After five months, my wife will finally return home from Army training at the end of this month. Am I excited? Sure. Relieved? Of course, I mean dealing with one precocious toddler is akin to being surrounded and outnumbered (and those of you who actually deal with more than one precocious toddler? There’s a special place for you among the gods.) Still, I can’t help but feel something else looming among these feelings of excitement and relief. If dread and foreboding have a waaaaay less dark play cousin, it’s that feeling. Why? Because I don’t think I’ll know how to deal with my wife? No; I’m more concerned I won’t know how to deal with me dealing with my wife.
Allow me a moment of honesty: there is a dangerous element of clicking well with a spouse, partner or companion. When you agree–or agree to be open-minded–on various subjects, issues and points of view, you can sometimes stop seeing your counterpart as a sentient and independent individual and this isn’t something you realize until there is a point of diametric disagreement (Author’s Note: this best applies to situations where there is a foundation of respect for a person as a human being who is to be heard and seen, as opposed to trophies).
Yet, this person you care about can become more persona than person and, in times of disagreement, you puzzle over why they felt a certain way or did something a certain way. Despite your feelings, this bewilderment is, usually, not based on that person being completely incorrect in every conceivable way. Really, it finds its basis in your perspective, which you, over time, have come to assume the share on just about everything. This line of reasoning leads to much brow-furrowing when, shockingly, this person feels differently. You would not have driven this direction; you would not have packed the luggage like that or approached a difficult task that way. Rather than remember that this person is not you and that your approach isn’t necessarily any more correct than theirs, you openly wonder yourself in circles that turn into arguments. Of course, you don’t intend disrespect; in your mind, you just don’t understand why a person with whom you agree could be so…not you. but being well-intentioned doesn’t really properly address the issue or negate the disrespect.
Over the past five months of separation, I’ve come to see my wife again. Sitting in the occasional silence of my house, I’ve spent a good deal of time really trying to listen, albeit retroactively, to the person my wife has always been. With time and solitude, I’ve tried my best to step into her shoes and understand life as someone other than me. I’ve had the time to plumb the depths of our points of disagreement, both petty and profound. I’ve come to understand a heck of a lot about my wife–and felt plenty bad about the ways in which I was woefully deficient in this regard previous to her shipping out.
While her time away has been difficult, the slowed tempo of our relationship has allowed for a tremendous amount of growth on my part. I’ve come to appreciate that not every point of disagreement requires a chiming in on my part; that respect for another person is, at times, dependent upon just being quiet (especially when you realize that person has been extending you that courtesy for years). I’ve learned to ask myself: Is this different approach going to disrupt or harm us in any way? Given the space and time to ask the question, I’ve come to understand that, in my relationship, the answer is no a lot more than it is yes.
Still, I’m a little scared. While I am in no way lamenting her return and feel confident in my personal growth, there is a level of apprehension. Having my wife back in the mix changes the speed of the game, narrows the margins for error. I want to believe the changes I’ve undergone are permanent foundations for the future, but I just won’t know until we’re back together. Will I retain these lessons it took months to fully appreciate? Will my ability to listen and be thoughtful adjust with her presence or will I revert to seeing her as a composite of mutual agreement?