Wednesday 28 May 2008

(like the deserts miss the rain)

If you'll forgive me, I'm going to indulge in a little moan now.

As I lay wide awake my bed at a quarter to five this morning, I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier. I had initially been awoken by C's alarm, but was increasingly disturbed from my slumbers by the tiny little noises she made as she got ready to leave to catch the early flight to Paris from East Midlands Airport: the shower, the last minute packing, the phone call to the taxi company to make sure the car was on its way. The final straw was when she put the hall light on and came in to ask me where my wallet was so that she could borrow £20 for the taxi.

"It's where it always is"
"Where's that?"
"In the kitchen drawer"
thump-thump-thump down the stairs. pause. thump-thump-thump back up the stairs
"It's not there"
...and then silence when she saw it sat in the doorway to the study, where I had tossed it when emptying out my football bag from last night.
thump-thump-thump down the stairs, bang of the front door, clank of the lock and the realisation that she's left the hall light on.

We go through more or less the same routine every week, and usually it barely bothers me and I'm able to drift off back to sleep fairly easily. Today though, I got angry, and once I was angry, I found it took me ages to get back to sleep, and barely managed it before my alarm dragged me out of bed a little after seven.

I have no wish to make C. feel guilty about this, but I found myself wondering about my life. My wife is away from home for between two and four nights every single week, as well as the odd weekend. I know it's not easy working away for that amount of time, and I understand that hotel rooms and business dinners rapidly become very tedious, but this has an impact on me too. I spend most weeknights rattling around the house on my own, with my Sky+ box filling up with programmes that I can't watch until my wife gets back. I cook meals for one and I stay in and I talk to the cat. I've got friends in Nottingham, so undoubtedly much of this I do by choice, but even if I was out every night, that's still no substitute for spending that precious downtime with the person you love. And anyway, half the time that there's something on in town that we could do together, we either can't plan the time that far in advance, or she's already committed to being away so we can't go. I actually quite like spending time on my own, and I think a little bit of time apart is good for us, as I often need time to decompress from work without needing to talk to anyone about it. I'm not great at smalltalk and I like being able to potter about and do my own thing. Well, it turns out that I require that space for approximately one, maybe two days per week. Much more than that is too much alone time, and for the other nights I'd quite like to have my wife around, thank you very much.

I think all of that time apart affects our relationship a little when she's back in the country too. Not surprisingly, when she gets back, C. will be keen to spend some time with me and some time at home with her husband. I've been at home all week already though, and I find that I've adjusted to being on my own and that it consequently takes me a little while to adjust to having someone else back in the house. This means that, as she gets closer to me, I seem to unconsciously want to keep my distance a bit as I need time to readjust. I also find myself feeling irrationally resentful of this person appearing back into my life according to their own timetable and seemingly, in my head anyway, expecting me to drop everything and to spend all of my time with them. It doesn't work like that. Not for me, anyway. My life goes on during the week and sometimes at the weekend I like to catch up with the things that I might not have been been able to do during the week. I might want to go and see my friends or to go to a gig, and yes, that might mean that I leave my wife at home and go out on my own. My life is not governed entirely according to my wife's schedule.

Except that it is.

The day before she goes away, she spends the evening in a mood as she contemplates being away. She goes to bed early and has often been asleep for a couple of hours by the time I get to bed. She then gets up early and inevitably disrupts my sleep, leaving me tired and grumpy the next day. She often returns late too, missing dinner and sometimes not coming back until after I've gone to bed. This means that even if she's only away for three nights in a week, two of the remaining evenings in the week are essentially gone too. That leaves two nights a week that we spend together properly.

Is that enough?

I hope so, and the last thing I would want her to do is to compromise on a job that she has worked very hard to get and is doing very well in. I love her and we just get on with it, but it's hard sometimes and just occasionally, on days like today, I feel a bit grouchy about it.

End of moan.


  1. As someone whose partner was away on international business trips for an average of one day in three over a seven year period, you have my full sympathy. It's not easy, and it takes work from both sides to fully understand and accommodate each other's positions.

    Even so, I don't think that either of us fully grasped the nature of the stresses that the other one was going through, until our positions were reversed for a few months, three or four years ago.

    As I'm sure you're aware, there's an awful temptation to play the "My stresses are bigger than your stresses, you just DON'T UNDERSTAND" game. Ooh, the rows we had! And understanding - really understanding - ain't easy, when you're having such diametrically opposite and mutually conflicting experiences.

    What I would say though is this: she's probably having a tougher time of it than you are. The supposed glamour of international travel congeals into routine drudgery remarkably quickly - especially when you're flying in and out of the vile, grotty hell-hole that is Paris CDG airport, with that endless, soul-sucking taxi ride to and from the centre of Paris on top of that.

    But that doesn't mean to say that you're not having a tough time of it too. There's that dull feeling of being "left behind" to deal with, and the rattling around on your own, and the pressures to make your time together as unrealistically perfect as possible (when she's probably knackered and stressed out and needing space, even as you're bouncing around her like an eager puppy). Oh, and when she's back in the house, tired and snappy and flat-lining in front of trash TV, there's that irritation on your part to deal with: "Paris gets the best of her, and I'm just getting the scrag end !"

    Hmm, I'm possibly "projecting" a little more than is good for me here! But you really do have my FULL sympathy.

  2. thanks Mike. What I'm trying to say here is not that I'm fed up with the whole thing or want her in any way to make some kind of a bogus choice between me and the job... I just caught myself getting angry about it in the wee small hours yesterday morning, and I wanted to document that as honestly and as fairly as I could. I hate travelling with work, and I'm very aware that although it's not easy for me, at least I have the luxury of it not being easy for me whilst sleeping in my own bed.

    I don't do rows, on the whole. I'm far too passive-aggressive for that. I'll just clam it all up and then blog about it.....gotta fill all those empty hours somehow, eh?

    I love her, and I'm proud she's doing so well at work because she's very talented and driven and she deserves it. The last thing I would want to do is for that situation to change, as long as she's happy.