It was a Saturday night. We went downtown for a late dinner. It was a nice night so we sat outside. The restaurant we picked was part of a super trendy hotel. As we nibbled on kale salad and artichoke flatbread, techno music pumped around us, almost bouncing our seats. I was tired; I'm more accustomed to eating in the neighborhood of 7pm than 9pm. Together we people-watched. Lots of short skirts and platform heels. We chuckled, felt a touch old.
The waiter came to take our drink order. I splurged on a large bottle of Pelligrino and lime. Husband ordered a fancy cocktail called the Penicillin. When it came, he took a small sip and declared it delicious. Thanks, I joked. You see, I'm not drinking alcohol these days. He smiled. Truth be told, I didn't want a sip of his drink. Now two months in again, I've lost my craving. Are there moments when I long for a crisp glass? You bet. But it's remarkably rare and I feel thankful for this.
He drank his drink and I drank my bubbly water and we talked. I asked him a question, a direct question I've been meaning to ask for some time:
Our marriage is much better when I'm not drinking, right?
He smiled. Nodded. You were fun, but kind of annoying, he said. Together we remembered drinking Aidan. Most of the time, I was totally okay, but there were times when I overdid it and he was the one who paid the price. I know this now. Even so, he never once pushed me to stop. He supported me and knew that I would make the decision to rethink my drinking at some point. And I did. I am.
What's interesting is that when I committed to reevaluating my habits, it all felt highly personal. Like I was addressing aspects of myself in efforts to improve my self and my life. I thought of my girls a lot as I did this, how I want to be a mom who's alert and aware and not encumbered by a substance that numbed me and took me away. But I didn't realize that I was also making a decision to put my marriage first. Drinking, for me, was impairing not just my inhibitions and awareness, but my ability to be a good wife, the present and engaged partner I want to, and now know I can, be.
Oh has this been a process. When Husband and I met many moons ago (almost 13 years), our courtship was euphorically wine-soaked. We worked hard and played hard and cocktails, among other things, were at the core of our relationship. But things have changed. We have three small girls, we have new stresses and demands, we have new perspectives on illness and mortality. We are the same people, but we are also different people. Does that make sense?
Anyway, I don't know where I'm getting with this, but that's okay. Saturday marked another two months without alcohol. And though this often seems like a broken record, this flirtation with dry living, it remains important for me to acknowledge these mini-milestones, to remind myself why this decision is good for me at this point. Also, it would feel disingenuous for me to spend a month writing about marriage without mentioning the one thing that has maybe improved our marriage most.
Look, I do not write about this not-drinking thing to make you guys self-conscious about your drinking. Only you can know if your drinking is an issue or not and for many of you, it probably isn't. But maybe there is something else, some other crutch or habit or pattern that has gotten in the way of the relationship(s) that matter most to you? I implore you to think about this, to really think about it. Because I now know something, something powerful and worth sharing: if you yank one thing from the existential equation, tons can change.
I guess my point is modest really: Change is totally possible. I think we tell ourselves stories that we are who we are, that we can't change people or situations, that they have this immutable essence to them that defies our tinkering and tweaking. Well, I don't entirely buy this. I think it's never too late to make the changes we want to, or maybe need to, make.
Oh, before I go, a little background on the photo above. It was weeks ago. Husband and I went on a date at the new Tavern on the Green. After, we took an impromptu stroll on Sheep Meadow. He plopped flat on the grass and I joined him. We stared at the sky and dissolved into laughter when I pulled out my phone for a predictable selfie. I look at my smile in this picture, and his, and feel pretty good about where we are.
Have you made any changes that have improved your marriage or other relationships? Are you able to identify things you wish your partner would work on to improve your relationship? Do you believe people and situations can change?