Sometimes I feel like the wife of a tribesman who goes off to hunt for weeks at a time. Although my husband, Blair, doesn't drag home a buffalo or a bear, he's one of an increasing number of men and women who roam far and wide in order to bring home the bacon.
I assumed that we got married so we could see each other more often. I should have known better. Blair and I began with a long-distance courtship. We didn't live in the same city until we got married. We made our wedding plans by fax and telephone. Our marriage preparation class was done by correspondence course. And after our wedding and then we had children, his work with a large Christian organization continued to take him all over the world, sometimes for three or four weeks at a stretch. Of course, faxes and telephones, e-mail and voice mail help cut across time zones and schedule differences. But communication is more than keeping in touch. And distance does create barriers.
As a periodically abandoned wife, I find transitions the hardest. First there's the adjustment to being alone. Crawling into bed without that familiar lump beside me. Waking up without the smell of coffee or the sound of the shower running. Realizing I can't roll over with a groggy "Your turn" when our child cries in the middle of the night. Days that stretch out seamlessly with no evening or weekend relief from parenting responsibilities.
But gradually life takes on a slightly different rhythm. I read more. I enjoy impromptu outings with our daughter, Megan, without pressure to return home at a certain time. Best of all, I decide how to use those few precious moments of discretionary time. And then, just as I'm settling into life without a daily partner, he's back home, and I have to adjust to having him around again. We resume the thermostat negotiations. He has an opinion about what to have for dinner and what I'm wearing. My single-parent skills must be reabsorbed into a shared parenting approach. It's a roller-coaster lifestyle that can test even the strongest of partnerships. So how do I keep my balance on such a bumpy ride?1