IN YOUR FACE! Sharing personal space with your spouse 24/7/365.

April 27, 2009 at 12:48 am 4 comments

Photo by Evan Romine

Photo by Evan Romine

Remember your wedding night? Lying in the arms of your partner and thinking how you never wanted to be apart? How wonderful life would be if you could stay like that forever? As time passes, you start to be thankful for your alone time. Time spent at the gym, out with friends or just curled up with a good book on the couch in the peaceful tranquility of an empty house is bliss. Not that you don’t still love being with your spouse, but it starts to become just that much better after time apart. You love them even more when you are reunited. Bringing baby home does break up a lot of the tranquility, of course, but you still relish the moments you have away from each other to just “be.” Imagine now if your wedding night wishes came true, and you and your betrothed spent every waking hour together for an entire year: your wildest dream or worst nightmare? Would you be closer or just closer to a breakdown?

It wasn’t until Gretchen Reid of Motherhood Transitions, my life coach, said it, or maybe it was the way she said it, that all became clear: our entire relationship had been built upon our time away or independence from one another. Kind of hard to hear, but true. We lived in entirely different states from the time we met up until the day we married seven years ago. We “dated” over the phone and had three or four weekend visits a month on my airline benefits. A few days after our honeymoon in December 2001, Danny, a U.S. Air Force Reservist, was sent to Germany for six months. After a year of active duty, he returned to his career as an airline pilot where we were now living in St. Louis. He was gone three or four days a week and continued to do his reserve duty in Colorado Springs as well. Danny was activated again in 2006 and sent to Qatar. We spent that entire year apart, only seeing each other a few weekends a month for the six months he was back in Colorado while I lived in St. Louis. It’s a miracle, but that was also the year I got pregnant. Danny missed out on my whole nauseating first trimester while in Qatar — lucky man. Between my full-time job and Danny’s, our lifestyle may have seemed hard to endure for most married couples, but was just how we liked it. We are both free spirits and enjoy time on our own. For us, it made our marriage stronger. We rarely argued and the passion never faded.

How different things are now. For the past 13 months, Danny and I have been living in an alternate reality. We have spent every day together, mostly at home in what for a good part of the year has felt like our own personal prison. As a result of Danny’s cancer diagnosis and the 10-month long treatment that followed, leaving the house was not only a “no-no” because of his weakened immune system, but practically impossible because of the pain, fatigue and nausea he suffered on a daily basis. For the three-month period following his bone marrow (or stem cell) transplant, he was quarantined to the house and required 24/7 care and sterile living conditions. While difficult enough for the two of us to withstand, try explaining to a one-year-old why we can’t go outside to play even though the sun is shining and there’s a whole wide world out there to discover and explore. If it seems we didn’t spend enough time together “pre-cancer”, we are now making up for it in what often feels like a bad sitcom (think Frank and Estelle Costanza get their own show). Is this what retirement will be like?

Now, don’t get me wrong. In a lot of ways this experience has brought us closer together and showed us that if we can survive this, then nothing is insurmountable in our marriage. But, what it has also shown us is that when you spend too much time together, you run out of things to say. Or, you tire of saying the same thing, over and over again, so you just don’t say anything at all. Communication can break down and suddenly although you live in the same house, you’re miles away from one another. The little differences between the two of you that were once tolerable become egregious and you find yourself constantly trying to maintain perspective. It’s difficult to keep perspective when everything appears so close-up. Thankfully, with time, love and prayer (much prayer) all things can be put back into their proper focus.

In many ways, yes, we could look back on this time as our worst nightmare. But, it is also possible that because of what we’ve gained in understanding, patience and closeness we are only just entering our wildest dream.

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Entry filed under: Cancer, Marriage. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gretchen Reid  |  April 28, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    First off – Congratulations on getting your blog up and running – while I’m still working on mine.

    I love this post as it really expressed the vast change you have experienced together and how all of this has affected your relationship. Remember, it really does come down to communication and checking in with yourself about your ‘expectations’ and ‘boundaries’ even if you didn’t know you had them until they were bumped up against. Then the art comes with how you communicate your needs, wants, expectations, and bounaries so the other person can hear, respond, and hopefully take action or open up a dialogue that serves you both well.

    Hugs to you both!

    Reply
    • 2. chriscbird  |  April 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks, Gretchen! Still working on it all, but we’ve come a long way.
      Looking forward to your blog!

      Reply
  • 3. Lori in Denver  |  April 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Great post about closeness and independence in a marriage and how it can change over time.

    It’s also inspiring that the issues you’ve been dealing with have brought you closer.

    The Constanza reference makes me laugh!

    Reply
    • 4. chriscbird  |  April 28, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Lori. Glad to hear you got a laugh too!

      Reply

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