The phone call that changed my marriage (a birthday love letter)

There have been three times when my marriage was most strained (code: “here marriage counsellor, take all our money” #worthit).

Those times were when we first moved in together after a year together (at 22 and 19), when we were first married and Conor worked camp work, and when we had our second baby.

I know, I too was shocked to learn that you don’t fall in love, get married, have babies and you never lay awake at night desperately wanting to change the person laying beside you!

This day, six years ago I got a phone call from Conor.

He was in camp (two weeks in camp, two weeks at home) and had been calling me almost nightly for the past two years we had this camp work lifestyle.  Most every conversation was filled with undertones of my frustration and his annoyance at me. Every sentence was only made worse by the delayed silence of the satellite phones.

But tonight was his birthday. I was excited for him, I missed him with an ache through my whole body. I laid in a blue hammock, alone in our yard – like I spent so many afternoons. As I swayed there, he took a moment to let the silence linger. He spoke low and quiet and told me ‘this is the last birthday I ever want to spend in a camp’.


Even though camp work wasn’t great, we were still living in a town that we loved every inch of. But, he said there was this small town we could move to. He could get a job there where he would be home every night. He said that we could be together.

He didn’t need to outright say it, he wanted these things as much as I had since he flew away on that camp plane to start his very first shift as a newlywed man in a new town. I just handled it poorly and drove him even further away which created this horrid cycle in our immature relationship, we were both at fault. But despite all that, he still wanted to be together, like I did.

I don’t remember what my response was. I was relieved that he had found a way to be together as a family but I knew it would mean leaving a dream job that I had finally landed. I knew it would mean starting over in a new town. However, wherever I was one-part resistant I was 99-parts thrilled that we would start fresh, together.

One week later we were at a friend’s wedding and I woke him up in the middle of the night to ask him what his plans were next March….because he was going to be a Dad by then. We walked around in that shiny bubble that some couples float about inside when they learn they are finally pregnant with their first child.

I thought to myself that perhaps it took this step from Conor for everything else to fall into place. Maybe we were both waiting on one another to make changes.

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Six years, three kids and a career change later we are in this small town. The longest we have ever lived anywhere. He might work long hours, but every night I can turn to him and talk to him. Without phone delays, and layers of frustration and battling annoyance. Without wanting to change everything about him. I see now that when you can stop wanting to change the person you are with you can really start loving them, truly loving them.

We haven’t always treated one another well – with love that comes without conditions, or with kindness, or humility. But that step that he made six years ago was one of the most pivotal decisions in the life that would exist for us and our children. We joke that if he never made that call that we might not still be married. Sorta joking.

So, today he celebrates his 31st birthday and for a glorious month and a half I am only two years his senior, rather than three. Although I fell head over heels in love with the 18-year-old boy, I get to celebrate the man he is. The kind of man who teaches me to stick it out even when you want to change it all! The kind of man who is willing to make changes. The kind of man I never want to change.

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