a ton of problems right now.
      Right after our wedding, my man and I moved to a new, very small, very wealthy community where neither of us have friends. I’m having a terrible time of finding a job so for almost two months, I’ve been taking care of the house and our dogs day in and day out. I’m trying to find things to do but I just can’t afford many of the activities around here so I spend my free time reading and playing video games. I’m having health problems that prevent me from exercising in my favorite ways and I get a migraine every single day.
      On top of that, Husband is always on call for work right now so even when he’s home, it doesn’t always feel like he’s present. I wind up doing everything alone and we have these stupid arguments because suddenly it feels inconsiderate for him to leave his dishes in the sink or his dirty clothes on the floor. I wish I’d had this post yesterday. I cried for hours because Husband ate my lunch and forgot to leave me money to get groceries.
      The thing that makes me know my husband is the man of my dreams is not that he never screws up but that when he does and I’m on the phone bawling my eyes out, he’s really, really sorry and does his best to change. When everything is wrong and I feel like I’m not who I want to be, he wants to help me be happy. Neither one of us can go all out in pursuing the things we dream of until his military commitment is up but I know I’m so lucky in having a sincere person for my life partner. That’s what I’m trying to focus on because I think keeping positive thoughts is half the battle when you’re stuck in a bad place.

      • Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. I hate those times when things are all impossible.

        And migraines SUCK. I have them all the time and they’ve made it VERY hard to live a normal life.

        But because I’m annoying, can I suggest volunteering somewhere? Just to get out, maybe make some connections, and have something to do? :)

        • Leona

          I was actually thinking of trying this. I just got accepted to grad school for Library Science and was hoping a local library would let me volunteer with them (or, pray God, pay me).

          And as for making friends, I’m really working on that too. Husband’s unit has a support group for spouses and I’ve had a crazy itch to start a book club for twenty-somethings in my area. I think I just need to put myself out there and maybe I’ll get some yes’s and feel the warm glow of inspiration again.

          • I absolutely agree about volunteering. I’ve had this experience a couple of times, and volunteering has been a lifeline that I cling to. It gives outside experience, provides friends/like-minded people, and helps me feel like I’m contributing.

          • Alyssa

            Unit? Are you military, because they have AMAZING groups for spouses out there as well as volunteer opportunities. Maybe check out your local Family and MWR? (That is assuming you’re military AND Army. Anything else I got nuthin’ for ya. :-) )
            Also, check on Facebook and see if you have APW ladies in your area!

            But I feel ya on the migraines and I hope everything gets better!

          • Anon

            Definitely try to get a volunteer library position, maybe the grad school can help. I have my MLIS and had a hard time getting a job out of the program because they want a lot of experience. Finding a paid job can take a while because they are usually union jobs so people don’t leave and the process takes a while.

            Also, it really may help with your relationships and the migraines if they are at all stress induced. Perhaps a distraction would be good- libraries are very relaxing!

      • I am about to be in your situation– I have lupus, my husband-to-be is joining the Navy so that I can quit my job (kind of necessary now that I’m terminal), and I’ll be mostly staying home taking care of the house and dogs, and probably being bored out of my mind. I’m a teacher so I thought I might sub on good days, or volunteer tutor, or something. I have migraines with the lupus, not every day but it used to be every other day and man does it ever suck.

        I do find that my fiance and I have very similar taste in books and we’ve both read extensively, but in slightly different genres, so it’s fun to recommend books to each other and then discuss them– kind of a two-person book club. I wish you all the best, I know all about dealing with those nasty health issues that keep you from doing all the things you would like to do.

        • B

          Hi Amber :)
          You may have already mentioned the fact that you’ve got terminal lupus and I missed it, but I couldn’t let it go without saying something. Honey that really sucks. I hope the rearranging of your life brings you more joy than boredom and my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your fiance especially. :)

          • Leona

            Exactly. Hugs for you, Amber. I hope your new life is filled with opportunities to experience love and happiness and peace but absolutely not boredom.

      • Oh goodness Leona, I was in your shoes this summer. I had just finished my masters and was hunting for work, but I was living in the suburbs with my fiance when all my friends lived in the city. I was bored out of my mind.

        I got over it by taking a lot of walks, going to the library, and reading a lot. Take up a new pursuit — if you’ve ever wanted to learn to knit, do it (or something similar). Don’t sit around your home all day. Go explore different neighborhoods and find a new favorite coffee shop or bakery. A lot of people told me to volunteer (I never did, but I wish I had).

        Best wishes!

      • ddayporter

        I was just going to suggest, and then it occurred to me that we could have been using that site this whole time to coordinate APW meetups. ! anyway seriously check it out, put in your zip code and see if there are any groups near you, doing anything close to interesting. I have a feeling it’s mostly in urban areas, but I have no idea!

