Friday, May 19, 2017

Divorce

Steve and I met 18 years ago. I was a junior in college, and Steve was flying a Saab for a corporate flight department. He picked me up at a bar. I first noticed his blue and yellow plaid shirt...who the hell wears spring colors on a cold late-winter Saturday night? He still has that shirt since I won't let him get rid of it. I gave him my phone number that night. I also gave my # to another guy (Greg, the accountant). The next night he called me, Steve the pilot that is, and a couple weeks later we went on our first date.

Steve always felt home to me, even on that first date. You will be happy to know he dressed much more appropriately on that first date: brown boots, jeans, and a green sweater. He still has that sweater since I won't let him get rid of it. But, he did back into a car that first date. And then two dates later he spilled a beer all over my lap. Pretty impressive guy, huh! I did experience his jumpseat on our second date. That was pretty cool, I have to say. He says he was nervous with the landing. I thought he did great. What the hell do I know about a good landing?

It didn't take long to realize this guy had something on me. But, I didn't realize he was "the one" until I went into the Peace Corps the year after I graduated college. Funny that it took an entire ocean for me to realize this about such a great man. In June we will celebrate 14 years of marriage.


In spite of all that love first felt when boy meets girl, when you think this love will last forever, divorce happens. And folks, it's upon me...it seems like I have reached that age where divorce is all around me. I mean, lots of my peer group are getting divorced. I've been warned about this time in my life, so I knew it was bound to happen. That still doesn't lessen the sting of the news of a newly initiated divorce.

There are marriages that end after a couple years. I have lived through those. The fact that kids weren't involved makes the news a little easier to take. Still sucks. Still require get-togethers filled with bottles of beer and wine to process it all. But, now I'm around marriages that are ending after a decade + and kids are involved. It sucks. Plain and simple. Divorce sucks.

So, why do I bring this up? I'm a writer...I have to express myself. And since there is a lot of divorce around me, I need to write about it. Being married to an airline pilot isn't easy. Hell, marriage isn't easy. I'm just putting my truth out there in an effort to support one another. This blog is all about being married to an airline pilot: the good, the bad, the ugly. I keep it real on here. I keep it real outside of here. I hear from my readers, and I know that keeping it real is refreshing. It helps validate this whack-a-do lifestyle of being married to an airline pilot.

Steve and I have a good marriage. We are both happy. We acknowledge this to one another. Certainly we aren't happy all-day, every-day...who the hell is?! But, overall we are happy. I work on our marriage. We work on our marriage. I read books on marriage. I read relationship articles. I talk with girlfriends, and guyfriends, about marriage and relationships. I blog about marriage. My intention of this post is to establish what has worked for us to maintain a happy marriage, and what I have learned from my friends that are divorced. 

I need to start with establishing Steve's character. I think it's important for me to note this, because I know that a principled man isn't always a given. Steve is a honorable man who respects me, honors me, and wants me to be happy.  He loves me. In fact, I think he loved me from the moment we met. After our second date he told his captain that he "was in trouble." His love for me is deep. Steve is a good man, plain and simple. His head is on straight, and his moral compass is pointed in the right direction. He admires me. He listens to me. He encourages me. He believes in me. For all this, I am grateful. I am thankful that he pursued me the way he did, and never gave up on me.

I had been editing this post for about a month. At first I was writing about the vows we took on that beautiful June day, and I was going to break those down. Commitment, sickness and health, richer and poorer, blah blah blah. But, we know all that stuff. Of course I believe in that. Of course! But, I'm not here to tell you what you already know...what everyone already knows. I'm here to tell you what I have discovered are the keys to a happy marriage, a successful marriage, outside of all that stuff.

When Steve and I first got married, I thought the keys to a successful marriage were trust and communication. I still stand by those. In fact, I will always believe that trust and communication are vital, the base, to a successful marriage.

I'm not sure if I am in the majority or the minority of pilot wives when it comes to trust. But, I trust Steve. It's as simple as that. I never challenge Steve's trust. Period. It has always been there. On our first date, I could just tell he was trustworthy, and that has remained consistent throughout all these years. When he is on the road, I don't worry about him hooking up with a flight attendant, or a female pilot. I just don't. I don't care who he goes to dinner or drinks with. I don't care who he talks to. His initial training sim partner was a woman, as a matter of fact...didn't bother me in the least. In fact, I am thankful for her because she helped name our son, in a way. I was insistent that my very unique maiden name be used as our first born's middle name. Steve was resistant...until his sim partner shared her middle name (her mother's maiden name) and her story with him. Steve's love, actions, and words towards me are enough to keep this trust going. I wish I could add more to this point, but there isn't much more I can say about it...trust is just there with us. Always has been.

