About nine months into our marriage - after we were settled into our house and had finally taken our honeymoon - we found ourselves in a rut. Each day looked the same - work, eat, sleep. We'd spend almost every evening sitting on the couch, staring at a 65" television until one or both of us fell asleep. In the times we weren't separated by work, we were together. But the time we spent - while quantitative - wasn't quality. We were just kind of there. Together.
As a newlywed, I think I was afraid not to spend every moment together - I mean, you're supposed to want that, right? If we weren't spending all of our time together, wouldn't there be something wrong?
In truth, we had simply become "Dashten" and let Dustin and Ashten get left behind. Both strong, independent people, we had each taken the things that made us "us" and dropped those things at the threshold of our new house. We replaced our individual wants and desires with a collective "this is married life" misconception.
That was honestly a tough season, especially for Dustin. He had given up every part of his pre-Ashten life to jump into the life I had established in Birmingham once we got engaged. Being in a rut only exacerbated the notion of not feeling like himself anymore, and I had been too busy trying to plan out the life I thought we "should" be living to properly notice.
So with the advice of our mentors (I think every married couple should have a mentor couple), we re-crossed the threshold of our house, this time retaining our individuality even as we entered year 2 of our marriage as a unified "one."
Instead of spending countless, forgetful hours together each day, we created a balance of quality married time and necessary "me" time - for both of us. We started ordering the plated dinner boxes (we've tried every brand), and cooking together became a meaningful part of our day. We added date nights where we tried some of Birmingham's nicer restaurants. We found a hobby we can both enjoy, while taking the time to become better at listening and responding to each other. And sometimes, we still watch tv together until one or both of us falls asleep, and that's okay.
Now that our time together is memorable, quality time, it doesn't feel like we're stuck somewhere, going through the motions. This has also given us the freedom to focus on ourselves as a man and woman, not just as a husband and wife. Admittedly, this was a little difficult for me at first. It was hard to think that my husband needed some time to himself - time away from me. However, it did not take long before I began to look forward to his Call of Duty nights because while he took care of himself (with video game bonding), I took care of me. I used that time to read, relax in a hot bath, care for my skin, and watch re-runs of shows I enjoy.
It's amazing how much we each have grown this year - both as individuals and as a married couple. With the balance we've struck, I've been able to get back into writing and even led a women's small group this spring. Dustin completed a men's Freedom small group, and joined a neighborhood wiffle ball team. Together, we have traveled, dived, cooked, and binge watched The Office and Westworld. We make every moment count, whether that means spending a Saturday hiking to the top of Oak Mountain together, hosting our friends for a game night, or spending the last hour of a Thursday night with Dustin watching the newest episode of Game of Thrones while I'm curled up in bed with a coloring book. No moment is simply wasted.
I think it can be deceptively easy to lose ourselves in marriage, and I'm so thankful that my husband encourages me to do things that are 100% just for me. He understands that I have an identity outside of my role as a wife and wants me to grow into the best woman I can be - just as I want the same for his growth as a husband and man. Finding that balance between quality time as a couple and quality time as an individual is crucial.
Always make your moments count.