      • Christine

        “The thing that makes me know my husband is the man of my dreams is not that he never screws up but that when he does and I’m on the phone bawling my eyes out, he’s really, really sorry and does his best to change. When everything is wrong and I feel like I’m not who I want to be, he wants to help me be happy. Neither one of us can go all out in pursuing the things we dream of until his military commitment is up but I know I’m so lucky in having a sincere person for my life partner. That’s what I’m trying to focus on because I think keeping positive thoughts is half the battle when you’re stuck in a bad place.”

        This is what I wanted to hear. I was in that situation. But I did not realize he was really, really sorry, and did not see he really really changed. I did not want to get happy. I did not realize I was lucky. I was bawling more than ever. So now I am truly alone after he decided the battle is lost when the place is great but the thoughts are negative (with me).

        Now I get the pleasure of seeing responses from smart, compassionate women like you feeling what I had learnt not but hadn’t when I should. Living the dream life that I wanted but didn’t know how to get.

    • WOW. That kind of makes the prospect of being on aboat with just one husband for a year seem rather daunting. It is an important reminder to keep our indivdual interests and pursuits even when in a confined space together. Thanks to both Cecily and Adria…

      • I think being physically apart and being mentally apart might help. Someone can be 5 feet away and it can feel like there is a brick wall between you if you are both engaging in different things (even if it’s reading two separate books). Being “alone” is relative, especially if you’re in a confined space for a long period of time – I get antsy when my fiance and I are driving 8 hours to my parents house, but there is some peace that comes when I look out the window and know that I’m looking at things that he isn’t…if that makes sense.

        And Leona, I know that there is some inherent solitude that comes with moving to a new place with no friends/family. I did it 6 years ago for a job and it is hard. HARD. But keep in mind that making friends doesn’t cost money – I’m sure there are meet-ups of people doing things that you enjoy doing in your neck of the woods, they have them most anywhere. Or perhaps you can find support through other military spouses/families. Or other APWers. Just make sure that you keep the communication with your husband open through this hard time. I think that was a key point in Cecily’s post today.

      • My fiance and I lived in a one room apartment for 3 months in France, where he doesn’t speak the language and he worked from home. AKA he never left the house, and I went a little bonkers every now and then. It was important to communicate that to him and then he would go on a walk to a nearby park, or go buy some bread. That usually was enough to refresh me, it seemed. And while we were traveling, and therefore doing everything together, we occasionally had to pick a meet-up point and go off on our own for a few hours. We usually needed something to that effect every 4-5 days. Being in close proximity for an extended period of time can be difficult, but it’s totally possible as long as you are in constant communication about your own and your partner’s mental state. :)

    • Love the Oprah mention. My favorite line from Cecily is: “we are ourselves first, and partners second.” Yes. This idea lets me sigh out loud…it’s okay, it’s healthy to do this. Remember this, me.

  • Caroline

    It is really great to hear that the way to survive, and thrive, through the big complicated things that we often have no control over (and you and Charlie have dealt with many) is to focus on the fundamental things that we CAN control. It’s empowering. And important.

    Also, as grocery shopping with my partner is one of the highlights of my week (no, seriously, it is like therapy to walk down those aisles) it is nice to know that our little favorite things can be big things.

    • ka

      A big me too to grocery shopping! I swear that was one of the things that made me go, I could marry this man, because we could make something so mundane awesomely fun. Sometimes I think about how much time and energy it would save for just one of us to go or to have our groceries delivered, but how could I give up one of our best “together” times?

  • I’m about to post this all over my Twitter and Facebook. This is, I think, one of the most important posts I’ve ever read here on APW. I really believe that married couples have somewhat of an obligation (for lack of a better word…it’s early) to talk to newly married couples about marriage. Sometimes it sucks. A lot of times is awesome. Shit. Happens. So often couples are stuck in “wedding omg wedding YAY I’m so EXCITED wedding wedding happiness joy wedding YAY!” that they don’t realize they’re about to embark on something SO MUCH BIGGER than having a damn wedding. Reading about life “after the honeymoon” as I like to call it, is so refreshing and eye-opening and important. So thank you, Cecily, I really appreciate your honesty.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I totally agree. At my bridal shower I got a lot of “be generous”, “don’t go to bed mad”, “always keep your sense of humor” type advice about marriage. But 6 months in I’m beginning to suspect that the key to successful marriages wouldn’t fit inside a fortune cookie. I also have had a hard time having honest open discussions with the women in my life who would know.

      I really appreciate the long-form discussion on what puts people in the position to have a happy marriage. Thanks Cecily for sharing, and thanks Meg for starting (and always continuing) the discussion.

      • Erika Murdock

        This is what APW is for – to talk about all the stuff that most often only gets said in therapists offices…or not at all! And I agree….no more cookie-cutter advice, be creative people!

  • Excellent, simple advice. Going into my 3rd year of marriage, it’s not like there’s the weight of 18 years of experience acting as a driving force, but truly, it is the best advice I have received and then given. Too bad magazines don’t publish this when they dole out advice. I guess truths don’t sell as well as “What does he/she REALLY mean when he/she says…?”

