It’s Saturday night. You’re 25 years old, single and getting ready for a girls’ night out. Your legs are shaved. Your make-up is perfect. Your hair is swooshy. You’ve got your glad rags and your heels on. You look and feel great. And that is the night you meet your future husband.
Now fast forward 10 years.
You’re 35 years old. You’re a mum to 2 kids and you’re exhausted.
25 year old you imagined being grown up, and married with kids, to be like in the adverts. You know the ones where the whole family is glossy and smiling?
But the reality is so far from that. It’s incredible how much of your time is spent being reduced to tears by pieces of paper in school bags that request pirate outfits for 2 days’ time, that your 7 year old child make a musical instrument, that you bake 20 cupcakes for the bake sale, that you attend the summer fair planning meeting. Not to mention the 3 invitations to birthday parties on the same day in 3 different locations.
No matter how often you tidy the house it looks like a bomb’s hit it.
No matter how often you go grocery shopping there never seems to be any food to cook (and certainly nothing your kids are willing to eat).
And when the kids are in bed it’s the most you can do to pick up the remote control and choose what to fall asleep to on the TV.
That swooshy, gorgeous 25 year old is so so far away, it is as if she were a totally different person.
Sometimes you glance over at your husband. The man you fell in love with all those years ago, and wonder where he went too.
The man next to you has let himself go. His 20-something six pack has melted into a beer belly he can rest his pint on. You still love him, of course you do, he’s your husband, the father of your kids, and you’ve got such happy memories together.
…sometimes you just wish he’d make more of an effort. It feels like he takes you for granted.
He doesn’t ever really tell you you’re beautiful anymore. And after having two kids you know your body is not where it once was.
Then you glance down at yourself.
Hair that desperately needs a wash. No make-up. A greying bra and unmatching washed out knickers. Tracksuit trousers hiding legs in serious need of deforestation and socks with holes in them.
I have had this scenario described to me time and time again over the years. And come close to it myself at times.
In fact the first time I heard a story similar to this one was the best because I was newly engaged. I was in the first flush of love and it has stayed in my head ever since. It has been a warning to me.
I had just turned 27. Ben and I had been together for 14 months and we were getting married 6 months later when my 40 year old friend described a similar situation to the one above.
She showed me photos of her husband on their wedding day, and I didn’t recognise the man I knew as her other half.
The man in the photo was 15 years younger and built like a male model.
My friend’s husband aged 40 fell very much into the beer belly category, and the male model was nowhere to be seen.
My friend complained to me that he used to do loads of sport, and would go out drinking with his friends and loved eating.
Which was fine when he was doing loads of sport. But then the kids came along. Work became more demanding. There was no time to do sport, but the drinking and the eating continued.
She told me how she missed the man she fell in love with. Then apologised for complaining because he is a good man, a great husband and a wonderful father.
But she told me that she no longer found him attractive. Partly because of the physical side but partly because it felt like he didn’t care about making an effort for her anymore.
At the time, early on in my days of love, this shocked me to the core.
How could you let yourself go like that?!?
Then I got married, and a few years later had my first child, whilst launching a new business. And I realised.
Wow! It’s so easy to let yourself go.
You get so tired, and so weighed down with everything that needs to be done. And before you know it you can braid the hairs on your legs.
Back in the day when my friend told me her story I shared it with Ben. And we both looked at each other in youthful innocence and said we’d never end up like that. We’d always make an effort for each other.
And I’m so glad we did. Because that is what has stopped us from falling face first into a pit of “let-yourself-go”.
Every time I feel myself slipping too far into “can’t-be-bothered” territory I remember the look on my friend’s face. And I realise I don’t want my own husband to stop bothering for me, so I had better make an effort for him too.
Now let’s be clear, this doesn’t mean every day. And anyone who has ever seen me in real life will vouch for that.
I only tend to wear make-up for special occasions or for evenings out, I never wear it for the day-to-day.
I’m very comfortable in jeans (in the UK), shorts (in Mauritius) and a t-shirt and flats.
I don’t do my hair every day.
But what I do try and do is make sure I make an effort – for my man – at least once a week. Nothing crazy – jeans and a nice top, a touch of make-up, maybe a bit of a heel if I’m feeling really wild.
And underneath, some nice undies, that have not been washed out of existence, that fit well, that match and that I feel great in.
Plus shaved legs.
You see shaving my legs might wind me up something chronic (so ridiculously time-consuming and the hair grows back so bloody fast) but I know the difference it makes.
And it’s always so worth it as that man of mine will always shower me with compliments when I’ve made an effort.
Now this goes both ways. I make an effort for him, and he makes an effort for me.
Neither of us are gym bunnies but you know when you’re 40+ years old your body just ain’t what it used to be. So we both do bits of pieces of sport to keep in shape for ourselves but for each other too.
It all goes back to that friend and her husband when I was 27. We just never wanted to fall into that trap of “you used to look so great and make such an effort and now you just don’t care”.
And the upside is that Ben showers me with compliments and I think he looks as gorgeous now as he did when I met him. In fact more (why do men get more attractive as they get older?!? So unfair!).
Life is exhausting. There is never enough time. Shaving your legs and making an effort is soooooooo far down the list so much of the time. But the difference it makes – for you as much as for your other half – is so worth it. For your own self-esteem and self-confidence as for the wellbeing of your relationship.
Go on! Give it a try 😉
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