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Our Simple Marriage Strategy

by Mandy Osterhaus Ream about a year ago in married
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We're just doing today.

Our Simple Marriage Strategy
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Recently my husband and I had a rift; a simultaneously seismic and common-place one for a marriage of 22 years. It was enough to cause us both to stop, turn towards one another and assess the state of our union. We both deemed a sit-down check-in valuable.

We are committed to long-term success but encounter pretty reasonable hurdles and challenges for two humans choosing coexistence. We both agree we are each other’s person (thank you Grey’s Anatomy for that word choice). We like our brand, the Ream Team. So, we’re staying put.

But sometimes we hit expected bumps in the road and this was one of them.

Every few years we have periods of disconnect that signal to us it’s time for an evaluation of our relationship and see where we can mend what’s broken, capitalize on what works and integrate a few more games of Scrabble into our weekly routine.

Scrabble is always my vote.

This global pandemic, however, seems to magnify the crunchy parts of our relationship and we recently realized we need a new strategy for this novel time.

So, we decided we are just going to do today.

To paraphrase the best lines in my sister-in-law’s favorite movie, “The Family Man,” we are choosing us. And we’re just choosing right now.

Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a conflict and trying to have a productive relationship talk, we end up hashing out past wounds or bringing up old material to support the current issues.

Often I begin to look ahead to my husband’s retirement and the huge questions of what are we going to do then (this, of course, is 10 years away but I’m nothing if not a planner)

While not always bad to review unhealthy habits and patterns that repeat themselves or strategize a bit for future success, this was not helpful in our current state of disconnect. We just didn’t have the energy to wade through all the decades before and after.

So, we decided to just focus on choosing one another today. Mend the smaller cracks and celebrate our simple connections.

Funny thing. I like him today.

There’s a little amnesia involved in choosing us today. It takes a lot of energy to do marriage well today and I find I have less time to think about old injuries or worry about whether he is ever going to travel with me to Australia. (That may end up being a girls' trip.)

I’m focused on doing this relationship thing well today.

When the little daily irritations and missteps that naturally happen when we are partnered with another human aren’t attached to all the other historical missteps in this paradigm, I find I have space to quickly forgive, or as we Reams say, “bow to curtsy.” (A common phrase in our vernacular that makes little sense on the surface. It’s a little above “no sweat” but not a full-blown “you’re forgiven.”)

Like the concept from an old Nick Hornby book turned Hugh Grant movie, “About a Boy,” we look at our days in units of time, or rather, that the days themselves are units of time and we will just focus on the unit in front of us, the unit of today.

The undercurrent through all of this is that we are both dedicated to choosing each other, and choosing well. Success here is exponentially greater when both of us choose to turn towards one another and magnify the parts where we do like each other and minimize the parts we don’t.

This has become profoundly valuable because we are very different. Except for the places where we are really alike.

Marriage is funny that way.

If I’m just considering today there are volumes of similarities and connections to enjoy. Like when we watch Ted Lasso or chuckle while our youngest coyly pours himself more orange juice or flash each other proud grins as our oldest shares his successes for the day.

We have been choosing each other just for today for a few days now. And a crazy thing is emerging.

These days, strung together, are becoming a whole season of choosing one another, turning towards one another, of connecting in the day-to-day business of life together.

Of course, it helps that my husband is a fireman who goes to the fire station for 24-hour shifts three times a week. That space is great fuel for our choosing.

I’m striving for marital success, but I’m still human.


About the author

Mandy Osterhaus Ream

Woman in middle age. Professor. Mom to one surfer and one kid with Down Syndrome. Fireman’s wife. Writing about all of it.


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