    And, what Adria wrote, about how spending time away from one another allows for each other to have communication topics (“Did you see/hear/know [fill in blank]?”). Totally spot on. What I love about my husband is that, even when we spend too much time together (and for us, that actually happens more than some people want to admit – haha), and we are running out of things to say, he’ll pull something up from the BBC that he read about on lunch break. And suddenly, we have a whole new menagerie of things to talk about. We can only talk about high schoolers and sick animals so long before we get bored. Solving the problems of the world, one BBC/NPR news article at a time? Yeah, that’s more like it.

    • Class of 1980

      Discussing world issues is wonderful and I love it, but it only works if you married someone whose mind you love and respect.

      Not many people mention intellectual equality and how important it is. I have found it to be a deal-breaker for me from dreary experience. ;) It’s another one of those compatibility things.

      • I remember reading a line in a novel that stated that to truly love someone you have to admire them. Not just admire “I think you’re awesome”, but really deeply wish that you had a bit of the other person in your own character. I think that from that perspective intellectual compatibility (love that phrase) is an absolute must.

        Incidentally, does anyone else recognise that sentiment? I’d always attributed the thought to Kip from the English Patient, but on a recent re-read I couldn’t find it anywhere! So frustrating…

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          That sentiment is expressed repeatedly in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, but the language is so different that I doubt that’s where you picked it up. Rand is big on the idea that admiration and respect of someone’s intellect and values is the basis of romantic love, but she’s not terribly quotable.

          • Liz

            it’s repeated in many of rand’s works including the fountainhead and anthem.

          • Liz

            though, it could be jane austen.

          • Danielle

            A friend of mine told me that Ayn Rand said something like, “Before you can say ‘I love you,’ you need to be able to say ‘I’.”

            I love that.

        • Morgan

          “Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence, had vanished forever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. ”


          ““Lizzy,” said her father, “I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse any thing, which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about.””

          Jane Austen, both from Pride and Prejudice. Could be from one of her other books – that unequal marriages cause unhappiness was a bit of a reoccuring theme.

          (I may have watched the 6 hour BBC version more than once. Ahem.)

          • Faith


            Perfection. Thank you:)

          • Liz

            let’s nix the book club this time around and just get together and watch the 6 hour bbc pride and prejudice.

            there’s marital wisdom in there, i swear.

            and mr. darcy. i mean, c’mon.

          • ka

            @ Liz. Oh hell yes.

          • A-L

            I love that y’all get Austen. And the5hr version of P&P (6 50-minute episodes). The minister may have even mentioned my obsession with that movie as a point of sympathy for my dear husband during our wedding ceremony. But yeah. P&P book club! P&P movie club. Janeites, unite!

        • Austen might not come out and say it, but look at Elizabeth and Darcy–just what you mentioned. I truly admire my partner: he teaches me daily how to be a kind, honest and patient person. And he kicks my ass at Scrabble, which just chaps my hide! And I hope I teach him something. Scratch that. I know I do!

          A friend of mine married someone who is not the sharpest tool in the shed. She loves him because he’s a hunk and treats her well. But he atrophies her mind, and all of her intellectual stimulation she garners from her work and friends. I know our partners can’t fulfill all of our needs, but I agree, intellectual match is a deal breaker for me. I always wonder what they talk about when the air waves are silent. Probably how hot he is. ;)

          • Angel

            Oh, yes! My mom keeps trying to play matchmaker, and when asking me what I could possibly object to about a certain young man, all I could think of was “He doesn’t read!”(by which I meant he doesn’t read any more than he has to… he doesn’t read for pleasure)

            She thought that was the silliest reason ever, but I understood later that what I was objecting to is that we’d have nothing to talk about. Intellectually we were in very different places and I’d never be able to discuss books with him. He was fine as an acquaintance, but nothing more than that, thank you.

      • Being able to converse intelligently, openly, diversely with my partner is something that was key in the search and also something that I am thankful for every single day.

        • Erika Murdock

          And having interests of your own that you can converse intellectually about is important. We are all teachers….and who best to teach to, but the one you love?

    • Faith

      For us it’s not world events, it’s a local radio show that is just usually hilarious…and often times bizarre;)

      Whatever gets ya talkin’ :)

      • Morgan

        Hockey. You could have told me 5 years ago that I’d care and be able to talk intelligently about it and I would have laughed, but now? It’s amazing how interesting anything can be when it’s someone’s passion, and they know how to tell stories about things.

        • Sara_B

          Same with me and football!

  • Christine

    The key takeaway is being strong and happy yourself. Both strong and happy are contagious verbs, not nouns. On a regular day, just one of you strong and happy would make both of you strong and happy “we”. On a down day, the strong and happy one reaches down the other’s throat and pull out that person lying hidden somewhere.

    But sometimes you can’t get both. This is the time that you ask yourself are you strong enough to make each other happy, are you happy enough to be strong in the tough times.

