Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Apart (III)

My husband has a ticket home booked for Tuesday, so here's hoping he actually gets on the plane!  I thought I would write a quick "guide" to how to survive being apart.  This trip was especially hard for us, for two reasons.  The first was that the time difference combined with the crazy hours he was working meant we weren't always able to talk - sometimes the most we had was a 2 minute conversation.  The second was that he was on a one-way ticket and what was "hopefully a two week trip" rapidly turned into three, then four weeks.  So I'm breaking it down week by week, and my advice at the bottom (since I don't think most of you care about what I've been upto.)

For starters, if you have to spend your birthday alone, make plans.  It's okay to have three different dinners with friends to celebrate your birthday.  If your family lives nearby, have dinner with them.  Also, make plans to spend time doing whatever the hell you want for your birthday.  It's nice to have a day that is all about you.  (This is the third birthday I've spent on my own, so I'm an old hat at this.)  In my case, I had four hearings and worked late, so I adopted the following Saturday as my make-up birthday and spent it working on my bike and napping.

When it comes to food, living on your own is really difficult.  I adopted a strategy of cooking every 2-3 days.  I would make a lot of food, refrigerate it, and forgive myself if I needed to order takeout or go out to dinner with a friend.  I would cook one night and then do the dishes/clean the kitchen the next.  That way, making dinner and doing the dishes didn't take my entire evening.  I also started doing the Whole30, which requires very little cooking, and was very conducive to making large vats of food and refrigerating the leftovers. I also highly recommend buying fresh fish when you are cooking for yourself - you can purchase it in small portions, and it takes less than 20 minutes to cook in a toaster oven, creating minimal dishes.

I'm lousy at getting up on my own, so I simply decided to forgive myself for not waking up at 6 every day and getting in a workout.  I just went to the gym after work instead, and nights I went to the gym usually weren't nights in which I cooked food.  I also forgave myself for not going to the gym every day.  If it didn't happen, it didn't happen.  I aimed for 3x a week, instead of my usual 6, and it worked out.

It's really important to keep busy and make plans generally.  I started taking Spanish classes, I continued playing hockey, and I made plans with friends I never get to hang out with, since the only person whose schedule I had to accommodate was mine.  Even if you don't have friends to make plans with, schedule other stuff for just yourself - schedule long runs or long bike rides, and don't be afraid to go to the pool by yourself.  Don't say no to anybody who invites you to something - even if it doesn't sound fun, it is more fun than doing nothing at home, alone.  If you can't find anything else to do, see if there are any events going on (inside, where it is air conditioned) that need volunteers.  Don't be afraid of being a third wheel with your couples friends - as long as you know them well enough, it's not weird.  I'm also really lucky that I have enough couple friends that aren't joined at the hip that we could hang out without their SO tagging along (and the separation has me thinking about how much time my husband and I spend together and whether it's healthy).  Yes, there will be housework that doesn't get done if you keep busy - but I found when I was sitting around, I didn't want to do housework and cleaning by myself, so I just did the bare minimum and then felt bored and lonely. 

It's good to have a large stash of DIY projects going on so you can tackle them and feel accomplished.  (I started working on the Jenny Skirt and will have a sewing tutorial for you guys...eventually.  Once I spend way too much time with my seam ripper.  Also tried my hand at painting and some other household projects.)  Rearrange your Netflix cue and rent only chickflicks and movies you want to watch - I finally got to see Bridesmaids.  Have a movie night by yourself if you don't have anything planned - but do it right.  Make popcorn, pour some wine, and put your feet up.

Try really hard not to act irrational, or constantly complain about your spouse being away, either to your spouse or to other people.  If your spouse is out of town for work, any kind of complaint will get you a ton of unsolicited advice about your spouse's career and how, "s/he needs to quit" or "s/he better get a big raise for this."  This trip wasn't above-and-beyond the call of duty for his job.  It wasn't unexpected.  It was harder on me than I thought, but I don't think my husband should quit his job or demand a raise or bonus because his wife had a nervous breakdown while he was away on a legitimate business trip.  He designs roller coasters, and sometimes he needs to be there when they are built.  When people asked me where my husband was, I tried to just breezily answer, "California on a one way ticket. He'll be home eventually."  I was not that breezy about it, and I griped about it more than I would like to admit, but I made an effort, damn it.  My friends all did a really good job of making themselves available to me while Mark was away - which I am super grateful for.

We also planned some trips.  At the beginning of June, I got word that my grant for my position is renewed for another year, so we were finally able to book our New Orleans trip, and we are trying very hard to book a trip to Hawaii for September, which gave me something to do.  It did irritate me when he wasn't around to answer questions about dates or give input about islands, and then would ask me the same questions I had already attempted to answer in an email.  So while planning and fantasizing is good, if you need to move fast on a decision, it's not so good to try to plan things.  I'd advise booking tickets before your spouse leaves, and then you can research fun things to do and go check guidebooks out of the library.

Also, this is gonna sound ridiculous, but if you're a cuddly sleeper, get a stuffed animal.  It'll help a lot.  Also a radio with a timer, so you can listen to it before bed, and do NOT run laundry before you go to bed, because the thumping will totally freak you out.  If you're like me.

Anyone have other tips for surviving a long business trip?  Anyone on the other end of this situation have any tips for travelers?

1 comment:

  1. Hooray! Thanks-- this is helpful. Once I get a day off work, I'll be taking your advice :)