From the Homefront: Courting a spouse, British-style

Published: Tuesday, July 5 2011 6:30 a.m. MDT

“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.” –Barbara De Angelis

A happy marriage is not an outgrowth of typical daily life. If it were, we wouldn’t have so many failed marriages.

I think of this every time I get ready to head out on a date with my husband, Seth. Amid the frantic clean-up, preparing a meal that I won’t eat, putting on makeup and posting emergency contacts on the fridge, I often think, “Why do we bother? It would be better to stay home and watch old reruns of 'Seinfeld' on the computer.”

Yet the minute I step out the door, hand-in-hand with Seth, I remember the importance of this couple time.

Of course, Seth is way better at this than I am. So when we approached our 10-year wedding anniversary, and he said, “Let’s do something big, like Europe!” I braced myself. I used to be a world traveler, but now a trip to Target is an ordeal. I knew the legwork involved in planning a trip like this.

Mostly, I hoped it would be worth it. We might be better off going to a late-night movie, splurging on a large buttered popcorn, giving each other a high-five and saying, “Wahoo! We made it through the first ten years!”

That idea didn’t go over so well. It seems we were on our way to the British Isles.

Of course, the entire tripe was only made possible because my gracious in-laws volunteered to watch our four boys, for which I owe them the equivalent of England’s crown jewels.

There were months of planning, booking hotels, purchasing the right kind of walking shoes and rain jackets, scouring the Rick Steve’s Guide, reserving the rental car and updating passports. These were Seth’s jobs.

I was charged with organizing the garage and organizing closets. (These things should be done on a regular basis, I know, but I reserve them for when the in-laws have to see them.) I stocked the fridge and freezer, created the contacts list (with the emergency room’s address in bold), put together meal ideas and field trip ideas, plus tips on feeding the pet turtle and watering the vegetable garden.

With all of the prep work, I didn’t even have time to think about the vacation aspect. Not until we had our seatbelts securely fastened and were airborne toward London did I finally turn to Seth and say, “I am actually excited about this!”

And also, “Next time can we pick something simpler, like Vermont?”

I could give you a full recap of our trip, from the Tower of London to the sheep farms of the Lake District, but this journey was about more than learning the twisted line of kings and queens who ruled England. It was about rediscovering who Seth and I are as a couple. The first few days of our trip were rough. We were tired and overwhelmed by London’s crowded streets. Seth had technology withdrawals, and I missed my children, who at home circle around me like I’m the center of their gravity.

We had sort of forgotten how to talk to each other for a sustained period of time.

And then something happened around day five. We were driving through York, navigating yet another roundabout on the left side of the road, and we began to sing — song after song in slightly sharp harmony until we dissolved into laughter in the middle of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

It felt so good to laugh. It felt freeing to sing. It felt good to remember that before I was a mother I was a wife, and long after the kids are gone I will still be a wife, working to make this marital union successful.

We spent the remainder of our trip laughing, singing, eating our hearts out and mostly making long lists of where we want to go next: France, Nova Scotia, and, yes, Vermont.

At our trip’s end we hiked up Arthur’s Seat, an old volcanic formation that overlooks the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. We stood on the trail and watched the sun set over an ancient city. I had stood on that same spot 14 years earlier as a newly minted high school graduate, only that time to watch the sun rise.

I’ve learned a great many things between that sunrise and sunset, but this is one of the most important: It is always worth it to walk out that the front door as husband and wife, whether it’s to stroll around the block or fly across the world. You do your children a favor and you do your marriage a favor when you take the time and money to make memories together.

And the European cheese? I’ll take that over movie popcorn any day.

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