July 20, 2010...4:31 pm

Home is where the husband is

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I’ve been away from home for almost 3 weeks. The first half of the trip was a delightful (heavenly, relaxing, much-needed) vacation with Jim. The second half of the trip brought us to my hometown of Plymouth, New Hampshire. My mom had knee replacement surgery and we were there to help out. Jim had to leave after a few days to go back to work, but I stayed to play amateur physical therapist, run errands, change bandages, etc. She’s a tough one, that mom of mine, and she’s healing well. I was so glad I could be of service. But boy, oh boy, did I miss Jim and couldn’t wait to see him again.

When I was a single gal, when I traveled for work or on vacation, I couldn’t wait to get back to my apartment. My bed. My kitchen. I even missed my own silverware. My home was my nest and it was the only place in the world that belonged to me entirely. Whenever I walked through the front door, I relaxed completely. And yes, by “relaxed completely” I do mean that the bra came off and the TV went on. As a singleton, I felt no shame using a pile of books as a coffee table, and I’ll admit there were several nights that I ate from the same pot I cooked in. It was an incredibly easy place for me to be.

Now that I’m married, I love my home, but in a different way. I take more pride in it, but it takes more energy from me. Perhaps because it’s a shared space, it doesn’t give me the same melty-feeling when I return to it. Also, once Jim and I moved in together, our apartment was a place that I felt responsible for keeping up — and there is always a laundry list of to-dos that hangs over my head when I’m here. Isn’t that strange? Even though it looks homier, home doesn’t feel as homey as it used to.

But wherever I am with Jim, I feel like I’m home — whether we’re sharing a tent, a hotel room, our own cozy bed. Jim gives me the melty-feeling in a way that no place can. When I was away from Chicago for the past week, I thought of him so often. I thought about my cats, too. But my bed, my kitchen, my silverware, my to-do list? Not so much. When I walked in the front door, it felt jarring. I forgot these material things existed and when I was surrounded by them, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders in a way I hadn’t while I was away.

I feel a little embarrassed about this and wonder if it’s healthy that I’ve become so different over the past (almost) 7 years of wedlock.

Hanging with the kittiesOf course, with marriage, some things change and some things stay the same. For instance, it still takes mere seconds after walking in my front door before the bra comes off. So, maybe home isn’t where I hang my hat — maybe it’s where I toss my bra.

-Robyn Okrant

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  • I love this post! I couldn’t be more on the same page…I used to love having my own tiny space, keeping it just how I wanted, and it felt so relaxing. Now I have a much bigger house, decorated just the way we both wanted, and I love it, but I constantly feel the to-do list hanging over me. It’s not anything my husband expects or asks of me, but I feel an internal pressure to keep things nice, do the laundry, make sure that my stuff is organized, etc. It takes away some of the joy in the actual space itself, and yet, as you said, I get the melty feeling from being with him and wouldn’t trade that for ten of my own homey apartments. Thanks for creating such a fascinating blogspace. I already bookmarked it. :)

    • Cool beans, Meryl! It’s nice to know we’re not alone out there. I just described walking into my condo as being slapped in the face with a “to-do” list. I gotta relax!

  • I completely agree with your post; home is where we are together (married 13 years, together 20). However, we are very rarely apart; we RARELY take a trip without the other except when I occasionally go to see some of my family and his work schedule isn’t as free as mine to go at that time. I enjoy being with my family, but have to text and phone my husband first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and before going to sleep. We tend to like to share all our experiences so we just have that much more in common, to share together.

    But, speaking of home (as in, where we live), we are never so comfortable together as when we are in our own space – in our own home (hard wood floors – yay!). It’s still not the same when one of us is at the in-laws; he’s not as comfortable at my parents’ house, and I’m not as comfortable at his. I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.

    I always want to comment on nearly every post, but just don’t have the time always; but read every one and enjoy both you & Cathleen!

    • thanks jeanne! i appreciate your thoughts, as always. and i totally agree about the in-laws’ homes. those aren’t neutral territory! jim and i have never vacationed apart…but alas, business and family stuff does separate us from time to time. we do not like it, though. that’s for sure. xo

  • Just found your blog, now one of my bookmarked favorites. Love this post because at age 34, after 15 years of being with my husband (only married for 8 of those), I feel melty with him still, too. We have three small children and I was just in New London, NH for a week with my mom and I honestly didn’t miss the kids as much as I missed him. I was stunned by that. And giddy about that, too.

    • I love your comment! That’s so sweet. Wow. 15 years together at age 35. That’s amazing. I was so nuts in my early 20s that I would never have been able to maintain a relationship at that age. You guys rock. Oooh! New London NH? Does your mom live in NH?

      • Ooops. I made you 35, when you’re only 34. I am 37 and I’m holding onto my 30s for as long as I can — didn’t mean to erase one of your years!

      • My mom is originally from Sudbury, MA but we have friends in New London. We go to New England (from CA) every summer – it’s our thang. And yes, we met in the elevator in our dorms at college, he a freshman, I a junior. Love at first sight!

  • Very interesting project. I could lots of advice on being a wife. For better or for worse… We say those words but do we *really* – I mean REALLY – dissect them and take them in as we say them? Do we really know what that might entail? Sure, there’s always the possibility of a spouse losing a job, or wanting a career change at an inoportune time, or even making some poor financial decisions.

    But, what if the “for worse” included serious medical issues? Would we be able to stick it out? Would we say “I didn’t sign on for this” and hit the road? My mother taught me the true tenets of that statement and I have worked very hard to live them as well. If you’ll check my blog, you’ll see my documented struggles over the past two years. Health issues go back farther than that (first amputation April 1, 2006) but I didn’t know about “blogging” back then. It might have helped me stress level back in 2000 and forward to be able to have an outlet when the “for worse” threatened to take over.