As for communication, this can certainly be challenging when married to a pilot. On a day to day basis, you have to make the most of what you have. If he has a busy day where you only talk for 2 minutes on the phone, and you can tell he is disconnected, let it be. There will always be time to reconnect after the trip. Steve and I have grown into this pattern (of not talking much on the road and reconnecting when he is home) and we are both okay with it. We don't always call one another to say "good night." I don't make him call me after every leg. When he's on the road we may not talk all that much, and that's okay. Sure there are times when I text him multiple times and he doesn't respond. I can get pissy about it, but I just bite my tongue. Perhaps he is busy. Perhaps he is tired. We'll reconnect when he is home.

As for the really heavy stuff, when it comes to things that are hard to say, we have been known to email one another. This may sound odd to some, but it works for us. I express myself best through written word, so writing things out helps me express everything I need to get out.

I also want to emphasize the point that when it comes to the really heavy stuff...the stuff that is really hard to say...say it. The hardest thing I ever had to tell Steve was that I had thoughts of cheating on him. I told him when he was on the road. We were talking over the phone. We were at a bad point in our marriage, just a couple years into our marriage. When I told him, he got pissed. Like hung-up-the-phone-on-me pissed, which is something we never do. Like so pissed he took a while to call me back, pissed.

And here is the next part in the whole communication thing...despite me saying something that cut so deep...he heard me. I told him something that was really hard to say, and he heard me. Hearing that helped him realize how low I was, and how much I was hurting. I never cheated on him, for the record. But, imagine if he didn't "hear" my words and our marriage would have continued on the same negative path. We learned a lot from that experience, and are only stronger because of it. And it is testimony for how important it is to communication with your spouse, both saying something and really hearing those said words.

Okay, so trust and communication. Got it. What's the next thing I think is important for a successful marriage? Happiness. And this isn't just your own happiness, which is very important (but I don't want to make this post super long). The happiness I want to focus on is about striving to make your partner happy.

This is something that I came into the last couple years. Looking back, I have done it all along. It's in my nature to make people happy. I try to make Steve happy, and Steve tries to make me happy.  I start it when he gets home from a trip. I try my hardest to have the house in order upon his arrival. I want him to come into a happy home. I know that doing this makes him happy. And when he is happy, he makes me happy...and the upward spiral of happiness continues. Read the blog post I did about this, which gives more detail on this topic. When both partners strive to make the other happy, it keeps the marriage healthy. I swear by this.

He gets my travel coffee cup ready in the morning. He gets a drink for me at night, when we are both settled in on the couch, and I ask with a slight whine. Will you please get me a bubble water? He will put gas in the car so that I don't have to stop on my way into work. I put my shoes away. I clear clutter before he gets home. I have a meal waiting for him when he gets in after a trip. It is the little stuff like this that really do add up.




Keeping things real, also helps keep my marriage in a good place. I know that our marriage isn't perfect, and I accept that. I know there will be bad days, hell there are even bad weeks and bad months. But, that isn't going to dictate the overall health of our marriage. There have been nights that I have slept in another room simply because lying next to him would have either brought me to tears, or made me want to punch him in the face. We have had bad fights. I have looked him straight in the eyes and said "fuck you," on a train in Slovakia, no less. On our way to meet friends for dinner, no less. 2 days before he was leaving back to the states, no less. I still remember that fight clear as a bell, nearly 16 years later. He has left for trips were I didn't kiss him goodbye, or even tell him "goodbye." We have been to marriage counseling in the past. You see my point...we have had bad times. But, I know these times are only temporary. "This too shall pass," and with a bit of understanding and forgiveness and communication we can move past the troubles. Despite all the problems, we got through them and are only stronger because of it. I don't think that every day is going to be perfect, and I think recognizing that is important. I realize that a down time isn't going to break us. We don't give up when the times get tough.

Another reason why our marriage is successful is because we are in this together. This marriage is a partnership. Obviously when Steve is on the road he can't help out at home. But, when he is home he steps in. When he is home, I am still the one to get up with the kids on school days. But, I recognize I am a morning person, and he is NOT. I keep with our routine, and he jumps in if in the right mindset. Most time he helps out, although sometimes he feels like he gets in the way. But, there are times when he just sits at the island with a cup of coffee...this especially happens if he got in at 1am the night before and his internal clock is all fucked up. Us pilot wives know when to let an exhausted husband be.  Yes, there are times when he is so exhausted that he forgets to put the coffee cup in the Keurig. These are the times I give him the time and space he needs to get back to normal. Partnership, right?

