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I Dare Me: What Can I Do to Repair This Relationship?

As told to Elisheva Appel

He bought me flowers and I made his favorite foods, but the warmth wasn’t there. We were just going through the motions

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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Introducing…

You know us — we’re that sweet young couple, the ones with the thoughtful little gestures and that easy, cheerful chemistry.

We were pretty settled into our happy-family routine, doting on three-year-old Motti who ruled the house with his pudgy little fist. Then precious Chaya entered our lives, we all stopped sleeping, and our shalom bayis took a turn for the not-so-awesome.

We were still that picture-perfect couple; Dovid still gave his devar Torah at the Shabbos table, I still thanked him sweetly for sharing, but inside I gritted my teeth and thought, “I’m so tired! Just stop talking!”

He bought me flowers and I made his favorite foods, but the warmth wasn’t there. We were just going through the motions.

Recently, an older single friend became engaged. I looked at her vort pictures with more than a twinge of envy. I was jealous of her dreamy bliss and, to be honest, I was jealous of my own happiness at that stage. Remember when you were sure your husband was the most amazing guy to ever walk the earth and you’d never, ever fight?

It was nearly Elul, a time to work on bein adam l’Makom and bein adam l’chaveiro. I asked myself: Which chaver is more important than a spouse? What can I do to repair this relationship that’s beginning to get shaky?

 

The Challenge

It hit me that we haven’t gone out as a couple since Chaya was born, and she’s almost walking. We’d tried exactly once. We made it as far as 7-Eleven but hadn’t even bought our Slurpees when my mother-in-law called in desperation: Chaya was screaming and could we please come back pronto, if not sooner?

Uninterrupted quality time as a couple might help remind us why we got married in the first place.

We have one month to go on seven dates. The rules are simple: no kids, we need to actually leave the house, and we need to dress up (ixnay on Crocs and snoods.)

 

Getting Ready

It’s not hard to get Dovid on board; he’s noticed the same chill in the house. He agrees the cause is worth missing night seder, and we both commit to making sure bedtime happens so we can get out.

We consult our calendars, rework appointments, and fit simchahs around our new number-one priority. We plan two nights out for the first week, and then give ourselves three weeks to complete the challenge.

 

How It Went Down

It turns out to be harder, easier, and more fun than I expected! Logistics are the hardest. Synchronizing schedules and coordinating babysitters are no fun, but we’re motivated. Dovid even takes the initiative and reminds me about our upcoming plans.

The first outing is awkward — it’s been a while! But soon enough, we slip into our old personas, laughing, relaxing, enjoying each other’s company.

Not every date goes off without a hitch. On the third evening, the subway is late, I’m grouchy because I really want to go somewhere else, and we spend the whole evening sniping at each other. Another Motzaei Shabbos, we each think the other is finding a babysitter, so there we are, all dressed up with no child care. Seems a shame to waste the opportunity, so we turn on our baby monitor, order pizza, and sit outside our front door for an hour. Situation saved! 

On the whole, our evenings are oases of calm reconnection, a welcome break from the frenetic pace of our lives. We get waffles one week and steaks tOn the whole, our evenings are oases of calm reconnection, a welcome break from the frenetic pace of our lives. We get waffles one week and steaks the next. We visit local parks. We window-shop and wander aimlessly. We get to know each other again.

 

Looking Back

There were moments that I was gripped with anxiety, wondering why I was putting in all this effort. What if nothing changed? That would feel awful, hopeless, worse than being stuck in status quo. Baruch Hashem, that didn’t happen. The changes have been slight, but the kinder tone, the joking, the more relaxed rapport definitely spilled over into everyday life.

It’s not a perpetual honeymoon, but taking the time to reconnect reminded us of who we are and what we could have. Quality time is not a quick fix; it’s a road you can take. Relationships take effort. But our date night dare reminded us why it’s worthwhile to invest that time.

When my friend’s wedding finally arrived, I cried my eyes out at the chuppah. I’m not jealous anymore. I’m content. I’ve successfully bottled and preserved some of that newlywed joy, and I look forward to stockpiling even more.

 

My dare role model

My best friend. Our lifestyle precludes discussing personal things like marriage, but from tidbits and anecdotes I’ve gathered over the years, I’m in awe of how she puts her husband first, every day, every time, perhaps even to a fault. Im yirtzeh Hashem by me!

 

Easy-peasy 

Being understanding and patient with everyone, whether a meshulach, in-laws, parents, or friends. So why is it harder to be that way toward my husband sometimes?

 

My next dare 

Making date night weekly, to ensure maximum effect.

 

Motto 

Be the change you want to see in the world.he next. We visit local parks. We window-shop and wander aimlessly. We get to know each other again.

 

 

(Originally appeared in Family First, Issue 612)


 

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