At Last

When my oldest son, Ryan, was six years old, he asked me “Is there someone we could talk to to help my dad be a better parent?” SIX YEARS OLD.  I knew my ex-husband was not a good person when I left him three years prior, but I had no idea it was so bad that our six year old son knew he needed help.

I immediately found a great therapist.  She would see the kids together and individually,  Wil and I together, or the kids’ bio-dad and his girlfriend together. Occasionally, we would have a session with the 4 adults. That never went well. The therapist quickly realized this was going to be about me and Wil managing the unfortunate things the kids would have to deal with while they were visiting their bio-dad, and just helping Wil and I be the best parents possible for Ryan and Nolan in the hopes that one day they would figure everything out for themselves.

One of the best pieces of advice the therapist gave us was to focus on our own relationship as a married couple. As much as my ex-husband tried to make our lives hell, we needed to make time for each other because even though we had kids from the very beginning of our relationship, the kids wouldn’t always be around. If we didn’t have our own solid relationship, our marriage would fall apart once the kids were grown and out of the house.  We took her advice and made sure we set aside time for each other. Money was really tight back then so we didn’t have the luxury of going out for a nice dinner or taking vacations together.  Our time together was spent going on long walks or hikes or just playing a board game by the fire. As long as it was something that was just for us, that was all that mattered.

The kids are now grown and out on their own. When that happened a couple of years ago, Wil and I realized we were doing the relationship in reverse of most people. Most people have their time alone and then start a family. We  had the family from the beginning, and suddenly we were a couple living alone, doing what we wanted without the schedule of  the kids’ school, sports, and visitations. That’s when we really became aware of the advice the therapist gave us to make sure we had our own relationship. We were so excited just for the little things like making what we wanted for dinner without a teenager complaining about it or watching whatever we wanted to on TV. The effort we had put into our relationship all those years was paying off, and it felt pretty great.

This past week, Wil and I went to Yosemite. We did this last year as a Christmas gift to ourselves in lieu of actual gifts because we prefer doing something together instead of getting “stuff.” We had such an amazing time in the beautiful, snow covered park last year that we wanted to experience that again. We were disappointed at first when we found out there wasn’t going to be any snow this trip, but this was about spending time together, so we would just find new things to do that didn’t involve building a snowman or using icicles to have a light saber duel.

We stayed in a great little cabin along a river, surrounded by huge, yummy smelling trees. Since there was no snow on the ground, we were able to hike on a trail up to Mirror Lake, which we had never seen before. As much as I love the snow for how peaceful it makes everything, almost like a sound buffer,  we realized it was just as peaceful hiking through the valley, which we wouldn’t have been able to do if it were full of snow.  We were enjoying being outdoors so much that we even walked to a nearby village and enjoyed some outdoor ice skating.

At the end of each day, we would put on jammies, crank up the heater (no snow but it was 30 degrees outside) and watch movies while we played Qwirkle and Blokus and ate room service dinner.  It was such a simple way to spend an evening, but we loved it.

As much of a struggle as we had just to raise our kids, we honestly appreciate that if it weren’t for going through all of that, we may not have as strong of a relationship as we do now. Occasionally, we get asked for advice from couples that are about to get married how to make a marriage last. We always tell them that no matter what is going on in your lives, whether it’s kids, school, work, whatever, always make time for each other and make your relationship a priority. Situations will come and go but at the end of the day, it’s the love and friendship with your spouse that makes it all worth it.

25 thoughts on “At Last

  1. You are so right about the importance of developing your relationship as a couple. I also tell a lot of moms I know that they need to take time for themselves. Kids grow up and move out.

  2. 1) I met my daughter, Morgan, and her mom, Julie, when Morgan was 5. Julie was separated from her first husband, who wasn’t Morgan’s bio-dad, but Morgan thought he was and they hadn’t done anything to correct this notion. Until Julie told him over the phone that she’d started seeing me, it was very serious, and she was absolutely going to divorce him. He seemed to accept it, then asked if he could tell Morgan good night. As soon as the phone was handed to Morgan, he told her, “I’m not your real dad.” Morgan was shattered and Julie was furious. In tears, Morgan told her mom, “I want Josh to be my new dad.” As soon as Julie reported this to me, I knew that’s what I wanted, too. It’s 11 years later, Julie and I have been married and then divorced, and as far as Morgan is concerned, I’m Dad. (I usually say that I didn’t adopt her, she adopted me. Which is what Wil’s role in Ryan’s and Nolan’s lives has always sounded like to me, too. They adopted him as much as he adopted them.) (And for the record, Julie and I are still friends and are always on the same page when it comes to parenting Morgan.) (Another parenthetical: one of the best moments of my life was at last year’s Planet Comicon in Kansas City, when I got to meet Wil and introduce him to Morgan and tell him our story.)