    In sickness and in health… Sure, we all get colds, sometimes we get pneumonia, and sometimes we get the flu. What what about multiple health issues all in one person – stacking the deck against the spouse. Congestive heart disease, chronic kidney disease, pulmonary hypertensioin, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, tardive dyskensia, high blood pressure, diabetes. All diseases that can strike any one of us at any time. How about ALL of them in ONE person? That is my life with my spouse. In addition to this, he is a double-amputee (1/2 foot on left, below-the-knee on the right), has diabetic retinopathy, and a slew of other problems that could cause someone to seriously reconsider “in sickness and in health”.

    All of this is what being a wife entails. Home is where my husband is, but sometimes that is a hospital bed or – as in now – a rehab center as he (hopefully) learns how to transfer and prepare himself for a prostetic leg.

    Feel free to visit my blog (themiddlesideoflife.blogspot.com) to find out more or get updates.

    • Wow, Teresa.

      I really don’t have much to say b/c I can’t speak so well w/my jaw on the floor. Wow. We never imagine the depth of the promise we make until it’s tested, huh?

      I will definitely check out your blog. I can’t imagine your life and can only say, there but for the grace of God (or fate, or destiny, or the whims of nature), go I; it could happen to any of us. We are all stronger than we can imagine, when tested. I wholly admire you, and hope/believe that I would do the same in my marriage if such illness came to call.
      My best wishes to you for strength and courage!

    • Teresa, this is something (to a much lesser extent) that my husband and I are constantly negotiating. I have lots of health issues that can sometimes feel like the ‘elephant in the room.’ I am very interested in how you deal with your hubby’s health, as it’s the other side of the coin for me. Thanks for posting. Please stay in touch with us!

      • Robyn, this is what I posted to my blog yesterday in answer to your question:

        For those of you who have followed (or read) very much, you know that my faith is what has gotten me through. You know that I have my down and dark days when the frailties of the human mind take over and all I can see is the despair we are facing. You also know that I try to inject humor wherever I can find it into the situation (arm-pit jewelry, anyone???). Sometimes I get mad, sometimes I get lonely, and sometimes I get selfish. Then, I remember that if the tables were turned, he would do the same – and probably more – for me (he’s not put off by “bathroom issues” if you get my drift; in other words, he does toilets!).

        I’ve tried to navigate the health care industry and the insurance industry. You have to be prepared to take on the giants when the health of your loved one is threatened. I’ve fought for charges that should have been paid to be paid, I’ve fought for charges to be removed that had already been paid, and I’ve fought for charges that should have been paid if the entry clerk had used the correct code. You have to have an outlet and for too long, I had only blogging. I had put all of my other interests aside while I devoted my entire day and night to taking care of Ron.

        I discovered that it was not the smartest thing in the world for me to do. It made me more selfish because I resented the fact that I couldn’t take time – or thought I couldn’t – for myself and my interests. (Thank you bloggy friends for helping me see that! Your support was instrumental in this realization.)

        I discovered that I sometimes need to say “No” to others and to Ron. That was a hard one! I’ve always, always done for Ron and the thought of telling him to do it himself was not pleasant, even if it was for his own good. I wanted him to be able to do as much as he could, even if it pained me to watch him try to do things that would have taken me a fraction of the time to accomplish.

        I still cut up his food, tie his shoes (or, “shoe” now), helped with his shoe inserts and his brace, fetched water, pills, insulin, food, etc. etc. etc. if he needed it. But, sometimes you just have to let go.

        That is hard. For people without faith, I don’t know how they manage. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to call on God. We have a “love/hate” relationship – not the typical “He loves me/I hate him” kind of thing, but He loves me and understands that I sometimes hate my life.

        So, in a nutshell – how do I deal with his health??? Faith, prayer, perseverance.

  • So if I read this correctly, all I need to do to get rid of the clutter and dust bunnies is get a husband? And I still get to toss my bra off the first thing as I walk in the door? (It used to be panty hose and bra, but I’ve given up hose forever!)

    Robyn, I’m still single but almost every friend I had that got married experienced this. In fact, one groom joked that if he’d held the condition of his bride’s singleton apartment against her, he’d never have married her. Then, they did get married, and she turned into a clean freak – not b/c he asked, she just did! Sounds totally normal to me!

  • Nice post!
    I never thought I could leave California. Now I feel at home wherever hubby is, which is currently the Midwest.

    Wow did I change after my mom passed away and I got married. All of a sudden, I cared about little piles of books and things left around the apartment. I wanted a dustless TV, a clean floor, a clear counter. I figured it was because now I’m in charge.

    But wait just a cotton picking minute. When I lived alone in a college dorm, with clothes piled up willy-nilly in the closet, everything I wore was wrinkled. Marriage does tell!

    Like you, a bra is the first thing to come off when I get in. And no hotel bed can compare with my own.

    • Ah yes, I know the feeling well of moving from a coast to the midwest. And I can very much relate to caring about things I never thought I would — like my hardwood floors. WHAT?! I care about FLOORS?! Oy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I better Swiffer….

  • Kulwinder Sall

    I completely agree with this post. I’m 40 and have been married for more than 1/2 my life (22 years at the end of the month). It took me a while to get to this stage but I now know that possessions or location do not determine my home. My home is where my family is but more specifically where my husband is. When I’m away with my husband, very rarely do I miss home and that includes my kids (15 and 11). However, if I’m away by myself or with the kids, I feel disconnected and alone. A few years ago, my husband went on an extended visit to India to take care of his parents. Even though I had my kids at home, tons of extended family around the corner and my own parents not too far away, I felt alone. I learned that year that he defines my sense of home. As they say, home is where the heart is.

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