No, this is not the first line of a Dear Deidre letter asking for advice on some wife’s wayward lover, but the reality of my marriage; my husband does in fact keep leaving me. And coming back. Then before you know it, he’s gone again. And back….you get the idea! I married a Marine Engineer; a lover of ships and flanges, and bilges and engines. Now I admit my secret TV vice is The Real Housewives Of Orange County (don’t judge!), but I am sure that his is ‘World’s Largest Tankers’.
We met in October 1997, when I arrived by myself in Seattle, to join a cruiseship and see some of the world and make my fortune. The first part was true, but instead of fortune, I met this Dutch engineer, who if I am honest didn’t really do it for me at first, but was as persistent as he was tall!! Boy buys girl a drink, then another and before long, we were doing our bit for Anglo-Dutch relations. The rest, they say is history! Fast forward 20 years, and we are 18 years married, with a tween, teen and dog inbetween. And he is still working away!
There have been small periods of time when he was office bound , but it was clear that that was neither something that he could tolerate long term, or me! When the sea is in your blood, there’s not much you can do. So when opportunities arise, that help pay the mortgage, save for extensions, kids’ social lives and two parents’ desire to still see some of the world, then we make the decision that works for us. It may not work for everyone, but we’ve never really known any different.
So when people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it” then this is how. You just do. And you have good days and then you have crap days. Sometimes, you have unbelievably shit days, and then you have some truly great days. Pretty much the same as everyone else! So here are the best and worse bits of being the wife of a Marine Engineer:
You miss him. Like at times it bloody hurts. You miss the three of you being a four. You miss being with your number two. You take the kids out to dinner, and that empty seat hits you smack in the face. You go to family events and you don’t have your other half. You get on with it because there is nothing else for it but you feel lonely. Even with your lovely family and friends around you, you feel alone. His absence is palpable.
You don’t miss him. You get the bed to yourself, the remote and all the cheesy joy it brings (RHOBH) AND the house is tidier – like alot tidier!
You don’t sleep very well. I have never been a great sleeper, but when he is not with me, it’s even worse. I lay in bed wondering about all the mega responsibilities I have keeping the kids and dog alive while he’s gone. Of course I secretly know that I am doing a damn fine job but it still doesn’t stop me worrying about EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING!
People ask alot after his job. Now I know it all sounds quite exotic for some people and it is actually quite interesting, but I have to admit, it can get a little bit wearing talking about it all the time. I live with it daily, and then he comes home and we talk about it when we go out, alot! I’ve learned to swith off!
You don’t see many people. Granted this is becoming an easier one to deal with now my two are getting older. But with younger children, it is very difficult to maintain some kind of social life when you’re on your own. Thank goodness for a brilliant Nana that lives close, but there have been MANY invitations regrettably declined over the years, which leads on to the next issue…..
You feel envious of hubby being able to go out / travel / having a cooked meal. Those days you are eating the kids scraps, or a packet of frazzles and a gin for dinner, you really, really don’t want to hear about your husband’s dinner invite. You remember the days when you both were drinking Pina Coladas on the beach in Grand Cayman and snorkelling in Aruba, while you are now picking up the doggy do-dos in the garden. You want to kill your husband for mentioning that they maybe scheduling Bora Bora in on their intinerary!
Whatsapp is your friend. Years ago, he needed to rely on a calling card and shit satellite signal, but now we get to communicate pretty much daily – if we want to!! I can also tell when he’s seen my messages. Do not ignore the 2 blue ticks!
We make the most of family time. Luckily, despite their descending years into the dark side of teenagedom, my kids still love family time. They understand and enjoy the four of us. So please don’t be offended if we can’t come and do something that day. It’s just us regrouping and making up for lost time.
Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. It just does. You miss each other, and he misses home and the kids miss dad. It makes you feel grateful and appreciate the time you do have.
You will work hard at those marriage vows! Nothing tests your marriage like living apart. It’s emotionally and physically draining for both of you. It can make you cranky, envious, pissed off and short tempered with each other. It can be too easy to take it out on one another, which is daft when you know better than anyone how to get through it – together. There have been many times we have both thought bugger this! But in all honesty, who hasn’t ! You don’t need to be married to a marine engineer to feel that. We’ve been married 18 years and it takes work. Do not stop working on your marriage! Make time for each other and understand the others point of view. Enough said.
You don’t have to shave your legs! Like for 2 whole months!!
You hate the ‘Transition Period’. This is the week leading up to him leaving again, when you burst into tears peeling the spuds and argue alot, which is stupid because you both feel exactly the same. And then he is gone. And you allow yourself 24 hours to feel rubbish, then you get back on with it. The razor goes back in it’s resting place and the comfy bras come back out. Then there is the week after he comes home – when you have to get used to each other again, and argue because he keeps reminding you how to load the dishwasher, when you have quite happily been doing ok by yourself for the last 11 weeks. Or you have to remember to ask if he wants a cup of tea! And he has to remember he isn’t sat in his cabin by himself, and needs to makes conversation! Then it’s week two and you’re all back to normal!
People will comment on how much your husband earns. Or try and find out! Don’t. It’s rude! It is none of your business.
You don’t realise how strong you are. Health issues, kid issues, employment issues. Some things have taken longer than others to resolve or deal with, but you get on with it, sometimes have a cry and then pull your big girl pants up. What other choice do you have?
So hubby is due back on Wednesday for his rotational leave which means he is home for 7 weeks. I cannot wait. I will talk far too much at him in the way a person does who hasn’t spoken with another adult for weeks! He will be knackered and full asleep on the sofa. It’ll be a busy time fitting in everything and everyone we want to see before he goes back, as well as preparing our house for a major renovation that will be starting in a few months. With the job taking 4 to 5 months, and him being away for half of that, our crazy journey together will no doubt continue with more rocking in a corner, wine consumed and very big girl pants. But it is our crazy assed journey.