    You can. Because you belong. Put the walls down between you but leave the space for your love to breathe.
    I wrote this today in my prayer journal:
    “Happiness is charity and thankfulness,calm is knowing what you are doing,stability is comfort in the sense of belonging,love is not fearing”

  • Ariel

    Thanks for this. Cecily, I read your blog daily and I really appreciate your honesty, here and there. I have been married for 6 months, we have been together for over five years. Our work/life balance changed after our wedding due to a new job and a new job search. Where I was busy finishing an advanced degree now I am home, searching. It has caused stress that we don’t communicate about honestly. We brush over it, “things will get better, this is temporary, you won’t always be a ‘relunctant housewife.'” But that communication doesn’t touch on the frustration we both feel and tend to take out on each other in little snarky comments and bickering or out of the blue blow-outs (from me mostly).
    Time apart is a tough one. My days alone in the house while he is at work, I don’t count as time apart. I’m not doing ‘me’ things, I am cleaning, cooking, job searching, running errands. None of which feels like me. We live in London, but neither of us is from here so we have no real social base and so do everything together and feel odd if we head out alone because the other is sitting at home alone, waiting for our return. It’s something to work on.
    So thanks for the reminder. And thanks for writing.

    • Sylvia

      Hi Ariel,
      I hope it isn’t weird to reply to this but my circumstances are not completely dissimilar to yours – we got married in September, in the week between me leaving my job and starting a full time MSc so our work-life-relationship-equality balance has gone through a few changes over the last few months too! I live in London and I’m a full-time student at the moment so I sometimes have a little free time during the day too. If you fancy meeting up for a coffee sometime then I’d be very happy to meet you – maybe there are more of us lurking on here and we could plan for a, gasp, APW meet-up here in the UK?!

      • Shiloh

        Ariel, Sylvia, I too am in a similar boat — London-based (American), house bound, getting married in May and trying to work out how to have a healthy partnership despite the limitations of a chronic illness.

        Definitely in favour of a London APW meetup! (I’ve created ‘London APW meetup’ event on Facebook, hope you can search for it?)

        Let’s discuss! (especially if you read ‘Committed’ and were unable to attend bookclub)

      • Ariel

        Let’s do it. It’s crazy this time of year (and with the weather coming) but we should try.

        • Carreg

          There isn’t anyone else out there based in the west midlands, by any chance? I live in Coventry, coach down to London is fairly cheap, but it takes a while. Anyone in Birmingham? That’s practically next door.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      We went through this a bit when we first got married and moved. Husband is a teacher and had three months of downtime in a new city while I was going off to work every day. At first I felt like I had to be his activity director, suggesting and planning things for him to do all the time while he was home alone. Plus I felt really guilty leaving him to do all the errand-running and most of the housework.

      Eventually we got settled into it by acting more like we did when we were single. After all, before we lived together we each did all our own grocery-shopping, laundry, etc. Back then he knew how to entertain himself and I didn’t worry about what he did when he was at his place without me. So we kind of separated the household chores back to each doing his own (except for grocery shopping) and I concentrated on building a social network since I was out working and meeting new people. He managed to keep himself busy doing research, planning coursework, playing videogames and we got comfortable. Plus, as a teacher he’ll likely be doing that every summer, and my job will keep us moving around, so it’s good to have a system to fall back on.

      Good luck!

    • Caroline

      I feel the transplant pain. We moved to Dublin 14 months ago, and while the independent lives situation is not much better, we are getting better at talking about it. It took a whole lot of difficult conversations to get there. What helped us were forcing each other to go out and do stuff that we knew we liked to do (literally, him kicking me out the door to go to the theater, or me shoving him out to do guitar lessons), and accepting any invitation we got (even if they seemed awkward) and not sulking if we got left alone for a while (which we both did, and which was not helpful).

      And when I was job searching, the hour or so that I would give myself each day to go to the park and read, or take a walk, and do other “me” things – that is what saved me through the awful, demoralizing process that is job hunting.

    • meg

      There are tons of you in London, FYI.

      • Marchelle

        Yes, but an APW specific meetup seems to be more than they can coordinate, judging from the previous book clubs. Other meetups aplenty seem to happen, though.

    • Faith

      What if a little of the time where you are apart during the day you did begin to view as your time? If you’re in a brand new place (London!), there is SO much to explore and discover on your own!
      Have adventures, find new places, see the amazing sights! I know this is easy for me to say, sitting here in Philly, and not at all in your situation. I’m not saying you are lucky, or that you should do this or that.

      What I do know is that I went through a few times of not having what I felt was real, adequate ME time, and when I changed a little of my mentality towards my time alone, it made a world of difference. I now find all kinds of time in my day that makes me feel like ME.

      Just a thought…you can take it or leave it!

  • Thank you! I never could have said it better!

