Tom and I have always been the kind of people who love to spend time with our friends. In high school, we would spend one weekend night as a date for just us and the other two hanging out with all of our friends, catching a movie on Friday or Saturday and playing volleyball and doing church youth group on Sunday. (I’m choosing a photo from high school that doesn’t include friends because I’m not sure they’d thank me for that.)
In college, we went to separate schools, so we would hang out on the weekends, and a huge chunk of that time was spent with friends.
Most of our “alone time” was really just us studying- me writing papers, Tom writing code, no friends around because we needed silence to concentrate. Every now and then, we would double date.
Saturdays were dedicated to football games in the fall.
And Friday nights saw us goofing around with our friends- grabbing a pizza, jamming on instruments (well, not me-I’m no good at that), watching movies, and playing lots of Texas Hold’Em (another thing I’m not very good at).
And we didn’t hold each other back. We had our own things going on. I joined a sorority. (Here was my “family” in my sorority my sophomore year.)
Tom joined a fraternity. We still spend time with some of those great guys (and, for the married ones, their great wives).
And when I wanted to spend my summer studying Spanish in Costa Rica, Tom didn’t try to make me feel guilty or sad that he’d be in Georgia all summer.
Lest you think we only care about our friends, I should mention that we both love our families and each others’ families, and we ALWAYS do our best to spend time with them.
With as many family members as we have, there is always, ALWAYS, something we could be attending at least once a month that is for a family member, and we do our best to attend them all.
Sometimes it’s hard. Do you go to that brother-in-law’s engagement you promised to photograph or to your sister’s only child’s baptism? (In our case, we went to the engagement, got up at dawn the next morning, and high-tailed it back for the lunch after church.)
Thankfully, our families realizes that we want to be there for it all, so they understand when we can’t be at something every now and then.
When I graduated from college, I was doing my keeper internship, and Tom was doing a summer internship as a software engineer before his final semester of college. We were engaged, and a lot of our weekends were spent scoping out different wedding details or doing pre-marital counseling.
So, I would get off work at Zoo Atlanta, drive to Tom’s apartment on 10th Street, change into work out clothes (because doing manual labor all day isn’t tiring enough?), and we would go for a run around Tech’s campus. Well, Tom would jog, and I would attempt to not die. Then we would eat dinner with a roommate or two, and I would head back to my parents’ house in Covington.
“Getting married,” I thought, “will change everything.” Well, yes and no.
It made my life about a gazillion times better. I absolutely LOVE being married to Tom. He’s the best. And if I’m going to live with a boy for the rest of my life, it’s gotta be an awesome one. He is.
But you see, I thought being married and having a job would mean we would have SO much more time on our hands and SO much more time for just the two of us. How could we not?
No driving back and forth just to see each other.
No one else living in the same place as us.
Us LIVING in the same place.
It was going to give us SO much time together.
Wrong. Wrong about so many things.
Homework never ends. Because, guess what? When you own a house, you have to clean it. When you are the one who cooks, that means you work all day (and usually, for me, that’s a 10 hour workday), and then you come home and cook.
Want to work out, but aren’t at the same level of fitness? Separate work outs.
You go to work, you come home tired. You both do. And there are a lot of other things that make you You that you do after work. So you don’t give up reading (me), or working on your own online projects (Tom), or owning dogs (both of us) or having a blog or whatever else it might be. And your spouse wouldn’t want you to, either, because doing that is something you enjoy.
And that doesn’t begin to touch on church. Not just attending every Sunday morning, but being in a couple’s small group, leading a youth small group, finding other ways to be an active member. We love it. But it’s time consuming, and that’s just something we know is a good use of our time.
Weekends fill up months ahead of time on our calendar. We’ve been blessed with a large group of friends from all different areas of our lives, and we make an effort to keep up with everyone. No matter how much we try, though, we always seem to be turning down an invitation to do something. This was in part because we have been laser focused on savings and not overspending on nights out, but mostly because we had prior commitments. In our first few months of marriage, we were riddled with guilt over this.
It didn’t matter how much we tried, we felt like we were letting someone down. We were so busy, all the time, that we were exhausted. We definitely had some friends who didn’t quite get why we seemed less available, though they never meant to make us feel bad about it. We were going non-stop trying to please everyone by doing as much as possible with everyone.
And one day, we decided that wasn’t healthy.
We need some Us-Time.
So, we decided that we would make a date night for ourselves each weekend, just like we did in high school. And if someone asked us to do something on that night, we would say no. Unless it was so important that it would probably end the relationship if we weren’t to attend, we chose to put our marriage first on date nights. And it makes a huge difference for us.
We’re still busy. We’re still juggling a lot. We still love to spend time with family and friends. But even just knowing there is a night in our week that we can put all responsibilities, hobbies, and even people aside and just hang out together -a night that I don’t cook, and we use paper plates so there’s no clean up- just to talk and watch a movie, and do nothing…that makes it easier to breathe. It makes it where we know that our marriage deserves and gets first priority. It’s good for us individually and as a couple.
So I guess it’s not surprising that Tom and I are giddy about our trip to the mountains. We’re renting a cabin house and taking the dogs on our first ever “McFarlin Family Vacation” since our honeymoon (well, we didn’t have the dogs back then).
It’s going to rock.
I’ll be in the mountains, but I’m going to be smiling just like I did at the beach in Jamaica when I sit in that hot tub with Tom, a glass of wine, and mountain view that stretches as far as the eyes can see, full of fall colors.