My husband will soon be halfway around the world on a lengthy business trip. I don’t want him to go. Not because I will be a single parent for three weeks, or because my daughter and I may run out of clean clothes because I won’t remember how to use the washing machine, or because I will have to take his place at father-daughter dance rehearsals.
My reason is simple: we are currently in a good patch. Anyone in a long-term relationship knows exactly what I’m talking about. Marriage is a roller coaster. The key to hanging on is to let the highs take your breath away and to hold your breath until you’ve passed through the lows. After a fair amount of lows and plateaus over the last couple of years, my husband and I are on a steep incline again as we plan our future together—and I don’t want us to be derailed.
I can't stop this particular ride, however, so all I can do is remind myself that distance can be positive. I need to fall back on the lessons learned from the previous times we spent significant time apart. The first was during my last four months of graduate school, the year before we were married. We had been together nearly three years and living together for one by that point. The stress of living on one income in the spendy Chicago-metro area and of having no time to spend together due to my insane workload was taking its toll.
When we decided we wanted to relocate to Colorado and that my then fiancé would move first while I went into temporary student housing, it could have been distastrous. But I'm convinced the distance saved our relationship. I was able to focus on my final grueling months of school while he established our new life halfway across the country. We were too busy missing one another to argue. Distance got us through the first rough patch of our relationship and forced us to have necessary conversations before we committed our lives to one another.
Fast forward six years when my husband worked in Italy for six-and-a-half months. We saw each other only twice and sometimes his satellite Internet service was knocked out for days, inhibiting all but text communication. Friends thought we were crazy, and at times, I thought we might be, too. But that summer and fall served a purpose as well. My husband fulfilled a dream of living in Europe and working bike tours. I experienced living alone for the first time, learning to enjoy my own company and pushing myself socially in ways that helped me form lifelong friendships. By the time we were reunited, we felt ready to give up a bit of individual freedom and to plunge into parenthood without regret or misgivings.
Now here we are another six years later and separation looms. This will be a short stint in comparison to the others and we are a stronger team than we have ever been. Yet I suspect that we will learn something this time around as well. In fact, I hope we do. If nothing else, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.