Monday, July 26, 2010

My husband has a seedy mistress

Shelle Edit: Elaina is new to me.  I met her while she was debating with Sage and Gucci Mama over at Gucci Mama's place-she was the liberal amongst the conservatives.  The thing I DO remember about her was that she knew her politics, and she was well written, and spoke her points well.   So I was very excited when she wrote this post for us.  Go Check out her personal blog if you like what she says here.  Thanks Elaina!

My husband is my one and only. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved, and I trusted our love enough to marry him one month shy of my 20th birthday, for no real reason, translation: (I wasn’t pregnant).

But I am not his one and only.

No, there is a seedy mistress that lurks in our lives, waiting to take him away from me and our children, and her name is…Uncle Sam. My husband and I had been married 6 months when he came home from work one night and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about joining the Army.” This completely blew my mind. I had, at one point in my life, dreamed of being an Army nurse (I have all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD, but I’m sure it’s not related), but I have asthma and didn’t qualify. I had given up on my dream, married a man I loved, and was working a full time job and going to school. I had had a miscarriage the month before, and was still in shock; my world had come together and fallen apart, all in 6 months, and now, now, he’s telling me that he wants to join the Army? I said the only thing I could think of: “You do know we’re in two wars right now, right?” However, it was something that he really wanted to do. We were broke, as in “hey, do you think we can make a casserole out of elbow macaroni and cheerios?” broke. I was working full time, then driving from Atlanta to my college in West Georgia an hour and a half west of Atlanta for class, and then back to our apartment somewhere in the middle. I was exhausted, and my car needed new spark plugs. But that’s not why he enlisted. He enlisted because he wanted to serve, and yes, because he wanted a better life for us.

Our pregnancy was scary. We had been married only 3 months when we found out. We had been using birth control, but we were thrilled; you’ve never seen two people happier. We didn’t know how we’d manage, but we knew we’d get by. He took off work to go to every doctor’s appointment with me, and he was there when the doctor told us our baby was dead. I miscarried on the Sunday after Easter, in 2006. We knew right away that we wanted to try again, but we also knew it would be completely  irresponsible; an accident was one thing, but purposely bringing a baby into our macaroni-and-cheerio-casserole situation just was not a good idea. So, we painfully decided to wait.

In May, the night he came home with this “wonderful” news, I could have strangled him. I mean, couldn’t he see that I was grieving our baby, and now he wanted to take himself away from me, too? It was too much to handle. The next morning, I called into work and we went to talk to a recruiter. That July he left for basic training. The Army has been good to us. We paid off all our debt, and acquired some shiny new debt. We bought a new car (by the way, my old car got its new spark plugs, and a new owner). We visited Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, and tons of other places. I’ve had Dunkin Donuts a few blocks from the Brandenburg Gate, and I’ve had smoked beer at Oktoberfest (it was awful). I learned how to be independent, which was a good thing for me. I went from my living with my aunt to living with my husband, but I had never been alone.

In my first year as an Army Wife, I moved to a foreign country, I got pregnant again, and I sent my husband off to war. That day was the hardest day of my life. There are no words to describe the despair that you feel when someone you love goes off to war, no way to explain what it’s like to know that this may be the last time that you see him. To wonder if death will come for him, and to wonder if he’ll die in his buddy’s arms while you're a world away, safe and warm. It’s morbid and depressing, but we all do it.

When he was deployed, we talked as much as we could, but it was like being married to a phone. I never went anywhere without my phone. When I showered, I took it to the bathroom. When I had a doctor’s appointment, I didn’t put it on silent. When I slept, it was beside my pillow. But how can a marriage survive if all you have to hold is a phone? He came home, 15 months later, to a daughter who didn’t know him, and a wife who had forgotten many things. When he moved in the night, I woke up, startled, because someone was in bed with me. He re-arranged the furniture, and I put it right back. He made dinner and put the pots in the wrong places. Everything that kept me sane when he was gone went out the window when he came back. During his absence, every minute detail became important to me. I had no control over my husband’s safety, but I did have control over where the salt and pepper shakers went.

Even worse than the absence, though, is when he’s here and yet he’s gone anyway. Last year, I spent 10 days with my husband in a 4 month period. He was not deployed, but rather he was assigned to help other units getting ready for a deployment with their training. I never know when he’ll be called into work, either for a few minutes or a few weeks.

The worst part, though, is knowing that I come second. If it’s my birthday, the Army doesn’t care. If he was a lawyer, he could tell his boss that he wouldn’t be in. If he was a teacher, he could take the day off. But there is no saying no to the Army. If they want him there, he’ll be there or there’ll be hell to pay. How do I cope? Well, I reassure myself that he loves what he does, that he loves me, and that it is possible for him to love both of us. The Army is something that he is a part of, so I make it important to me. I bake cookies for single soldiers, I’m active in family readiness groups, and I know almost as much of the lingo as he does. It used to other me that the Army sometimes had to come first, but I know that I’m first in his heart, and that’s where it matters the most.

Does anyone else know what it's like to be the second priority of your spouse? Why, and how do you deal with it?


Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

You know, I have never experienced that. My guy has always had a steady 8-6. He may go in early or stay a little late, but he's always around.

I can't even fathom what it is like.

I think sometimes he may think the blog and social world and photography business are my mistresses. I have been gone so much because of them, and then the time it takes away from my family while I'm around, might as well be gone.

It sounds like the army as been a bitter sweet decision, but you're right, as long as you know, and he let's you know, that you are first priority in your heart-that is what counts.

And I know for one, that I appreciate his sacrifice and service for our country.