    Even though Wade and I just got married in August, we’ve been together for over 6 years, and often we feel like an old married couple. This is not a bad thing, but it can be a hard thing. We have had our ups and downs, and sometimes it seems like the downs are more and bigger than the ups, though really only when we’re down. We are happily married and everything is not ALWAYS fine, and people often seem to jump to the conclusion that if things aren’t FINE then there is something wrong. That the marriage is failing. That it’s not the right thing or the right choice, and that is not true. No relationship is perfect, no marriage is perfect, they all take work and they all have their ups and downs.But no one talks about the downs, because that must mean there’s something wrong with them or their relationship, when really there’s not. Most of the time it’s just a break down in communication, and it can be worked through, and it is not the end of your marriage.

  • This is the post I have been waiting for. As someone who has so very few married role models, it’s refreshing to hear candid, honest advice from someone who has been married for a significant amount of time and (though things aren’t necessarily perfect, and it’s not expected that they should be) actually has nice things to say about marriage (and their spouse, for the love of God).

    What a breath of fresh air.

    • yessss, so refreshing! i am similarly without any marriage role models, especially in my family (parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents: all divorced. many, more than once. some, more than twice. ugh.), so these posts are really wonderful for me.

      throughout our pre-engagement and current engagement, we’ve intentionally sought out mentoring and advice from married couples elsewhere – church friends, etc. – and it’s been crazy helpful. for others in this position, i highly recommend finding some nice happy old married people to hang out with. and blogs like this to read :)

  • Cecily, thank you so much for such a wonderful post. I’ve mentioned this before, but when my husband and I were just starting our relationship, he told me that he was the most important person in the relationship (for him). At the time, it totally pissed me off, but after almost six years together, I have come to completely believe in that concept. If I am not the most important person in the relationship for me, how could I possibly be a good partner? Taking care of me and my needs makes me much easier and more fun to be around than if I were only thinking about “us” or “him,” and vice-versa.

    On a side note, I met him when I was 24 and he was 32, and our first date was A-W-F-U-L. Luckily, it was January in Boston and there was nothing else to do so we agreed on a second date, but to this day, neither of us knows why. It’s nice to hear that there are other success stories with similar beginnings out there :)

  • Kat

    This is awesome. I’m so glad there are starting to be more posts about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of life married people deal with (most of which I read on this website…). And oh how I am not worthy of your wisdom yet in my six months of marriage – I bow to you and your partner’s perserverance and willingness to fight through the yuck and come out better on the other side. Thank you for your insight, your honesty, your bravery, and for being unabashedly who you are. I’m so glad there are women like you out there. *love*

  • I knew I was going to like this post the minute I saw that picture of Cecily. SUCH. GOOD. ADVICE.

  • I love love love hearing from women who have been married for longer than a couple of years and this post is great, real about the challenges marriage can face without being discouraging.

    I’ve discovered, being married, what a horrible communicator I am. I think I just never learned that skill of expressing what I am thinking about in a way that makes one iota of sense. So I got used to not communicating and instead trying to sort out my problem myself. Which sometimes works, but in our marriage it really doesn’t. Because he knows me well enough to know when there’s something on my mind that’s bothering me and and it is more damaging when I don’t communicate it at all, than when I attempt to talk, however badly it all comes tumbling out.

  • This post is so wise… It makes me want to ask my parents what makes their marriage work, because after 30 years they are still going strong. Thank you for writing.

    • Yes yes yes, ask them and have them write about it and then send it to Meg and get it posted here! Because I’d love to read about it too!

  • Emily Elizabeth

    Thank you so much Cecily for the advice and the insight. I’ve only been married a few months, but have lived with my husband for the past 2 years, and I can already see how both spending time ALONE and TOGETHER is huge. I’ve been pushing myself to go out and do things on my own, things that make me happy (recently yoga and knitting with friends), and I’m trying to help my husband to do the same.
    Spending time together, without us looking at our computer screens, has been important too. It’s so easy to get sucked in to these internets, isn’t it? It’s going to sound very silly, but whenever I’m feeling like we haven’t been having enough time where we’re fully present, I pull out a game (crokinole, scrabble, anything) and we sit down and play together. It’s fun, and keeps us from falling into the TV trap! Making dinner together is also a good one, and something we love doing together.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      We got a Wii and put it in the basement (just *away* from where we bum around watching tv and laptop-ing) and it’s a great thing to do together. Gettting up off the sofa and away from the usual distractions makes it feel like “us” time. Plus it’s impossible not to have fun when we’re playing virtual table tennis and trash-talking, so it kind of breaks down those walls and puts us at ease with each other when things are tense.

      Bonus: Wii Fit alone-time.

  • memery

    thank you. thank you. thank you. As another person dealing with addiction (among other things) in a relationship (wedding next fall), this is HUGELY reassuring and helpful to me. It’s been a big, tough year for us, with very high highs and very low lows — engagement, and relapse (the first I’ve dealt with in 6 years of being together.) I have been dealing with a lot of fear and anger as a result, and I have found myself really wishing that APW had a post on dealing with addiction and/or depression (don’t they just go together so nicely?), and WHAM! Cecily arrives on the scene! Perfect!

