My husband and I have been married 26 years this August, and we’ve been together almost 30 years. As is true with most couples, we have had our good times, hard times, super challenging times, growing together times, and, well you know what I mean.
I recently learned a lesson that caught me a bit by surprise…….
But first let me say that during our 26 plus years together, I have experienced both being happy in my marriage and I have had times when I’ve questioned if I thought this was the best relationship for me. During the questioning times, I’ve imagined what it would be like to simply be alone, and I’ve imagined what it would be like to live a life with another (imagined) person. These thoughts came during the challenging times in my marriage. My thoughts have never gone so far as to plan to leave, they lived only in my imagination, and I was able to turn to all that is good in my marriage to help me through the challenging times and stop myself from imagining a life without my husband.
Fast forward to a recent experience……
My husband was going to be away for six days. My kids are grown so it would be just my dog and me. And, I LOVE my alone time! I was counting down the weeks and then the days to the time I would have to myself. And none of my excitement was anything negative towards my husband. It’s just that I rarely get time to myself. I planned a couple of days off from work so I could enjoy a longer weekend alone. I planned a night with a girlfriend, movies that I would enjoy alone, time to read my novel, write my blog, work on my online course; I planned my dinners that I would cook for myself (cooking is a hobby), walks in the park with my dog, gardening, and so on! I couldn’t wait!
The first few days were pretty good despite some rainy weather that dampened my planned outdoor activities. But I adjusted and enjoyed cooking my meals, a little reading, and binge-watched a new show on Netflix. My friend and I decided to put off our dinner in the hope that the rain would end because both of us love to sit outside and have dinner in the garden.
Here’s the thing…..
Minor daily occurrences began to chip away at my enthusiasm for my alone time. The weather put a damper on almost everything, and the cloudy days brought my mood down a bit, I lost power in my house one evening due to a bad storm, I battled a mosquito in my bedroom one night (for an hour!), and I could not get to sleep (I’m a mosquito magnet, I imagined waking up to a face full of bites!). I had a minor plumbing mishap, and I hurt my hand by mistakenly grabbing a hold of a thorny plant (stinging nettle – OUCH!). I had an encounter with someone close to me that I found upsetting, and it never worked out for my friend and I to get together. I could not come up with a blog idea, and didn’t really feel like cooking all of my planned evening meals.
I understand that all of these things are nothing disastrous and believe me, I tried to keep it positive. The truth is that even when the power went out – I was able to adjust in a positive way. The mosquito encounter was slightly humorous, and I enjoyed the show that I binge-watched.
By the fifth day – I had had it. I realized that I missed the day-to-day simple things that my husband and I share even though there are times when I find them mundane. I missed having him let the dog out when I was tired. I missed having him battle the mosquito with me. I missed him during the power outage when we would most likely have shared the awe that each of us felt about the storm. I missed the chitchat that we have about life’s events, whether it’s personal or about what’s going on in the world. I missed sharing the encounter that had upset me, and I missed him loading the dishwasher! I missed our good morning hug. I missed the small, silly day-to-day things that we share!
And because my husband was in a location that didn’t have great cell phone service, it meant that we really could not connect with one another. And because nothing ‘disastrous’ happened, this actually allowed me to become aware of missing ‘the small’ things with him. It would have been too obvious to miss him if something disastrous had happened! I’ve heard people say that when their spouse passes that it is the small things that they miss. While I understood that on a basic level, during these six days I had a tiny glimpse into what it was like to miss the small things.
I was simply made aware of all the daily things that I, sometimes, not always, don’t recognize to be of value in our partnership – I missed them and I missed him. Our relationship is not a perfect one and sometimes it is downright hard (where do you think I get all of my blog material from!) but overall, I like our day-to-day partnering, the things that I don’t always recognize. By the fifth (cloudy weather again!) day, I was ready for him to come home.
Perhaps because I work with people who have lost a spouse, and perhaps because we are getting a bit older, I also imagined that there will come a time when one of us won’t have the other. Even though I knew my husband was coming home soon, I imagined what it would be like without him – permanently. Because it was difficult for us to talk due to lack of cell phone service from his location, I was able to imagine that in a more real way even though he has been away other times in the past. Something just clicked this time. Moving forward, I will cherish even more the time we have together and value the ‘little things’.
Don’t get me wrong……
The next time he plans a trip away – I will still get excited. Like I said – I like my alone time. However, during the times that I am tempted to question my marriage, I will remember my six days without my husband.
When I was counting down the weeks and then days to when he was leaving, I imagined receiving the gift of replenishing and nurturing which I did get for some of my time alone. But the more valuable gift was the gift of a deepened gratitude of appreciating the small things, the day-to-day experiences that I missed with my husband – I learned that I missed ‘us’.
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If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: ZoltánVörös@ flicker.comShare