Montage, You Say?

You know in a movie when the conflict has been presented and while the solution is being worked on, they focus on character development? They have all the scenes set to some emotionally charged music, and you can’t hear the dialogue as a montage of the characters dance across your screen.

When you first get married and have kids, it’s like the conflict is being presented in a movie. Things are great, and the wedding is beautiful. But then you are integrating two lives and sometimes adding other human beings called children (or small terrorists. I mean, have you put a toddler to bed? It’s a hostage situation). When we were first married, we had the same arguments as any other couple. Then we had a baby. A baby with colic. We were pitted against a common enemy: the taker of sleep. She didn’t sleep through the night until after she was one year old, and I thought she wasn’t breathing because she had never slept so long in her life.

Those first years? We did great, because who has time to argue when you’re surviving? We added three other children after that. We moved four more times. We finished professional school. We were doing so many things.

Now we have a teenager and a toddler. Our kids span a decade, and my husband is closer to retiring than starting. We are in the montage years.

I see our children playing, fighting, laughing, crying. We’re sitting down to family dinners. The youngest will sit relatively still for a movie or a board game. I practically hear the music in the background as I see our family’s characters developing. And since we’re not in survival mode anymore, we can work on those things that we have ignored for years as a married couple. Cue the arguments, right?

We’ve Come a Long Way

I realize that as a married couple, we are not where we were 10 or 15 years ago. As a sweet friend who has been married longer than me pointed out, what did that young girl even know about the marriage vows that she spoke? I didn’t understand the depth or gravity of it all then.

But now that we’re out of the metaphorical forest fire of parenting and into something that takes more mental but less physical energy, I keep thinking about what it means to live out those vows.

What does it means to be married when the kids aren’t there, and work is on the back burner? Now that I’m not as selfish as I once was but still more selfish than I should be?

It means dating. Not the fancy dress-up kind because that just takes more energy, but the kind that involves talking and laughing without four people vying for our attention. Maybe it is a walk in the park, movie, and ice cream afterward. Maybe it is a dinner out of the house.  It might just be a setting where we can focus on what makes us a couple and continues to fuel our love. Another military spouse wrote a great article about date nights in that you can check out for other ideas.

The danger of the montage years is that the conflict was presented but the music ends when some huge reveal happens, and the solution must be immediately enacted. I don’t want our music to end because we were so busy enjoying the montage and ignoring the ‘us’ behind it.

As a mother, I can focus in on my kids and ignore everything else around me, including my relationship. I think any mother can if she lets herself. I also believe it’s easier for a military spouse to ignore a relationship with their spouse. I say this because the nature of our relationships is to spend a lot of time apart. That can make time together intense and focused but when we’re together more, the ability to keep up that intensity can wane.

I can let the intensity wane, but I can’t and won’t let us go. The montage years are long, but so is a marriage.

couple sitting together looking at the sunset
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

There Is Always Work To Do

A friend asked me for marital advice, which is really when I started reflecting on our stage in marriage and how far we’ve come. We communicate well, we have a shared vision, and most importantly, we have a shared goal: a healthy, happy marriage and family.

I’m keeping those goals in mind as we focus on our marriage more and the sleepless nights less.

We have a long way to go, too. We have priorities to shift, and we need to learn to give more grace to each other (He needs to learn to give more grace. I’m doing great). We need to more readily recognize our own faults. And of course, we’re entering the teenage years with our oldest, so the music is probably shifting from a happy jaunty tune to something angsty.

But I don’t want to miss out on the montage years, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity in them.