    Your assertion and reminder is SO validating and helpful: if you’re dealing with the small stuff and communication, and taking care of YOURSELF first, you can handle as a team the big stuff life throws at you. And don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control… amen to that! But it’s easier to say it than live it, and this came at JUST the right time for me. Thank you!

    • Memery,

      I feel you! While we’re not dealing with substance addiction we are dealing with depression (and various other things, on my end), and I have found in the many years I’ve been dealing (or denying, as the case may be) with depression not many people talk about it. It’s really hard to find people going through it who are talking about it, and even harder to find people talking about the effects it has on relationships, marriages, and families.

      It’s really unfortunate that depression is the sort of thing people have a hard time understanding it and often find it easy to brush off, when it’s a really hard thing to handle. The impact it has on an individual and their friends and family is enormous.

      It is really nice to see other people talking about it, and it certainly gives me a breath of fresh air and often a new perspective, and even a ray of hope in the hard times.

    • A-L

      Not much advice, but I just wanted to say that I’m thinking about you, and am sure that as a lovely and smart APW lady that you’ll find find a good way through it.

  • Thank you, Cecily! This is so great to read. So reassuring that your marriage has survived not only the huge life events, but the periods of utter irritation. It always seemed to me that the small not-getting-along stuff was the real danger to a marriage. I can’t hear enough about, well, reality–that I won’t always be head-over-heels for my husband, but that that’s NORMAL, and something to work through and learn from in order to grow together. I guess it all depends on one’s outlook, and I hope I can emulate your outlook in my marriage.

  • Reading your comments is so awesome! Thank you all so much for the kind words, and even though I wrote this a few weeks ago it’s nice to see it up, read it again, and feel that happiness and hope when things are tough around here (again).

    Thanks for reading and commenting folks! And thanks to Meg for letting me talk about this here.

    • Thank you so much for sharing. Honest words like these from someone further down the line are really, really helpful.

  • Thanks for this post! reclaiming wife is awesome.

    Having no parental marriages to look up to, I like being able to read about marriages after so many years together. They are a complete unknown to me, I have no idea what they look like or feel like. Unknowns are usually scary… so this calms my own fears a little :)

    • ka

      Ditto! It means the world to me to be able to read perspectives like this here. Thank you Cecily (and Meg), so much.

    • I also have a hard time finding a model for our relationship because neither of our parents ended up in relationships we want to mimic. Thank god for Reclaiming Wife!

  • Amanda

    Wow. I so admire you for knowing, i mean really KNOWING your marriage & relationship inside and out. You know when you have been together too much, or not enough, or need to talk more. You see the signs, recognize them and have learned how to deal with it and exactly what will go down when you do. Thats amazing. I dont think I have ever met anyone else that is really intuitively tapped into their relationship quite like that. I mean I can imagine why, all the things you guys have been through and the hurdles you have overcome. But I believe that you have found a huge key to a truly successful and happy marriage, and its making the effort to really learn every little quark about your relationship. Knowing the signs, the looks, the bad moods, the *why’s* and what it all means. So Awesome. I strive to be as tuned into my marriage as you are. =)

  • Oh thank you for this. It is simultaneously inspiring and reassuring. As one half of a young couple, it feels like such a terrible thing to admit that I don’t love everything about my partner all the time. And after almost six years of non-stop together time, we’ve both zeroed in on the things that irritate us. I appreciate it when a more experienced wife reminds me that it’s okay. And Cecily does it not from a tired, cynical, resigned about men and marriage perspective, but with a positive outlook on marriage, including her own. I also appreciate the advice about time apart. This is one of the subjects we touched on at the Chicago book club meetup. I identified with Liz Gilbert, hemming and hawing over asking her man if he minded her leaving him at the hotel pool while she went to Cambodia alone. It sometimes feels wrong to want that alone time, but it is so, so essential. And, I’m realizing, most of the time your partner wants it, too.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      “And Cecily does it not from a tired, cynical, resigned about men and marriage perspective, but with a positive outlook on marriage, including her own.”

      This! There’s not a lot out there about people being annoyed by their spouses that doesn’t paint it as a fact of life (men are useless! sigh) or a sign of something more (you want to go out alone? you probably hate your spouse or secretly suspect s/he’s cheating on you). No two people are so in tune that *nothing* annoys them after 6 solid months of togetherness. But we so rarely hear or see people dealing with those things positively, proactively.

      Not a lot of role models out there for sanity. Yay for APW filling the gap!

  • Melissa

    Thank you, thank you Cecily, thank you Meg, thank you anyone who helped bring this post to my day. Good, sound, realistic advice on marriage for those heading into marriage is invaluable, and lord knows where I would go for it if I didn’t have APW.

  • Bookmarked.

    Thank you, Cecily and Meg!

  • JEM

    I definitely need time to process this one. Especially after I bawled my eyes out because my fiance didn’t take me to get a Christmas tree last night. Ehm…

    I have some thinking to do, thank you.

  • peanut

    Cecily’s blog bookmarked; will spend next 2 hours reading archives.

    Thank you.

