For fifteen years I’ve been learning what works in our marriage.
After fifteen years, here’s what I’m good at: forgetting what works in our marriage. We can learn a lesson the hard way, come to a realization about what gives us the deepest happiness, know for sure what puts the sweetness in our marriage.
And the next day, or during the next stressful season, I promptly forget it all.
This happened again this past May.
I had a whole bunch of friends with husbands who traveled for work. Their lives fascinated me. From Monday morning until Friday night, my friends were solo with their kids.
Their husbands are road warriors. These dads work in Dubai, Dallas, and Denver. They sing lullabies to their kids over Skype and rack up hotel loyalty points by the tens of thousands. On the weekends, these men reintroduce themselves to their kids, sort through massive stacks of mail, and take their wives out for well-deserved nights off.
No one deserves a night off like these women, my friends, the travel widows. Because they work twenty-four hours a day, five days a week. They have no Plan B for their husband to pick-up the kids, they have no sick days, they don’t get to sleep in, or tag-team the bedtime routine.
My travel-widow friends do it all. And they make it look easy.
They don’t just make it look easy. Every one of them makes it look fun.
Together with their kids, they’ve created a tight-knit little clan. The kids know Mom is (literally) the only show in town, and they behave accordingly.  With dad out of town, the family runs on their own schedule. They eat dinner when everyone is hungry, not whenever dad gets home. They eat out a lot since Dad is off making double the money. My friends tell me about their long, quiet evenings after the kids go to bed. They snuggle up in their quiet houses with a magazine and a glass of wine.
The life of a travel widow is filled with a lot more ME time. And, really, when you’re in the stage of life when you can rarely pee alone, me time always sounds nice.
But, there’s more.
My friends also told me how this situation was exactly what made their marriage work. They admitted they turn into raving lunatics when their husbands are around. Their husbands didn’t get anything about the family schedule. He was, really, just in the way.
So, when M got staffed in Dallas for two-months, I thought I could handle it. I hoped I might even enjoy the change of pace. Maybe I would adopt my friends’ can-do attitude, their confidence, their me-time.
But, here’s what I had forgotten: time together is what feeds our marriage. The idea of a couple who needs each other is so un-progressive, but that’s  us. During those weeks Mike was traveling, two acquaintances emailed me to ask, “Are you okay?”
My friends didn’t have to ask. They knew I was a mess because I wasn’t sleeping. At night the loneliness was so oppressive, I couldn’t even figure out how to call someone to chat. And I didn’t just need someone to chat with, I needed to connect with my husband.
Then the weekend would come, and we would reconnect, and life felt normal. With all of us intact, under the same roof, sharing our days and the tempo of our busy lives, the sweetness of our marriage returned. I became myself again.
At night, M and I collapsed on the couch together, looked at each other, and said, “Hi.” And, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Then I remembered, once again, what works for us. Time together.
There is no right way to do marriage, but this is the right way for us. It’s true lots of couples do better with a little distance between them. They would drive each other crazy sharing an office, working shoulder-to-shoulder, or team parenting.
Whatever works.
I’ll be doing well if I can just remember that this is what works for us.


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