Friday, March 28, 2014

Parting is such (sweet?) sorrow

So, there is this beautiful but ultimately deceptive and terrible notion that immediately before and after a separation, there is all this ROMANCE! and CONNECTION!  I am here to tell you that this is a load of bullshit.  I've written about the back end of this phenomenon, the difficulty of re-adjusting to one another after a separation, but lordy, did I experience the front end in all its brutal glory recently, and I want to talk a bit about that.

Separation is painful and scary and stressful-- for everyone.  I am inclined to believe that it's actually more difficult for the partner staying at home, even though they're not the person doing the work per se, because the person who leaves is going to something while the person at home just has something taken from them, but I think my husband would tell you a different story.  I suppose everyone is biased toward their own experience.  So, in the spirit of fairness and equity, let's assume it's just shitty for everyone, though it's shitty in different ways.

Contrary to what the mythology would have you believe, it is incredibly difficult to find connection before and after a separation.  My theory is that this is because each person experiences the separation so differently.  It's hard to find common ground when you're in pretty different spaces emotionally.  Before the separation, the person who is going away has anxiety about the upcoming mission, as well as missing their partner and life at home. They also have some excitement about the job ahead and the camaraderie of the team.  The person who is staying home is anxious about the void on the other side of the bed and the silence over dinner and the palpable absence at parties, as well as about managing the household solo... and, if you're me, you also harbor some resentment because the person you love most is choosing to spend time away from you because there is something else that they want to do that requires it.  They want to do that other thing enough that it's worth the trade-off of weeks or months without you.  It's hard for me to not take that personally sometimes, even though I knew this was my husband's life when we met. I am aware that this isn't completely fair or rational, but it's very much how I feel sometimes.

I'll be honest, folks-- we have not yet cracked this particular nut.  The night before my husband left for a month-long field exercise with zero contact, and we were up far, far too late in an utterly pointless, dramatic, overheated argument.  I was being very emotional (read: sensitive and then sobbing inconsolably), he was frustrated that I couldn't mellow out for our last few hours together... match to the gas tank.  This is not the first time that we've hit the skids right before a separation.  We made up, more or less, by the time he left, and for that I am grateful.  He asked me to promise that we wouldn't have another night like that, and I want to be able to promise him that-- it's not like I wanted that type of night in the first place-- but it's also not me alone who is creating the situation, so I feel like it's something we need to work on together.  After all, it does take two to tango.

I'm in a Facebook group with some other army wives at our post, and I posed questions as to whether anyone else experienced these fights and what suggestions people have for breaking the cycle.  I was heartened to see quick responses that, yes, other people go through this too, but unfortunately the only advice was to just decide that you're not going to fuel the fire, which is far easier said than done.  The best concrete strategy I've come up with so far is to just keep it light in the days leading up to the separation.  Have fun together.  Don't try to problem-solve.  If you're watching a movie, make it a comedy.  Plan something fun that you'll do together when you're reunited.  Devote your energy toward the parts of your relationship that bring you joy and make you feel close-- the parts around the separation-- and maybe you'll avoid directing it toward dwelling on the impending separation.

The thing is, we were both trying to do exactly before the last separation, but the conversation meandered into the woods.  It is damn hard to censor yourself around the person you are closest to.  This isn't foolproof.  But maybe it's a start.

Do you have any suggestions for things you can do to make the transition into a separation a little smoother?

xo - Kilo

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#NPR Fresh Air Repost

Do you believe in serendipity? I do. Not just because it was complete serendipity that introduced me to my husband but because no matter what subject is occupying my mind, NPR has a story for that. For the Tminus15 minutes I'm in the car every day (I am SO completely bike commuting. Tomorrow.) the story finds me.
I will share with you now my NPR Fresh Air REPOST from March 11, 2014, an interview with author Brigid Schulte on equality in relationships (and parenting). The part about cooking for Thanksgiving really hit me right between the eyes.

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On parenting and the division of labor
When my husband and I got married, I was very adamant that I wanted a partner. Again, I love and respect my parents but I did not want the traditional marriage that they had. I grew up in a very different time and what I wanted for my life was very different. So I made sure that my husband, Tom, was also on the same page, that we wanted to be these equal partners. And we really were. We had a really fair division of labor, everything felt great.

And then we had our first child and I think, without realizing it, I felt that I should be this super mother and I felt like I needed to do everything that my mother did while at the same time trying to work like my father did, without realizing how impossible that was. ... That time when you bring the first child home is a crucial time for setting the trajectory of your relationship from then on out, particularly in the division of labor.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Joining Forces Against the Trailing Spouse

"With a little push from first lady Michelle Obama and her military family-support initiative, Joining Forces, many states have enacted license portability statutes designed to make moves easier for military spouses. Some states honor out-of-state military spouses’ licenses while others grant temporary credentials or expedite the re-certification process. But the rules are not uniform and do not include every kind of license.  
Such barriers are especially overwhelming when spouses’ partners are deployed or absent. The vast majority of military spouses say they either “need to work” or “want to work,” according to the Military Officers Association study. 
“Work was the thing that kept me sane,” Putnam said. “It gave me a chance to work on improving my life even when my personal life was on hold.” 
Read more from this excellent ABC News article by Erin Dooley 3/1/2014 in the picture link below. All credit for the photo and quote above to Erin Dooley, ABC News.
ABC News Story on Military Wife Un/der Employment
Let me tell you something 'bout me. In a dark and secretive way, I look forward to the next Base Realignment And Closure process. Point of fact, I have the perfect military installation picked out for the DoD to focus on: Fort Polk, Louisiana. Why Fort Polk? Aside from showing heart by scrolling the sexual assault hotline number down the right side of the homepage, Fort Polk is by its location 10 miles east of Leesville, LA, something I inherently can't accept.  I have nothing against the great state of Louisiana or its (in)famous gumbo. But LA is the goddamn middle of goddamn nowhere in goddamn southern 'Merica. And if we goddamn PCS there I'll goddamn divorce the dude.

He's been informed of this fact. But it's not about him or even about the PCS. It's the fact that I have zero chance of getting a job east of Leesville, LA. When I moved to Fayetteville, NC to be with him I lucked out with a networking cold-call career connection. Sequestration put the cabash on that opportunity just under a year later. Thanks, Congress! So I went to "work" to find another opportunity. Of course, I volunteered and I secured an ad hoc consulting gig...I am a professional afterall. But I was scrambling looking for full-time, salaried position in a company with a mission and responsibility I could be proud to own. I never intend to enter into employment for <1 year at a go. My goal is to make twice my husband's salary per year at the minimum and with a Master's degree and a damn fine resume that ought to be (laughably) easy.