  • Erika Murdock

    I LOVED this post. I think that the last pargraph stands SO tride and true. I think this was a big reason I watched my parents marriage fall apart. They weren’t individuals and didn’t make enough time for each other.

    My fiancee and I have been doing long distance pretty much our entire relationship. We see each other 2-3 weekends a month, but it is the alone time we have during the week and each of us has grown to appreciate, no matter how much we miss each other. We are 5 years apart and I know for myself, I’ve neede Monday-Friday to grow into the best version of myself….and continue to do so. I remember him saying to me early on that he’d love to have a guest room or second bed – on those nights when you just want to spread out and/or have alone time. I didn’t understand it for a long time, and now I imagine how wonderfully romantic it might be. We each value our time by ourself (I’m off for a saturday alone this weekend actually) and we respect each other for taking that time – as you come back a better, more appreciative self.

    One last thing – right after my fiancee kissed me for the first time (after 4 dates), he looked at me and said “trust and communication are the foundation of any kind of relationship I have. They must stay front and center and I want to be sure that we have them both, all the time.” I about melted, and almost said “who are you, where did you come from, why did it take me so long to find you, and…can we clone you for my friends?” We have gotten through the past 4 years keep T&C at the forefront of our relationship….and I can’t imagine a lifetime/marriage without them.

    Cecily – you rock chica!!! Thanks for sharing. Loved all of what you said and wish we heard more posts like yours, so if you have friends….

  • I’m glad you used the term “time apart.” I think so many couples embrace the idea of “alone time” but don’t consider the option of “apart time.” I show up to social occasions quite often sans husband because he’s not as into them as I am. And I’m cool with it because I know that about him and I like doing stuff when he’s with me and when he’s not. But, that doesn’t save me from strange judgmental looks sometimes that indicate that arriving somewhere without my husband must mean we don’t like each other or something–that has not been my experience. So, thanks for this post and your wisdom.

    Speaking of wisdom, I am interested at your hinted at other post from the last line: “we are ourselves first, and partners second. Well, these days, we’re parents first, but that would be a whole other post, wouldn’t it?”

    Yes please! As someone who is contemplating what eventual/possible parenthood might mean to her, how do you do that? How do you be parents first, yourselves second and partners third? Does it even line up that succinctly do you think? I’m just curious how you see it. Because from this side of things, I think of partnership being third on that line and it seems like there’s not much time for it and I wonder how in the world people are parents and partners and do both successfully while continuing to nurture their own selves as well.

    • Murdock

      I know that I’m not married yet or don’t have kids, but we always talk about putting ourselves first (like cecily was saying, your own happiness), then the marriage, then the children. I understand I don’t have any concept of actually growing someting inside of me and then having it be born, but I think the best example we set for our children is that of a healthy marriage. We teach them so much by what we don’t ever say, but what we do.

      I say all of this after long and arduous analyzing of my parents marriage….and its eventual downfall….and my mother’s new relationship and subsequent wonderful marriage.

      • meg

        I think it depends on the time in your life/self/relationship. My parents were selves, partners, and then parents… mostly. But when they had a seriously ill infant, I think that got all flipped around. Or when one of them was going through really hard personal stuff, it all got flipped around again. So I think you have to keep reminding yourself of selfcare, but then also take life as it’s thrown at you.

        • I think it’s also so much more instinctive for us (or at least me, the people pleaser that I am) to take care of others than it is to take care of ourselves. Or at least that’s what social pressures make me think/feel/do. So, even in times when a relationship with a lover or a child or a parent or a friend need to take precedence, I think we can always afford to remind ourselves that we need to take care of ourselves too. Because what good are we in an interaction with another person if we, one half of that interaction, are not the best we can be?

      • Stéphanie

        Hi !
        I’m neither married nor parents but I see the results of parents/self/partner order (me, bro and sis) and partner/self/parents in my fiance and his brothers… My parents stayed together 20 years ago for the sake of their children (us), some people told them to divorce but they both loved us so much they couldn’t think of being apart form us. That crisis was 2 years long but do they regret it ? No, they are now empty nesters that love each other very much, have fun and life projects together. I must say I don’t regret it either, it wasn’t funny at the time but they did grow so much and they gave us so much more !
        My fiance’s parents ? If they could they would have divorced from their children (they were all “wanted children”)… They “love” them, yeah, like “oh you’re fine ? fine”. Their children never felt trully loved or cared for. I don’t want to make a law of 2 cases but in my opinion you can have a good marriage even if you love your children more than everything and you can be “not-so-good” parents even with a wonderful couple, nothing is sure (but you can always do your best !).

        PS : sorry for typos/fault, my first language is french.

  • Thanks Cecily! Such incredibly inspiring words that are SO needed right now on the path to marriage. Relationship are work and sometimes we forget that…

  • S

    Awesome post!

  • SO much wisdom in this post. Thank you, Cecily!!!

