Marriage and the Single Girl

That’s what this is, corporate wifery. Or spousery. Whatever. It’s being married, and being single, depending on your partner’s schedule.

My husband left on Sunday with his boss, to take a corporate jet to South America. He left at 8:00 a.m. He did this after taking my two dear friends from my old hometown to a different airport… at 4:15 a.m. This, he did, after a Friday and Saturday of being the parent in charge as I spent a fantastic 40 hours with my friends.

So, aside from being a king among men, a prince among frogs, a gem among gravel, he’s gone a lot. He doesn’t like it, I don’t like it, the kids don’t like it, but it’s the way it is.

I was irritated about it the other night. Really irritated. Because I don’t hear from him while he’s away. He’s working and under stress and his sleep pattern is all jacked up, but in his mind, he knows the kids and I are fine. He’s occupied–I doubt he has time to miss me. Or it is too tender a thing, to give himself time to miss me and the kids. So he focuses.

Me? I’m here, occupying myself as best I can. I started running again, as in longer than a mile at a stretch. (It’s what I did when he lived in Armenia for four months after we’d been dating for a year. Ended up running a marathon when he lived in a different city for grad school.) I cleaned up the garage to store our patio furniture. The garage is my husband’s domain, but it might snow Friday, and he won’t be back till late Friday night. All the other neighbors’ have moved their furniture already–I got panicky. To make room for the furniture I moved three huge wood palates (they had held our new bathroom vanity and glass shower door in our new basement bathroom) and dozens of square feet of scrap drywall and cement board that remain from the addition (final mechanical, electrical, and plumbing inspections passed by the way, though I need to apply some silicon gel around the base of the toilet and change a wall plate before final building inspection). I examined the damaged door leading from the garage to our back yard and figured out how I’d take a puppy out to the back yard from there… (did I mention we’re likely to bring a puppy home in December?).

I felt strong, and filthy, and tired…  And… single. All good things.

I made dinner for the kids and me tonight. We sat and ate together. I helped our daughter study for her social studies test and tried not to confuse her with extra knowledge (I was a poli sci major). I commended our son for doing about three times the amount of work he needed to do tonight–he just wanted to occupy himself while his sister studied. What second grader volunteers to work on his handwriting skills? Ours does.

I do this, alone. And I feel too responsible, sometimes, for them. I think about us bringing a puppy into our home, and I feel too responsible for that guy, knowing that my husband will be as available–time-wise–to the dog as he is to me and the kids… And I feel sad for my husband, and for us.

But then I don’t. He works harder than anybody I know. Anybody. And I… well, I am not a typical person. I need to accept that about myself. There must be a part of me that needs to be a little bit single. And maybe my husband too, needs it. The time away, to be your own person, responsible for things that only you can handle. You end up needing your mate for the right things, in the right way.

One of my best friends reminded me of this. She doesn’t know this, but she did. There is something gratifying, fulfilling, about not being with my husband every day. About parenting without him a fair amount of the time. About handling things on my own.

Being married–you commit to be partners, forever. But a partnership is only as strong as what the two parties bring to the table. For every hour we’re apart, we’re getting stronger, independently of each other. And we come back to each other, better, more confident. More appreciative of the shoulder we can lean on when we reunite.

Or at least, these are the things I tell myself after a glass of wine, after the kids are in bed, after getting an email from my husband that one leg of his South American tour might be canceled; that he might be home two hours earlier on Friday.

Little things like this thrill me. He might actually kiss the kids goodnight on Friday, them in their costumes. He’ll have more sleep before we go meet the puppy litter again on Saturday morning.

Here’s to being thrilled. All alone on your couch. It’s delicious.

apparently, happiness is up to you, wives.

This sounds like a study that points to women being in the driver’s seat in marriage by “reacting” well to conflicts they’re having with a husband. I’m not sure if it reflects internalized stereotypes in women, or if it reflects the importance of communication skills and emotion-processing in women.

Both, I imagine. But the study makes me bristle, just a bit.

Results show that the link between the wives’ ability to control emotions and higher marital satisfaction was most evident when women used “constructive communication” to temper disagreements….

When wives discuss problems and suggest solutions, it helps couples deal with conflicts,” said UC Berkeley psychologist Robert  Levenson, senior author of the study. “Ironically, this may not work so well for husbands, who wives often criticize for leaping into problem-solving mode too quickly.”

This finding deserves more attention:

…the husbands’ emotional regulation had little or no bearing on long-term marital satisfaction.

And, of the 80 middle-aged and older heterosexual couples’ interactions that were examined, were all those marriages “happy” in the first place? (Who were they, and why did they agree to have their disagreements videotaped?)

I need to read this study in full.. comes out in the journal Emotion, and its November issue is not yet online.

Wives matter more when it comes to calming down marital conflicts.