Lately my husband has been traveling a ton, flying back and forth from Oklahoma to consult with a company in the Napa Valley, no less. I’m talking two or three weeks at a stretch. Good stuff.

I knew Noah was an adventurer when I met him. In college he did what I should have done, which is travel internationally every chance he got. He was raised to believe he could do big things, accomplish whatever he set his mind to. I was raised to be a “good girl” and “marry a good boy.” We say our relationship is like that of a kite and a string. He stretches me (more like a guitar string) and I ground him–and reel him in whenever necessary. It’s a yin and yang balance we’ve managed to maintain for two decades.

In some ways this latest round of separateness has had its upsides. We tend to appreciate each other more and have lots to catch up on when he comes home. But with three kiddos and a household to manage (not to mention I work nearly full time), there are some definite challenges.

Recently when he was here, it seemed every time I wanted to discuss something he’d stop me abruptly and say, “Does this have to do with money, house repairs or the kids’ schedules?”

Um…probably. What else is there?

Oh the sexiness of married life. Most days it feels more like we’re business partners. Or co-workers in a daycare center. Or co-workers on a janitorial crew. That’s hot.

Here we are in one of our hotter moments–my office's fancy holiday party.

Here we are in one of our less janitorial moments–my office’s fancy holiday party.

Obviously some of the drudgery of daily life simply has to be dealt with–we both get that (and have managed to FaceTime our way through several recent dilemmas). The problem is when those are the only topics trending between you. So when I saw a story on the Today Show this morning, it struck a chord.

A few years ago a woman named Chrisanna Northrup was feeling like the spark had faded from her 15-year marriage. After couple’s therapy just wasn’t working, she moved out for a period of time.

Then she did what most women would think to do. She polled 100,000 couples about their marriages and wrote a book about her findings. Apparently the results saved her marriage, so I guess it was a good idea after all.

Her (and her co-author’s) book is called The Normal Bar–an account of the data they uncovered about what makes couples happy. In addition to strong communication and friendship, these self-proclaimed happy couples reported they have sex an average of three to four times a week (good sex, not the obligatory kind). And those that have this level of frequency tended to sleep in the nude. Huh.

With all of my single parenting of late, it’s easy to fall into a resentment trap. Resentment and bitterness are toxic sludge for relationships, so I’ve been working on ways to play less of the family martyr. In her Today interview, Chrisanna talks about how she would rush home from work to immediately begin making dinner for her husband and three kids each night. Then one day he told her how he couldn’t care less about dinner…that all he wanted is for her to give him a big hug and kiss at the end of the day and say how much she loved him. Revelations like that helped put their marriage back on track. Hungry, but happily married.

Near the end of the happy couples’ satisfaction list? Parenting. Which reinforces what I’ve read in a great book called Bringing Up Bebe that compares and contrasts French and American parenting philosophies, and relates how the French miraculously raise  kids who mostly appreciate good food and don’t whine or dominate the family agenda. The message I think is that to have a great marriage, it can’t be all about the kids. You have to remind yourselves of who you are (and were) as a couple before Susie and Billy arrived. For me, it’s often about revisiting who I was as a person before any of these darling people entered my life, God love them.

So it’s Friday and with my husband gone, I’m proud to say I’ve set up my own date night. I’ll be going to dinner and then to see Silver Linings Playbook with my neighbor, Brenda–and look forward to telling Noah all about it.

http://www.thenormalbar.com

http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/50742521/#50742490