Romance After Kids

Feeling nostalgic, I binge-watched some 80s and 90s movies the last few nights before my Hulu subscription expired. Okay, they weren’t just any 80s and 90s movies; they happened to be the movies I watched over and over and over again in my teenage years. I thought they depicted perfect love stories and I fantasized about having romances just like them. 

So as I watched the movies, one after another, I kept wondering what the hell was wrong with me back then. I thought I was a pretty level-headed teeanger. I was (and still am) a huge proponent of female empowerment. How on earth could I have ever believed these movies were romantic, let alone ideal depictions of love? They were vomit-worthy at best. They all had, while albeit handsome, romantic leading men that were self-absorbed and arrogant. For some reason these guys each felt the need to “prove” their love by punching out some other dude to come to the “rescue” of their leading lady. That’s not love. That’s chest puffing, appendage swinging male bravado sprinkled with anger management issues. You know, red flag/run for the hills kind of behavior? All of these guys displayed it. I can’t believe there was ever a time I bought into that crap. As for the female leading ladies? They had this facade of strength, but mostly they acted like brats with bad attitudes waiting for their men to save them and the day. Gag. Heave. Puke. Repeat.    

It got me thinking about the things I find romantic after a dozen years of marriage with kids. Here’s what I came up with (in no particular order):

My hubby doing household chores. It’s simple. He tries to lighten the workload and I don’t feel like the family servant. Making a home-cooked meal for our family on his day off? Nice. When I leave the house in the morning with a dishwasher full of clean dishes and return in the afternoon to find he emptied it? Hot. When he takes the garbage out (instead of piling more junk on top of the overflowing trash bin and pushing it down so it’s impossible to get the damn bag out without ripping it to shreds)? Steaming hot.

No reason flowers (or ice cream). Truth be told, my husband is very good about buying me flowers. Valentine’s Day, birthday, Mother’s Day…he’s got it covered and I appreciate that. It’s when he comes home with flowers for absolutely no reason–well, that’s just sweet. Sometimes, I open the freezer and find my favorite chocolate peanut butter (dairy-free!) ice cream waiting for me. So lovely!

Being told I’m beautiful when I’m pretty sure I look like crap. Picture the Sunday morning still in my old, tattered PJs, threw my hair in a lopsided ponytail without brushing it, make-up free, sipping a cup of tea look. Inevitably, that’s when my husband walks over, caresses my cheek, and tells me I’m beautiful. It’s awfully kind of him.

Holding hands. My husband still reaches for my hand and it still warms my heart.

Sticking with it when it’s hard. Marriage is beautifully exhilarating, exciting, and exasperating all at the same time. There is no way two people can always think and want the same things. Sometimes compromise is easy and sometimes it’s hard. My hubby lives with my flaws and I live with his. There are definitely moments when we’ve both said the wrong things. We keep trying though and we don’t give up. We are in this together. Warts and all.

That endurance part is what’s missing from most Hollywood love stories–and not just the 80s and 90s ones. Movies capture the pheromone/hormone-filled narrative of attraction, but they miss the real story of love…the one that also involves dirty dishes, paying bills, long work hours, poopy diapers, teenage angst, clogged toilets, and utter exhaustion. If romance persists despite all that, it must be true, right? My cruddy trip down 80s and 90s romcom memory lane reminded me of what true romance is really all about and you can sign me up for it any day.

Published by LeeAnn Browett

LeeAnn is a teacher who lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. Her passions are education, history, politics, theater, and music.

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