Every Monday my husband Scott and I are participating in a little writing project called Marriage Letters started by Seth and Amber Haines in an effort to encourage other married couples in the hard work of relationships. Did you write one this week? Visit Amber’s blog to link it. This week we wrote on nightly rituals.

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Dear Scott,

Late evenings remind me of our early months together. We were still learning the steps of this dance called marriage, stepping on each other’s toes, tripping when one or the other turned in an unexpected direction. We found our footing fairly quickly, I think, but our most striking differences appeared in our nightly rituals.

We moved through our evenings so differently. You could disappear into a project and enter a zone in which neither time nor sleep existed. On the other hand, I shut down sometime after 10pm, dissolving into an utterly useless and almost incoherent frenzy. I could ignore major tasks all day (usually of the cleaning-up kind), but come 10 o’clock when I reached a certain level of fatigue, I’d snap. Without warning, I’d fly into an illogical cleaning mania. You’d stand agape as I threw things around and raged that you weren’t helping. Very quickly, you made it your mission to get me to bed before The Snap (or as you referred to it, “Joy turned into a pumpkin”).

We don’t often go to bed separately, which means you spend a lot of time waiting on me. I have often marveled at how you just go to bed. You decide it’s bedtime, and that is it. I turn around, and you’re eying me from under the blankets.

I can’t. I can’t go to bed until I brush my teeth, wash my face, examine my skin for anything out of the ordinary, probe any anomalies, dab toner on my face, apply acne treatment (since my face persists in acting like a teen instead of the middle-aged mother of four that I am), find the right pajamas, put my clothes away (or more accurately, drape them artfully across the foot-board so they look halfway put-away), set my alarm, get up because I forgot something, and then grab my book. I may get up one more time if I hear one of the kids whimper. It takes a good half hour. Maybe more.

Lord of the Rings trilogy

Yet you wait patiently for me. I don’t think you’ve ever once complained. It is perhaps a symbol of just how long you spend waiting on me that you’ve picked up my copy of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to read in bed. (Which is hot, by the way.)

These days, we pour our energies into our marriage during the priceless hours between the kids’ bedtime and ours. Our late-night mania has dissolved into the fatigue of parenthood (I refuse to say middle age). Instead of hiding my wrestling, I’m sharing it with you so we can wrestle together. I read aloud letters like this one, thought-provoking blog posts, excerpts from books that I’m digging into. You’ve made it a priority to listen and I love you for it.

It doesn’t always go well. We’ve had some frustrating, tearful, going-in-circles-never-making-any-progress discussions about God, the Bible, the church, and my blog. (I know – my blog! Who knew?) In those moments, togetherness is almost painful. But this is what marriage is – it’s loving someone enough to tease out disagreement and misunderstanding, and keep at until you understand each other, even when you don’t like what you hear. It’s letting one another be who we are in that moment, and loving them, even when they’re changing. It’s daring to bare my soul in all its naked imperfection and trusting you to cherish and love me in that nakedness. It is also believing that when you identify my flaws, it’s out of love, not spite or superiority.

A marriage bed can be an icy place. Those few nights we’ve spent freezing each other out have been awful and rare (thankfully). But we know the value of taking time to cool off and regain perspective, and of calling truces until we’re prepared to listen and understand. We have also learned when waiting too long is dragging us into bitterness and resentment, and how hard it is to dig out of that swamp.

I have enjoyed making these new rituals with you. Our nights together are one of the best parts of being married.

I love you.