When I was first married, I could not understand why couples struggled in their relationship in later years. The kids are gone, hopefully on to successful lives, and retirement is looming. You have made it through the hard part. The challenges of raising kids while keeping committed to your relationship are behind you. Children require time, effort, and energy, and I always thought the energy would return to being a couple.
Then it happened- COVID and remote working.
The kids have been gone for three years. It was just me and Izzy working from home. We would move through the house with the deftness of an athlete. We would take our laptop, coffee, and treats and work outside. I would bury us both under a blanket and blog from my iPad typing to her snores’ soothing rhythm. She and I would wait for ‘Dad’ to come home and enjoy the evening together.
Izzy has been gone a little over three months, and I have not entirely adjusted to the silence. Then Anthony moved home, and there is no silence. My environment was distorted by an officemate that does not leave to go home at 5pm. No, he is home.
Now before you start feeling bad for poor old Chip, let me tell you I have made a tremendous effort and applied restraint of the murderous thoughts that cross my mind daily. He, however, is perfectly content being here all day. Oh. My. God.
After thirty-two years of marriage, I understand now why retirement may present a marital challenge. All those years, our busy lives, running the kids from here to there, and working is behind us. There is no looking forward to him coming home- he is home. My roommate/officemate is 24/7.
I needed to miss him.
The epiphany came this week. The problem is not Chip; it’s that I need to miss him. We have spent our whole marriage that way. We lived apart for almost seven years. I had an apartment in Manhattan with a roommate- other than my husband. Weekends were a joy and exciting, and I missed him to my soul. I looked forward to coming home- I wanted to be with him.
Now, when you are with someone from eyes open to eyes shut, it is seriously unhealthy. You don’t get a chance to miss them. To light candles, pour a glass of wine, and make dinner in anticipation of their return. No, we are both here, all the time.
Missing people call the heart to feel and the brain to act tenderly. Seeing someone like an office mate and spouse sparks those unfortunate homicidal thoughts. Pair that with the absence of societal interaction with friends over coffee or a glass of wine, and you feel resentment. Then the wall goes up.
Today, he went to Syracuse alone.
Last night Chip said he was going to go to Syracuse to visit his mother. What a gift he gave me. I had the day to myself.
- 8:20 AM- Headed to the carwash and then on to Home Goods and Target to stroll the aisles with no intent or purpose. (I did find a lovely comforter set, Shhh. I am on a budget.)
- 10:00 AM- Hit the market for the items I needed for a lovely Lobster Bisque. The recipe will follow this week, I promise.
- 11:30 AM- I sat down and finished my coffee. I cleaned up the kitchen and made some lunch.
- 1:00 PM- Missing some things I needed for the new bedding, so off to Target again.
- 3:00 PM- Home with a glass of Prosecco and the intent to finish my cheesy romance novel. Romance novels are beautiful and mindless.
I am surrounded by the quiet now, and it is peaceful. (and I have never liked the quiet.)
Chip called, and he is on the way home. I will finish this blog post and start the Lobster Bisque, lighting a few candles and anticipating his return.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but just in case….
As we begin the next phase of our life and downsize our home, the realization of a smaller footprint is dawning on me. I have started to Google “she-sheds” for some zool-a-zool (aka alone) time. In the interim, let’s consider a few things:
- Respect the door. We each have a door; let’s use it. You cannot knock and then enter. Oh, and CLOSE your door. That keeps the sound from traveling and contains it in your space.
- Be true to yourself as an individual. We each need to do something for ourselves. Take a ride, go to the gym, get out! We both win with a little me time.
- Be true to your couple-ness. Now let’s be a couple again. Work is in our house, but our house is not work.
I want to acknowledge that I am not perfect. I know, shocker. Chip and I are adjusting to this new arrangement like so many other couples and families. Couples with children at home must be beyond crazed. I think I have seen the liquor delivery minivan in my neighborhood on a daily basis.
Be strong. I have no words of wisdom, no advice as a sage. Just try and remember why you married each other in the first place and breathe. The struggle is real. Embrace it. Learn from it and move on… and when all else fails, go to Syracuse.
Your insight is thoughtful and kind and so spot on!