When we realized that Mark would be in training for his new Foreign Service job in Washington, DC, for several months without the rest of the family, a couple of relationship truisms came to mind: “Absence makes the heart grown fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind.” They’re truisms, probably, because they’re both true at least some of the time.
Our experience has been something of a mix — I greatly appreciate the ways Mark contributed to the family and household that I didn’t pay much attention to before, and I miss him, a lot. And he has said many times, when I’ve been wringing my hands about this or that, “Just move on up here! Just come!”
But at the same time, he’s in a new world in DC, and I’m here, and not being in the same space simply makes it harder to clue into each other periodically. I’m thinking our recent discussion about certain housing preferences in Tijuana. I’m sure Mark meant to be gallant when he said, “It’s all up to you, your decision!” But I felt dumped on — one more decision when I’m tapped out — and, as is my tendency, I expressed this to him. Emphatically.
Here’s where the experience part may come in. We will have been married 20 years on Sept. 3, and we haven’t yet forgotten everything we’ve learned, thank goodness. When I was nearly nine months pregnant with Zoe, for instance, we were talking about about whether to use the top of a chest to change diapers or buy an actual changing table. I started crying — I could not make one more decision — so Mark stepped up and declared “changing table” and we moved on.
He did the same thing this time. Rather than get defensive when I told him this housing question was NOT all up to me, given than I can barely answer to my name these days, can’t you see that!!, he pivoted, made the decision, and we were back in calm waters.
There may have been something else at work when he snapped at me recently over what he perceived as my nitpicking about some of the details he’s in charge of from DC. Somehow in the span of a few seconds I recognized that a) snappiness is unusual for him, b) he sounds more like a stressed-out me than himself, and thus c) he must be really stressed. So I responded reassuringly — no that’s not what I meant at all. I was kind of amazed at myself, knowing how reactive I can be sometimes. But it occurred to me that I was intuiting that we have to be careful of each other right now — in the middle of a big life change, we don’t want to have that blowout unless we have to or need to. And that may be something else that only comes to with experience.
In any case, it won’t be long — a month from now I’ll be in DC with him and Jack, preparing to head out to Mexico. All that togetherness will of course present its own challenges. But I have to say, I can’t wait.