November 22nd, 2009

As someone who has been in a long distance relationship for over two years an odd thing has happened: the balance of power has shifted between my husband and me. I have now taken a job away from Mr. J. I’m now the one driving weekly to spend the weekend with him. The career path I’ve recently chosen has more fully made me responsible for the two of us living apart.

Another small shift in our perspective is now I’m the one offering comfort to Mr. J during a family crisis. Until this situation with my stepson it has always been crises in my family. We’ve cancelled vacations overseas due to medical emergencies in my family. Mr. J has burned up precious vacation time to accompany me home for the funerals of my grandparents, and my uncles.

Here is what I could not fully appreciate before now: living in two places is exhausting. The travel between two cities basically means I’m never settled anywhere, never in one place long enough to rest. I have a new respect for people who commute on a weekly basis or travel for their jobs weekly.

And offering moral support on a more long term basis? Also harder than I realized. Regardless of how tired I am now is the time for me to step up: to bite my tongue when Mr. J’s tone is sharp. I try to understand the stress he is under, even though I personally have no frame of reference. I choose my words carefully, wanting to offer up whatever comfort I can be during this stressful time. Curling around him while he catches a nap in midday, feeling his body relax into mine, teaches me that sometimes comfort comes in saying nothing at all.

To anyone who knows Mr. J and me as a couple I’ve always said Mr. J is the nicer one of us. As I transitioned into this new job, even with all his worry and concern about his son he has been phenomenally supportive of me. He listens to me as I explain the new culture of this company. He listens when I grouse about how hard it is to piece together a myriad of new systems, learning who is who in a corporate maze and how to handle my new challenging responsibilities. He soothes me, allaying my fears when occasionally it seems overwhelming. Mr. J reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t afford him the same courtesy when he started his new job two years ago. I was barely civil. Hurt beyond words, I refused to be supportive. I didn’t ask about his new role. I didn’t even know what he was working on the first six months we lived apart. I was the worst kind of spouse.

Frankly, I hope we never have to live apart again. On the other hand, I am optimistic. I believe I’ve finally matured enough that should we once again reside in different domiciles I could live the example I’ve had my husband live for me: to be more selfless, to encourage at every turn, to basically be the life partner everyone deserves.