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While I partially agree with the popular notion that Valentine’s Day is a holiday designed to sell cards, flowers and chocolates...I do smile at all of the pink and red hearts on display in February. I am a true romantic. I’m fine with pulling out the stops on February 14th, if that’s your thing, but I do believe that a great romantic relationship should be nurtured and celebrated all year long.
Since I’m feeling all the feels of this sappy season...this post is about love:-)
My daughter and her boyfriend are celebrating their one year anniversary today. She’s a high school senior and he’s a (far away) college freshman. Their relationship is nothing like my relationships at that age. They have an emotional maturity that I lacked until I was almost thirty.
Sure, they face some typical young love struggles and the distance is difficult for both of them, but they've stayed together for 365 days.
At any age, I think that’s pretty cool.
My in-laws are rounding the corner to 50 years of marriage. At only 68 years old, they’ve essentially been married since they were kids. They’ve raised four children and have eleven grandchildren and they actually still like each other. They have staying power.
Today, Matthew and I have been married for 7,573 days.
I’m often asked to share our secret. How have we managed to keep our marriage so solid for so many years?
I guess I can think of a few things that have worked for us, but there’s one that we both believe has been some serious glue.
What's Second Dinner?
Quiet. Meaningful. Alone time.
Matthew and I eat dinner at 9:30 every night.
Our teenage children eat around 6:30 with us fully in the mix, but not really eating with them.
We often have a small taste of what they’re having, but it’s definitely not a meal...it’s more of a snack.
We all talk and share the news of the day, but Matthew and I have our dinner alone, later.
Second dinner always includes candles and wine.
Our big kids sometimes filter through the dining room while we're eating. We chat briefly and they head off to bed.
How did we get here? Sort of by accident...
When Matthew and I began living together, we worked in a restaurant. I planned events and he managed the restaurant. My role was to get the party started and then quietly exit once things were smoothly underway. Matthew was there until the end. Locking up and heading home, often after midnight.
Back then, I’d eat something small when I got home and then wait up for Matthew so I could eat dinner with him. This continued until we had our first baby.
Then, Matthew took a day job so he could be home in the evenings. We’d put Greta down and then we’d eat dinner.
As our family grew, I think we assumed that we’d begin having traditional family dinners once our kids were a little older.
That never really happened.
Well, for a few reasons….
When Greta was three and a half, Henry was born (he's our third:-). Dinnertime with two toddlers and an infant was challenging.
As the kids got older, even relatively peaceful dinners were chaotic.
Mayhem. Lots of food to cut up. Mouths to wipe. Meltdowns to manage. We were teaching manners and setting ground rules, but Matthew and I needed time to be adults. I missed having time with him.
And, then there's the wine problem.
The few times I tried to include a glass of wine in the early family dinner mix...I wanted to go to bed before bath-time. Wine and toddlers didn’t work for me. A few sips and I was too tired handle the busy bedtime routine. I was often exhausted from the fullness of the every day...a glass of wine and I was useless.
But I love wine.
I quickly discovered that after everyone was safely tucked into their beds...I could light the candles and have a glass of wine with my husband. I gained a second dinner-second wind and was ready to connect with Matthew.
We could sit like grown ups and remember what we liked about each other. It was our time. And quickly became sacred.
With rare exception, we always eat a second dinner.
On vacation...it's out for an early, small meal then home for a second dinner alone. At the beach with the whole family (22+ people) we still make second dinner work.
This practice has strengthened and sustained our marriage.
We recognize this is an unusual arrangement. We've gotten some flack and resistance about our method over the years. But, we've stopped apologizing for it. We relish our time together every evening.
Twenty years in...this works for us.
Just to clarify....we do have a few family dinners every week with our kids. Traditional mealtimes where we all sit around the table and eat together...but Matthew and I eat light, knowing that we'll be back at the table together later...with candlelight and wine.
If you’d like to give second dinner a try...
Pick an evening next week to have dinner alone. At home. Keep it simple and make is special. Then, please share your thoughts!
Every happy couple has their own secret for success.
Need a Valentine’s Day gift?
I recently purchased Table Topics for Couples.
It's a Lucite box containing 135 cards. On each card is a question for couples. Matthew and I take turns sharing a question while we eat. The answers spark interesting conversations and offer a unique way to stay connected.
A great marriage does take some work, but if you want a great marriage...it’s worth the effort.
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
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