    B) I love love LOVE that you and Wil prefer to give each other experiences for Christmas instead of stuff! This past Christmas was the first year I told people I didn’t want “stuff” (unless it was handcrafted and unique), I wanted experiences. I think I’m going to make that a permanent thing.

    Spoon) Sorry for the long, rambly post. Thank you for writing something that made me feel strongly that I wanted to reply…in a long, rambly way.

    1. Kids are really smart at any age and can tell when a person loves them for who they are. Blood relation doesn’t always make for the best parent for the child. I’m glad Morgan has you! I’ll be with Wil at Kansas City Comicon this year. I hope you’ll be there so we can meet!

      1. “Blood relation doesn’t always make for the best parent for the child.” As Morgan, Ryan, and Nolan have all learned. 🙂

        I will definitely be at Planet Comicon! I’m really looking forward to meeting you and making some epic puns!

  3. Seriously, write a book. We will buy it. You write from the heart, about things that interest us, and we love you for it.

  4. Very well thought out advise Anne. Too many in this society offer nuggets of advise based on what they think sounds like the best advise with no basis in personal experience. Which makes for lousy advise from them .You and Wil are quite the model couple!

  5. For us, we also make time for our marriage as a way of setting a good relationship example for our boys, something they do not get from their mother (serial dating, one night stands, very toxic relationships).

  6. Thank you so much for writing this, Anne. It meant a lot to me.

    Honestly, I got teary-eyed. I felt the love between you and Wil. The making of a snowman… the icicle lightsaber duel…watching movies and playing games and room service…that sounds so, well, fun! I have honestly never experienced anything like that in any of my relationships.

    It is a reminder of how a relationship *should* be. A reminder that I badly needed during a time of some confusion when it comes to love in my life. Thank you so much!

    You are a very gifted writer! I feel very fortunate to have found your blog. For what it is worth, you have my best wishes.

  7. You are one lucky lady Anne. And Wil is one lucky guy. Paul Petlerson would be proud of how well Wil turned out after watching so many child actors end up like River Phoenix. It would have been so easy for Wil to have wound up like his friend and co-worker. And how lucky for Ryan and Nolan to have found the great parents that they did. I know that for the longest time Wil could only addess them as his step sons. So it really took me by surprise when he dropped the step and started to refer to them as his sons. With everything that is wrong with this world, and there is plenty wrong, this world is a much better place because of Mr. & Mrs. W Wheaton.

  8. This brought tears to my eyes. My husband has sole custody of his 2 boys (age 5 and 6). I have been in their lives since they were 2 and 3. Their bio-mom is – well as you said – not a good parent. We didn’t start out the relationship with kids full-time but we knew it was coming and by the time we moved in together, I was parenting. And it is such a struggle some days to find that time together and that part of our relationship. So basically, just thank you for your story and for the hope. It is incredibly nice to know it can be done and that maybe, just maybe we can succeed at this.

  9. Just discovered you have a blog!

    My summation of Lessons Learned during a 30-year marriage (so far) is “Work for the marriage, not against the marriage”. There’s a lot of ancillary stuff, such as know who or what you’re really mad at, but it boils down to that.

    That being said, Yosemite is *awsome*. We went there on our honeymoon, and it’s my clearest memory.

  10. Thank you for the great advice i think it is spot on, i just became a parent, but we already had a Relationship. But working on it now shouldn’t be forgotten. And listen to Helen….write a book.

  11. When the recent episode of TableTop came out my husband and I (we have a 2 year old and 9 month old) were watching and I told him that it’s nice to see you and Wil enjoying mutual interests and that it will be so much fun to have more time to do that as our children get older.

    We use the TableTop episodes to inspire us to find new games to play together after our boys are in bed. We’re especially into the short games since sometimes we only have 30 minutes before we both pass out.

  12. What a lovely post, thank you so much for sharing. You and Wil are a delightful couple and I love when you guys share pics or video or stories because it’s obvious how in love you are with each other. It’s beautiful.

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