The first day my husband leaves is usually a tough day. It is gloomy and boring and I usuall y plan on eating a lot of carbohydrates that day and watching “The Office” on a loop. I usually don’t cry, but if I felt like it, I would. After I adjust to his absence, I revert back to “single” mode and start taking my clothes off in the living room and letting dishes pile up in the sink. I stop really cooking and just go buy a rotisserie chicken and frozen vegetables. There are days I miss him in a very real and physical way. When I feel like that, Netflix is there.
When he’s gone I spend a little longer at the gym. I don’t actually exercise more, I’m just there. A few friends text and check on me and I appreciate it. These are the times my friendlessness is more apparent because I go stretches of day without speaking to anyone and not being able to come up with someone I could invite to lunch. I take to sleeping in the spare room, in the bed I used when I was single, because it was only meant for me.
Then one day my husband shows up at the door with body bags of stuff and covered head to toe in poison ivy. I am ready for this. The house is clean, the fridge is stocked, and my entire body is epilated– that is, hair-free. We embrace.
I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a transient spouse. In college, I didn’t want to date this guy who was going to Medical School, because presumptively, he would become a doctor and be gone too much for me; only to find myself with a husband who will be gone for months on a regular basis.
One consolation for me is that our home is his home. I am his home. I comfort him and make him comfortable. Nothing can replace that. The fact that my husband leaves makes that all the more special. If my husband was never leaving, I would never savor him in an endless hug in the kitchen. I would rarely spend a week focused on what he wants to eat and do. If my husband never left, my thoughts would never be consumed with the next moment I will see him or how it feels to have him all on my side of the bed. If he never came home, I would seldom obsess about any little thing I could do to make him happy. Many wives say “the honeymoon never ends” because those tender moments happen again and again. I don’t think those things happen if your husband only ever leaves you to go to a few conferences for work each year.
But while I am consumed by him, he is consumed by his endeavor. When he comes home he seeks respite and I provide that, but then after I have spent weeks sleepless, bored, lonely who is giving me respite emotionally? I meet his needs as best I can, but the best he can do for me is be present, on the couch mindlessly looking at sports. No one makes me dinner or brings me gifts. No one praises me for my sacrifice or sees to my security. My soldier does not have that left to give.
I’ve only had brief moments of these feelings, but I’m only on the front end of this and I don’t have kids. I know wives grow bitter because they basically end up raising their children alone. Sometimes a wife even has to move to a new duty station alone, and they are there with no job or family besides their 5-year old and a wobbly baby on the hip, and she’s worried about her husband’s safety. I think this woman has something to be upset about.
I don’t want to be bitter so I’m never going to have kids–just kidding! (However, I don’t plan on having a bunch of kids and making it harder on myself.) I don’t feel neglected by my husband, just neglected by this situation. The best I can do to help it is to let Spencer know my feelings and specific ways he can help. If I have learned one thing about marriage it is that my husband is not going to figure anything like this out on his own.
Does basically being single for extended periods of time sort of suck? Yes. To have a life that goes on without him and a life that can be stopped for him is a balancing act. At times they seem mutually exclusive. Nurturing one inhibits the other. But honestly, what would life be like if I never had a reason to get all sentimental about this guy? Each time he leaves, the counter is reset. When he returns I have forgotten about how he he seems to go out of his way to pass gas in the room I am in, or how he can’t listen. I forget about those things and just remember how funny he is and how much better I sleep with him around. Maybe being with your husband every day evens out to or outweighs repeated honeymoons, but the honeymoons are all I have, and for them I will be grateful.
We’ll see if I feel the same after our first deployment…