I’ve been a part-time wife for the last 18 years. Then, my husband retired from his gone-half-the-time career as a pilot. After flying all over the world for two weeks each month, he’s now home around the clock.
Life has changed.
Once the celebrations ended, and the what-are-you-going-to-do-with-yourself jokes faded, reality hit. For both of us. Our job descriptions changed overnight: We suddenly found ourselves to be, one to the other, a full-time spouse.
It turns out I may not be qualified for the position. But I love my husband, so I suppose it’s time to learn some new ways of being. It’s time to get qualified.
When Tim and I first started dating, curious girlfriends would ask about him: Where he was from, how we met, what he did. When I explained his job schedule, each person responded with the same four words: “That’s perfect for you.”
They must have felt this part-time boyfriend (and later, part-time husband) scenario was a good fit because I have a strong independent streak and I like to be busy. I don’t really want anyone to be around too much.
They were right.
It’s easier to be married when one person is gone half the time. For me, though, there are other reasons I do better when I’m alone.
It has to do with distance. After a childhood filled with unpredictable, inappropriate, and boundary-violating men at every turn, I learned to depend only on myself. I learned to keep my head down, and to maintain whatever space I could between me and them. I’ve safeguarded my psyche using this strategy throughout my life.
What others might experience as “closeness” can feel dangerous to me. When Tim was flying, heading back out every dozen days or so, there was built-in space. If I started to feel too vulnerable, self-protection was just one jetliner takeoff away.
Now that has changed, and I wonder if I’m equipped for full-time wifery. Can I stay present in the face of his presence? Can I not push him away? Can I remember that he’s not the aggressive, abusive men of my past? He is the man in the present, so unlike those others.
There’s a part of me that isn’t interested in this full-time version of things, pieces of me ready to run away, in search of what my visceral self thinks might be less dangerous. But I know that sense of safety is an illusion, one that relies on old, unneeded strategies.
After 18 years, I know the loneliness in that kind of safety. As much as I relished the space, I’d grown tired of Tim’s schedule and weary of doing things on my own. Being alone so much while he was on the road (or at least, in the sky), even with my self-imposed busy-ness, was exhausting.
When he stopped working and we planned for a multi-month home renovation, I was glad he would be there with me to partner in decision making. Working as a team, we could make a challenging project fun, something we could share. I embraced the concept of finding a new kind of safety in togetherness.
Then, unexpectedly, my husband signed on to be a full-time flight instructor with a similar work schedule.
At first, I felt relieved about going back to part-time-wife status.
But pretty quickly, I was disappointed. I surprised even myself when I realized that the so-called “safety” of space meant little to me then. I found myself willing to embrace the full-time role, even as I doubted my ability to pull it off.
I don’t know why, but something had shifted.
I suppose, sixty-plus years in, I’m ready to let go of old strategies. I’m willing, however awkward it might be, to give full-time a try.
It turns out I’d rather be scared and one-half of a happy couple, than clutching onto an idea of safety from decades ago and alone.
A few weeks into the training for his new job, my husband decided the position wasn’t for him. After flying for 44 years, he didn’t want or need that life anymore.
I was ecstatic.
I was nervous.
But now that we’ve embarked on the construction project and he’s there by my side, I’m grateful. I’ve handled enough things alone in my life. For this huge undertaking, I’ve got a partner. It feels good and, ironically, safe.
When I catch myself feeling penned in or too close, I still look for ways to escape – like using sarcasm or judgment to create distance between us. When we have different ideas about how to get something done, I can long for the control I had when he was working. I’ll try to push him away and bulldoze my way through.
When I can see what’s happening, I’ll stop and remind myself: You’ve made a new life. You’ve plotted a new course. You’ve chosen a different kind of man.
As uncomfortable as it can be, I love my new role. My coworker is steady and honest. The compensation, in terms of partnership, personal growth, and satisfaction, is unmatched.
In time, I think I’ll love being a full-time wife.
Georgianna Marie is an aspiring author, currently developing a series of essays about her upbringing. After discovering the beautiful North Oregon Coast in 2020, she and her husband Tim purchased a cabin in Manzanita. She spends half her time in Oregon and the remainder in the Phoenix desert.