Sometimes it takes a cataclysmic event to rock your relationship, to make you sit down and take a good, hard look at your emotional surroundings; a serious illness, an extra-marital affair, a trial or a tribulation that must be faced. Sometimes those head on collisions, those crashes of reality versus expectation, are the tipping point in whether a marriage survives, or whether it bursts into flames on the way down. Summits are called, G8 meetings of marital accord. Contracts are pulled out and scrutinized. They may be renegotiated, they may be declared sound and worthy, they may be declared null and void. Statistics are on your side, either way.
But sometimes it is not the seismic jolt of matrimonial earth, but a slight shift of a relationship fault line. Something seemingly inconsequential. A subtle shift in attitude, an air of difference, an offhand comment. And sometimes that little something can make you stop dead in your tracks and do an on the ground evaluation. Nothing requiring lawyers and accords and general assemblies, but a spot check if you will.
Like yoga pants.
What’s not to love about yoga pants? They are comfortable and marginally more appealing than sweats. They denote wholesome activity. If you wear yoga pants people assume you actually do yoga. They may assume you are the type of person who shops at Whole Foods and limits her wine intake and is at peace. They may assume your chakras are aligned after watching the sun rise while in warrior pose. All good things. The problem is, I don’t do yoga. And my yoga pants are old. And they’re from Old Navy. The only thing differentiating them from sweats is that they don’t have a band at the ankle. Otherwise, eh….they’re pretty sloppy.
And apparently, as my husband pointed out, they are have become the only clothes he sees me in.
Like so many other couples, my husband and I sometimes struggle to find balance. Like many families, we play acrobat and try to juggle the interests of our children, ourselves, and each other. From time to time our relationship is the one that gets put on the back burner, thrown onto the slush pile, pushed back in line for take off while we make time for the kids and increasingly, for our own interests. In our case, we have the additional burden of being ex-pats. There is no family around for gratis childcare, babysitting is expensive, and just when you find a friendly teen who gets to know the kids, she ups and move back home. All excuses of course, but excuses which, unless you are careful, push the couple time priority down to the bottom of the to-do list:
Bake birthday cake, wash work shirts, call Mom, fill prescription, call dentist, pack lunches, make gynecologist appointment. Go out to dinner with spouse.
Life is busy. Life is full of other things to do. LIfe has a habit of getting in the way. It’s easy to look at the bigger, overall picture and overlook the details: I love my husband, he loves me. We have a good, solid relationship. We have a good sex life (sorry, Mom and Mom-in-law). Sure, he hates talking about finances and I hate nagging him to call his Mother, but overall, it’s a solid 8 out of 10. It is easy to rely upon that love and comfort with each other and “isn’t-it-grand-that-I-can-hang-around-in-my-boxers-and-stained-tee-shirt-from-college-and-we-still-love-each-other-so-much” kind of thinking. Until someone calls you out on it. And you find yourself standing at attention for a spot check. In yoga pants.
“I never get the best of you any more,” my husband said. “I get rushing around in the mornings you and I get rushing around to cook dinner and put the kids to bed you. ” He looked at me. “And as soon as those yoga pants go on, there’s no way I’m getting anywhere near you.”
At first I was a little taken aback. Who knew that there was a ‘best of me’, like some Greatest Hits album I wasn’t aware of. But of course we are not talking about my off-key humming and moves like Jagger. We are talking about the me that is not rushing through the kitchen making sandwiches and intervening in the great banana breakfast war, or the me that is not dragging my end of the day self to get the kids into bed so I can sit down and catch up on the news. Or my blog. Or my knitting. We are talking about the me that is struck by a thought I want to write about in the middle of the day or the me that has a stimulating conversation with another parent while chaperoning a field trip; the me that laughs over coffee, or sympathizes over lunch, or enjoys a bit of juicy gossip in the school yard. The best part of me, when I am actually dressed in real clothes.
How sad it is that the person I chose to love—not my children who were a gift or my family into which I was born—but the person I met and fell in love with and choose every day to be with, the one person who should be getting the best of me, he is missing out.
Love is being able to be yourself, flaws, warts, grays, chin hairs and all. Sometimes that self is in yoga pants stuffing its face with chips on the sofa watching Downton Abbey on demand. And that’s ok. But not all the time. I am not advocating waiting by the door in full makeup with the newspaper and a martini while the casserole burns either, but as a friend said, at least make the effort to wipe away any stray mascara from under your eyes when you hear the key in the door.
Yoga pants aren’t really going to ruin your marriage. But the complacency they represent just might. Most of us need to break out the dancing shoes a little more. Even if we’re only dancing in the living room after the kids have gone to bed.