Some twenty-odd years ago, I was a young airman deployed to the Middle East for the first time. I was one of four females out of a camp of 208 airmen, which may sound like heaven for a single woman, but was truly more a hassle than anything. Luckily, my friends had introduced to me a nice Staff Sergeant a few years older than me, and encouraged me to stick with him. “He’s safe,” they told me. “He won’t try anything and he’ll keep less honorable men away.” (Less honorable may not have been their exact words, but since I’m just a guest on this blog, I’ll keep it clean. *wink*)
They were right. He was good looking and fun, but above all, he was a perfect gentleman. One evening, we were hanging out in my quarters, doing laundry and watching Shaft (“He’s a baaad mother—Shut your mouth!”), and regaling each other with our life stories. We were all alone, and still, he didn’t try anything.
So I did. I kissed him. I never did have much patience.
Two decades and four kids later, and we still celebrate our first “date”. Sometimes we mark the occasion by going out or exchanging cards; other times, we simply enjoy a quiet evening at home. Friends have chuckled at us, but April 25th is as important to us as our October wedding anniversary. I think because we both knew, at that moment, we’d found a forever thing. Saying “I do” eighteen months later was merely icing on the proverbial cake.
Over the course of our marriage, we’ve had our ups and downs. What married couple hasn’t? Our days are more mundane than extraordinary. After long commutes and child-rearing and housekeeping and all the drudgery of a typical daily life, we more often than not collapse into our bed bone-tired and world-weary, a good night kiss and the tangle of our feet the extent of our romantic interludes. So it’s fitting that our relationship should have begun with something as routine as laundry and a movie.
The thing is, there’s comfort in the routine. I know I don’t have to wow him with fancy lingerie to keep his interest and he knows he doesn’t have to bring me flowers every night to keep mine. That first date showed us that even in the ordinary, we connected. We didn’t need a live fireworks display to feel the sparks between us. We didn’t need moonlight and dancing to feel the romance. We just needed each other.
The hazard with living in an ordinary marriage is that familiarity can breed contempt, or worse. It’s easy to take the other person for granted as you go about your daily routine, and once that happens, it can be hard to get that sizzle and spark back, the one you felt when things were new and different. Each partner falls into a specific role in the relationship and it can be much too tempting to expect them to always play that role. It can provide the perfect breeding ground for resentment and discord.
In my latest release, Love Me Once More, Lainie and Ethan experience this sort of conflict in their marriage. In fact, as the book opens, they’ve been separated for a year. Childhood sweethearts who married young, they each had expectations for their own lives and for each other that they never really communicated. Lainie’s career aspirations took precedence over Ethan’s needs, but in all fairness, he allowed it. He did what a lot of us do, which was suffer in silence, let the resentment marinate in its own corrosive juices until everything imploded. It was the wake-up call Lainie needed and heeded, and though it took her a while, she returns to set things right and repair her marriage. It takes Ethan a little longer to get on the same page, but – and I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to reveal this, since it is a true romance with a happily-ever-after – eventually, they reunite.
Those of us who’ve ever been in long-term relationships have probably experienced something similar. You get caught up in the routine. You forget to kiss him good night. He forgets to say goodbye on his way out the door on a busy morning. Meals are magically cooked and laundry is miraculously washed, all without a thank you or an acknowledgment. It happens to all of us and it doesn’t signify disaster, as in Ethan and Lainie’s case. But it can put a chink in your marital armor.
Which brings me back to why we still celebrate our first date. Because it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and yet how close we still are to those young little fools connecting over a pile of camouflage uniforms. In the ordinary, we found something extraordinary. We found each other. And that’s something neither of us ever want to take for granted.
Love Me Once More
Cate Tayler’s latest release Love Me Once More is a prequel novella to her Mystic Point series.
Second chances are for suckers.
Or so Ethan Thomas believes. A year ago, he walked away from his wife—the woman he has loved since he was ten years old—after believing she betrayed him. Since then he’s settled in his hometown of Mystic Point, Connecticut among old friends, with a new job and a jaded outlook on life. As long as he can keep his estranged wife Lainie out of his mind, he has a chance to live contentedly, if not happily. Happiness is overrated, anyway.
Lainie Thomas has spent the past year in a solitary confinement of her own making. She once had everything—a successful career, a home in a big city, and the man of her dreams. But she took it for granted and ended up losing it all. Now she’s been given one last shot at redemption, one last chance to show Ethan she never betrayed him, one last time to convince him their marriage is worth fighting for.
But can she convince him to love her once more or is she too late to reclaim the happily-ever-after they both deserve?