I passed a Waffle House last week. Actually I was briefly stopped in front of it due to a long line of cars at a red light. When I looked over, I noticed an older couple sitting in a booth by the window. My heart and lips smiled. There was something so simple, so kind, so routine about them.
This wasn’t a picture of fancy dates and exotic vacations. This wasn’t dressed-up and “romantic” and Instagram-curated-love. This was a regular old Thursday at 11am. Waffle House isn’t sexy or amazing, but it’s real honest comfort food without fuss. That couple represented to me a Waffle House Love: real, honest, down-to-earth, and comforting.
Watching them made me wonder if we don’t harbor unrealistic expectations of what the dailiness of our relationship with our husbands should look like. Sometimes as humans we are “all or nothing”. If it can’t be nice restaurants, concerts or movies, then we don’t kindle the relationship in the regular everyday places and moments of life.
Sure, going to an upscale hotel like the Waldorf-Astoria or an anniversary trip to Tuscany in Italy would be amazing. But to cultivate a meaningful marriage, we need to tend that relationship slowly, over time, in the real everyday. We choose to fold the laundry together, we joke around in Target, or we serve each other nachos for our DVRed TV show.
What if a Waffle House relationship is as meaningful as a Waldorf-Astoria relationship?
We look in the eye of our current reality of a houseful of kids, and we don’t blame that reality for our lack of intimacy or for a diminished connection. We keep showing up for each other in putting away each other’s underwear, refilling each other’s drinks at dinner, or picking up their favorite gum in the checkout line. Honest care without fuss.
Sometimes we grow apart in marriage in these middle years. We get focused on being teammates in parenting and in chores, or we focus on controlled schedules and our children’s activities. We bicker over finances, cluttered closets and tones of voice. We forget to really *see* each other as husbands and wives and best friends whom we dearly love.
We still have a lot of parenting years left, and this is not the time to neglect our marriage but instead, tend it in small, sustainable, unsexy ways.
We can text each other hilarious memes or GIFs. We can sit out on the porch with a cold drink while the kids run around. We can feed the kids a basic dinner, put them in front of a movie, and then eat some nice steaks together or grab our favorite take-out. We can tell each other what makes each of us feel loved and remember our love languages. We can say “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” when we are being bratty.
We can forgive each other again and again and again.
Gretchen Rubin has a wonderful habit called “warm hellos and goodbyes”. Mike and I have tried to work on that this past year. If one of us is coming or going, take a moment to say hello or goodbye with a hug. No more martyr silent treatment but instead openness and warmth. This has been a challenging one for me because I don’t like “interruption” when I am in task mode, and I certainly don’t feel “warm” when I am stressed. But I choose to do it because it’s good, and over time, it gently takes down walls and opens us towards each other.
The point is to keep connecting and keep talking and keep loving every day. Small choices over time yield big results. Sometimes we need to pursue counseling and have someone else help us through our differences. Many times it can be as simple as humble conversation and choosing to *see* each other again.
But sometimes it’s just waffles, eggs, bacon, grits, and some hash browns smothered, covered and topped. And that right there is some real good love.