How to Appreciate the One You’re With: Take a Step Back

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I want to tell you a story.

It goes a little something like this:

We have a water dispenser on our refrigerator. We live in a rental, a rental that we love, a rental that I am doing everything in my power to manifest in order to buy from two very stingy owners.

It is a 1950s ranch that has been modestly renovated, but the kitchen still sports knotty pine cabinets and a white fridge. The water dispenser tray has always had this brown coat of gunk from filling up water. It was like that when we arrived, and despite all of my scrubbing, my “natural remedy” attempts, my Magic Erasering, it’s still janky.

I literally think “eye sore” every time I fill up a cup of water.

While we were getting ready for my daughter’s birthday party this past weekend, my husband made a comment about it. He said, “Let’s just put it in the dishwasher.”

I looked at him like he had three heads. “What? It pops out?” And sure enough, I pulled on that little sucker and out it came.

After two years of griping, a different perspective solved the problem. In an instant. It was shiny, white, and squeaky clean after one hot rinse.

This is all to say: You can look at something over and over again but not really see it. This goes for the problem and the solution. This goes for dirty refrigerator trays, and this also goes for people.

I realized, as my hubby and I shared some intimate time together, that I had stopped seeing him as a person of his own. With wants. And needs. And desires. A person independent of Sophie and me. Independent of his dad label, his senior UX designer label, his laundry-guru-dish-washing-fix-everything-if-it’s-broken-run-to-the-store-put-Sophie-to-bed-every-night label.

He is more than logistics or a conversation about a water dispenser tray. He is more than the person who sleeps beside me every night, the man who sings our daughter to sleep, five years in, the guy who can literally figure anything out with his hands.

He is Alex, before me. He is a person who needs his own space, who has his own opinions (not just the ones I want him to have), who can do what he wants, say what he wants and feel what he wants without being constantly swayed by all the estrogen.

He’s allowed to be his own person, and as matriarchs, I think it’s really fucking easy to forget.

But it’s vital that we don’t.

Because, while I appreciate all of the things he does and tell him this, I don’t often say, “I appreciate you,” for just being, you know, him.

Without taking the garbage out. Or making a fabulous dinner. Or busting his ass at work. Or earning a new stripe at jiujitsu. Or making an effort.

I appreciate the man I went on a single date with years ago, cheeks sore from laughing, who did impersonations and didn’t kiss me goodnight. I appreciate the man who used to make mixed CDS for me, and then lie in bed while we listened, giving me so much physical pleasure, it seemed greedy. I appreciate the man, who, four months in, proposed marriage, and seven years later, still keeps his promises.

I appreciate the loyal person he is and know that I am one of the lucky ones.

It’s easy when shit gets “daily” to forget. So, think back to the early days. For us, that’s music. In bed. Lots of music. And physical touch. And laughing until we can’t breathe.

The dishes will get done. The laundry will get folded. The kids will eventually fall asleep. But taking the time to run my hands across my husband’s body just because while listening to a song that makes me feel free again?

That’s desire. And sometimes, that’s even more important for long-term love than anything else.

Photo Courtesy of Nikki McFadden Photo

About Rea Frey

Rea Frey is a lover of coffee, words and sleep, though since becoming a mother, she gets too much coffee, writes endless words and thinks about uninterrupted sleep the way she would a lover lost at sea—that is to say, often. She is the author of four nonfiction books and an upcoming women’s suspense novel, THE LONELY GIRLS (St. Martin’s Press), which will be published summer 2018. When she’s not exercising, mothering, adulting, wifing, eating or writing about herself in the third person, you can find her blogging about various topics at reafrey.com.