We split the laundry duties, although lately he has been doing about 70% and I about 30%. We share duties on cleaning the house. If I ask him to run an errand he will, and vice versa. When I go grocery shopping, he will help bring the bags in and put things away. When I make dinner, he will clean up afterward. He helps get the kids ready for bed. You catch my drift at this point. If he didn't help out with all this, I would be burnt out.

Being married to an airline pilot may certainly feel like you aren't in this thing together, and you question the whole partnership thing. How can this be a partnership when he is gone all the time? It may feel like you are going through this life on parallels. I get that, believe me. Those nights when you are rocking your sick baby at 4am, for the third night in a row. Those events that he misses, like a friend's wedding or a company holiday party. Those times when you receive devastating news, and you won't be able to see one another for days. Those times when you have a home disaster and you have to deal all by yourself (Shit Happens). Those times when you feel like you are just giving and giving, and can't catch a freakin' break. We have all been there. But, through all those times when you feel like you don't have a partner in this partnership thing, never hold his job against him. Never hold his absence against him. Through all those shitty times, I am positive that Steve would have rather been home, right by my side, rather than thousands of miles away. Remember, he isn't away on vacation, he is working. Sometimes it is so hard to remind yourself of that, but if you don't keep that top of mind then you may be entering into a very slippery slope.

If you read my blog you know the concept of love languages, which is my next key to success. And if you pay attention, you know that my love language is physical touch, followed by words of affirmation. Steve's love language is acts of kindness. The other two, making a total of five, is quality time and gifts. I researched love languages after Steve got pissed at me about my shoes in the garage. He told me I was "disrespecting" him when I didn't put my shoes away neatly. I found his choice of words to be very interesting...how can shoes be disrespectful? So, I looked into things more...enter love languages. It wasn't just the shoes, it is the fact that he asked me over and over, and over and over, to put my damn shoes away...and I ignored him. I disrespected him. All he wanted me to do was put my shoes away. How hard was it to do that? I eventually got it. I understood that by my small act of putting my shoes away, I made him happy. I was pleasing him in a way that he needed to be pleased. I could give two-shits if my shoes are neatly put away, but I make an effort to do so because I know it fills Steve's love tank.

When I speak Steve's love language, I fill his love tank. When Steve speaks my love language, he fills my love tank. I am most happy when my love tank is filled. It's that simple. If Steve bought me gifts all the time, which is probably the lowest rank for me, but never held my hand, my love tank would be empty. If my love tank is low, I'm down. Remember how I told Steve I had thoughts of cheating on him? Yup, all because of an empty love tank. I'm at the point now where I recognize when my love tank is getting low. And if my love tank is getting low I tell Steve, and he knows exactly what to do. It's that simple. A marriage counselor once told me I had abandonment issues...nope, my love tank was low. I swear, after reading that book our marriage became so much easier. This is the one relationship book that I recommend over and over.

One last point: Steve and I work at our marriage. Marriage takes work. Marriage takes effort, which we recognize. A garden isn't going to grow if the soil is toxic, but if the soil is rich it will thrive. We make an effort to keep our marriage in a good place. We go on dates, although sometimes I wish it was more often. We have good sex. We make time for one another. We get away, just the two of us, every now and again. We hug. We kiss, which is always more funny when the kids catch us...Cici is at the age where she will scream out "ewww" and Ben is at the age where he quietly turns away and doesn't mention anything due to embarrassment. We don't neglect one another. Try to remember how hard you worked at your relationship when you first started dating: planning dates, trying to make your partner happy, writing loving words to one another, ect. And think about now. Don't become roommates. Remember to put that effort into your marriage.

As I wrap up this post, I want to point out that all these keys to a happy marriage are intertwined. If we had the best communication, but my love tank was low, I wouldn't be happy. If I looked straight into Steve's eyes when he was telling me something important, but I really didn't hear him, then he wouldn't be happy. If I worked my ass off, both when Steve was away and when he was home, I would be beat and incredibly overwhelmed all the time. See how it all intertwines? All the above really are, in my eyes, keys to a successful and a happy marriage. Wishing all the married couples out there much happiness.

3 comments:

  1. Well done- your title scared me a little. Marriage is a commitment that includes love, but is not strictly about love. Impressive!

    ReplyDelete