When I was a girl, I thought couples who had never spent a night apart were so romantic. However, this is a dream that reality laughed at from the beginning of my relationship with my husband. We had a long-distance courtship, and we learned fast how to make the most of the time we received. I naively thought that once we married everything would change and that saying goodbye continually would be a thing of the past. While it is true that I get to see him most days, we have spent more time apart than most couples do.
I had no idea that even from the very beginning of our relationship God was preparing me for a marriage full of goodbyes and time alone. In our first year of marriage, my husband found a job building log homes that would keep him away for nights at a time. When he was hired a year later at his current job, I had to get used to him working many long shifts (sometimes not seeing him from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed), working night shift, being subject to call-in, and going away for days or weeks of training. This included 9 weeks away to go through the academy, and also just days after our 3rd child was born for further training.
The first year I fought against him being away by showing attitude, resentment, and was generally a disagreeable person. Thankfully, God brought some good books into my life that showed me that I was just hurting the situation instead of helping. My husband wasn’t trying to be mean to me, nor was he relishing being away from me. In fact, he was providing for me. He was the one working hard, and I was acting ungrateful and showed him no respect. He didn’t want to be away from me and was doing what he thought was best for our future. I realized how I would feel if I worked industriously on cleaning the house and all he ever did was complain about what wasn’t done. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Men especially need to feel respected, to feel loved, and a lot of that relates to their jobs.
There are women who have it far worse, like women who husbands are in the army and are gone for months at a time. I am grateful for this and am in awe of the women who survive that type of separation. For example, David Livingstone, a missionary to Africa, left his wife for months at a time, and on two separate occasions, he was gone for five years. Five years! I can’t imagine not seeing or hearing from my husband for that long. Thankfully God has not asked that of me so far.
Regardless, I still struggle, especially now that we have children and taking care of them falls solely on my shoulders when he isn’t home. I tend to think I have it a lot harder than I should. Maybe it’s because as John W. Gardener pointed out:
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality.”
Also, The Act of Marriage points out:
“To engage in self-pity is to make an idol out of our self-absorbed viewpoint. When we give more weight to our perspective of our spouse and our marriage than we do the promises God’s we make an idol out of what we THINK WE KNOW.”
One of the best pieces of advice that I read that first year of marriage was a quote by Billy Graham’s wife. “Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.” Her husband was traveling constantly, and she inspired me to take on her philosophy. So, what did I do? I started by having a list of things I could do when my husband is gone to “make the least of all that goes”.
- Watching Chick Flicks…or any program I like, and he doesn’t.
- Having friends over.
- If he is away for a long trip, I go see my Mom in Florida, family, or friends.
- I have a Girl’s Night Out.
- I check out books from the Library and read for hours.
- I call up friends and chat for a while.
- The kids and I do something fun like a field trip, play at the park, go out for ice cream, etc.
- I cook very little….and if I do cook it is simple meals or things he doesn’t like.
- I don’t clean as hard…until the day before he comes home.
I don’t forget about him though. “Christ-like love isn’t giving what is deserved, but needed.” I have been known to:
- Send him texts to let him know I’m missing him.
- Put love notes in his bags.
- When he went to the academy, I had someone take some nice pictures of me to put on his desk.
- Make him cookies and take up to his work.
- Stop and get him lunch when he doesn’t have time to pick something up.
- Swing by a milkshake to brighten his day.
- Make sure I’m home when he gets to come home.
Things I try to avoid:
- A lot of alone time.
- Crime shows if he is going to be away for overnight.
- Pity Parties. I am really good at these if I am not careful.
How do I make the most of our time together (“all that comes”)?
- When he is home I try to be home. I’m not saying that I never leave (he is great to let me have my freedom), but if he is home I try hard to make sure I am too unless it is something we have discussed.
- I spoil him on his “Monday” like I wrote about before in “Man Crush Monday”.
- Backrubs after particularly long, hard days at work.
- Remembering to pick up the treat I heard him mention would be nice.
- Plates of food he can warm up if he gets home after I’ve gone to bed.
“For every problem in life, there is a provision available from God; for every curse, there is a corresponding blessing appointed for me.” – Graham Cooke.
While it is easy to focus on the negative of our spouse being away, let’s see if we can figure out ways to turn the “bad” into something “good”. We can’t change our situation, but we can change our attitude. So, if your spouse works tirelessly can I encourage you to keep putting one foot in front of another and not complain? Instead, thank God that you have a hard-working man and thank your husband for his hard work.
How about you? Is your husband away a lot? If so, what do you do to help you make it through?