    I know that I’ve personally felt a lot of guilt at needing time apart in my young marriage, so this was a really good reminder that it’s not selfish to take time for ourselves so that we can be our best selves for our partners. Shame blasters, activate!!!!

  • Alyssa

    Cecily, I was already a fan because Meg told me I HAD to read your blog (and it was true, I did have to, ) but now I’m full-blown in love with you. This post is going straight to my husband, and he doesn’t even read my posts! It’s just such a great reminder on things we know but really need to KNOW deep down in our soul, like time together AND time apart. Your honesty is AWESOME.

    Also? You have pink hair. I love pink hair. I used to have pink hair too and I miss it terribly. I see a tub of Punky Color and I start to tear up.
    If you’re going to Alt, I might just sit next to you and stare and ask to touch your hair.
    You’ve been warned.

    • meg

      She’s NOT going to Alt. Maybe you can fix that ‘Lyssa? Send Liz to beat her up, she’s in Philly.

      • Alyssa

        Boo, boo, BOO!


        I want to bask in your wisdom and pet your hair.

        • I wish I was going to Alt, but I’ll be a different conference entirely. :(

          Very sweet thoughts though. And I LOVE my hair being petted. :D

    • Carla

      Pink hair for everyone! You could have pink hair again :)

  • Daly

    I know that everyone has said it already, but thank you so much for this post, Cecily. Your words have struck a chord with me. I have never heard anyone talk openly about the “bad parts” of their marriage before without showing some sort of contempt for their partner, but alas I don’t have many role models for a good marriage. I am not yet married; I am pre-engaged to my boyfriend of 5+ years. Your words have reassured me that it’s OK that my relationship isn’t great 100% of the time and that it’s normal to experience periods of sh*t. You are very wise and your honesty is so deeply appreciated.

  • I have been lurking for months, but I have to delurk to say: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cecily.

    Last time my long-distance bf and I spent an extended period of time together, I ended up in tears on multiple occasions trying (and failing) to communicate how hard it was for me to switch between “me” and “us”, distressed by how much my lack of success hurt him, and heartbroken that a rare whole week together was being wasted cross with each other. You (and all the other commenters) have given me a great framework to start thinking about these issues and how to fix them and most importantly faith that issues don’t mean we’re incompatible or suck at relationships or long-distance never works. Thanks :)

    • Murdock

      Lizzie – I’ve been doing long distance for 4 years with my man and we just got engaged!! It totally absolutely works, but it majorly majorly sucks sometimes. And it brings out all of the parts of your communication that needs fixing….and the parts you’re really good at. If you ever need a friend, just shoot me an email, cuz trust me honey I’ve been there.

      I’ve also had friends who have done long distance around the world, cross the country, and they have ALL said what I do is the hardest b/c not only are we long distance but we both constantly move with work, so nothing in our lives is stable, physically, and we just make a home with each other.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Ditto. My husband and I have been long distance for about 3 years and we’ve been married 5 months – still long distance.

        It can totally work and when people say “Oh that must be so hard” they don’t realize that sometimes its the time you spend together that’s tough. Hit me up anytime marlasinger84 [at] I’m happy to encourage, commiserate or offer advice.

        • Aw, thanks Abby and Murdock! Thankfully right now things are lovely while we make our plans for Christmas, but I’m writing your emails down for when I’m blue. xo!

  • Thankyou so much, Cecily, and all the commenters too.

    My partner and I are still not quite a baby family… in utero you might say… and we have found that these issues of non-communication – or even, more specifically, the right kind of communication – have already become apparent. When Cecily wrote

    “When our communication issues were so dense that they seemed irresolvable.”

    It might as well have been me two nights ago. I travel with work, and have been feeling our communication breakdown. Neither of us were saying what we were really feeling. It was a slow slide into politeness. I don’t see it as a flaw in our relationship, but as a human thing that is something to be worked at – exactly what Cecily said. We had a long, hard, upsetting night of honesty and hand-holding, and it has worked. We have turned a corner. And I’m sure we will do it again, because of what Cecily said –

    “Communication seems obvious, but dudes, you must keep working at it. It is SO easy in long term relationships to slide into habits that wall off the ability to communicate.”

    Yes, yes, yes.

  • Rachel

    Cecily. You are amazing.

    I love APW but this post is at the way top of my favorites list. Everything you said was right on. Every paragraph felt like you were analyzing my relationship with my man (not engaged but will be when we are ready for it) and sharing it with the world. From the utterly insane to irritated breathing to disappearing into the internet to taking care of yourself to grocery shopping and doing laundry to relaxing into each other and propping each other up. Your words are just so wonderful. I can’t even describe how thankful I am that you shared.

    Bring on the next post!

  • Moz

    What a lovely, generous post. Thank you so much and congrats on your marriage xx

  • Marchelle

    Thank you for this wisdom. There will plenty more like it (from married couples with some experience under their belts) in future, yes?

  • I’m seriously all aglow from your responses! Thank you so much for letting me be part of this awesome site, Meg!

  • Alexandra

    Hooray. Awesome post. ;-)