Thanks for the great post!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

That was suppose to be "first priority in HIS heart" not your heart.

Forgive me, I'm on my phone. Bleh.

Elaina said...

I'm not even entirely sure my husband is aware I have a blog. I'm taking online classes, so between that, my blog, other people's blogs, and facebook, he never really knows what I'm doing online.

And you're right, it's been bittersweet, but mostly sweet...though it's hard to see it that way when he's been gone for weeks and I'm trying to juggle being both Mom and Dad, and still pretend that I have a life of my own. And it can get really lonely; I never realized how big a king size bed could be until I was the only one in it. But I've come to love this life, and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Anonymous said...

That was a great post. Glad to read you are connected to the "family readiness" group and hoping you stay connected with resources.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you for being strong enough to be in a marriage like that.

I come from a family where there were men in the Navy, Army and Airforce. My Nana was surprised that I didn't want to marry or even date a man who was in any of the services.

I couldn't deal with it. Being alone for so long ... being away from my husband. There are reasons which I don't want to write here.

You're a very strong woman. I think a lot of women could take a tip from your life :)

Thank you for sharing with us.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you and your husband for the sacrifices you are making on behalf of our country. It takes a strong woman and a strong man to make it work.

My husband's mistress is a large city Fire Department, where he is gone from 24 hours up to 72 hours at a time. Nothing like the lengthy absences or dangerous situations your husband is in though. But he does frequently work on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, as he often can't get vacation or a trade. The mortality part didn't really hit home with me until one of his friends on his old department died in a fire, leaving behind a wife & 3 kids.

It wasn't what I signed up for when we got married, but I adapted. With Murphy's law, someone is always getting hurt, or something major breaks when he is on duty. However, he is usually within 30-45 minutes from home, so I can't even imagine what you deal with when he is deployed.

So much of what you wrote resonated with me: The phone, the empty side of a bed, the off-on single/dual parenting, the taking 2nd place. I too have been to the Brandenburger Tor (before the wall came down though) and to Oktoberfest (no smoked beer for me however). In my pre-marriage days I lived alone overseas in both Germany & Asia, which helped me become the person I needed to be to deal with the reality of his job.

I think the most important part is that you and your husband seem to be devoted to each other, you are finding the good things in your situation, and you are doing what you can to support him and others.

All the best to you and your family.

Elaina said...

I think each situation has it's challenges. I get used to the absense after a while, and can settle into a routine, but I imagine routine is a little harder to come by for you. It's not an easy life when a spouse is called to serve, but it certainly has its rewards.

Jenifer said...

This post was right up my alley..... I feel your PAIN! My hubby has got Uncle Sam breathing down his neck 24/7. My hubby is a Marine and has been for going on 15 years (in Aug) He eats, sleeps and breathes the Corps. I am so grateful for his sacrifice to our country and our freedoms. But man! Sometimes the deployment after deployment and being a "single parent" gets REALLY OLD! Yes I am married but you will NEVER know my hubby cuz he is always either deployed or training or the next deployment.
This is I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am my hubby's 1 and only! He ALWAYS come home to ME :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post E. I don't know. I do think that people don't think of or discount the sacrifice that those who are left behind make. We might have disagreed before and you might have wanted to stick an ice pick i my eye but I am all in for anyone who is willing to serve.

I am thankful and proud of people like your hubs and you and your kids that would give him up to serve the greater good.

Y'all rock and I appreciate the sacrifice. I'll buy dinner whenever y'all wanna.

Elaina said...

I never wanted to stick an ice pick in your eye, Sage, that would be horribly messy :)

Thank you, seriously, though. This was very soul-baring for me, so I'm thrilled with the positive responses.

Anonymous said...

Well your position was perfectly stated and excellently written.

Scarlett said...
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Scarlett said...

Hi Elaina, I admire your strength, to deal with so much at once and then to deal with it all alone, bless you.

I know what it's like to take second seat to other things in a spouses life, my husband runs two companies and even when he is home he is on the phone with his clients. I just have to tell my self that he is doing it for our family.

I decided to go to school too so that I can take a little of the financial pressure off of him so he can maybe relax little and be around more often. Keeping my fingers crossed :-)

Erin said...

Oh, I'm learning so much about your lifestyle these days. After 20 years of marriage, during which I often heard how much Superman loved his time in the Army, he had the opportunity to become a contractor overseas (to help pay down our debt) in a country where I would never, ever join him or bring our children to see him. Now we're in this no man's land...not a military family, but not living the life of a civilian family. It has been so weird. (Seriously, my husband didn't leave me and I'm NOT just hiding that fact because I'm embarrassed...weird stuff like that!) I know just what you mean about being married to the phone, as, at first, we did the same thing. Maybe it is because I'm older, I don't know, but I wasn't willing to live like that for very long. So, now I see myself developing rhythms and patterns that are so different from those we had when he was here...I wonder how it will be when he comes home. I wonder how I'll deal with it when he takes on his next contract. After 21 years together, I do understand what he's doing, but I can't help but wonder how we'll be changed by the experience. Our oldest son graduated from college without Dad, our second son will be getting his driver's license without Dad, and most likely, our baby will become a teenager without Dad. It is all very strange and Skype can't make up for it all.

Elaina said...

I know what you mean, Erin. My husband missed the birth of our daughter, he almost missed the birth of our son, and he's missed tons of "little moments" here and there. It doesn't matter why your husband is away, though, all that matters is that he isn't with you...we're in this together, and your sacrifice is valued and appreciated.

TisforTonya said...

amazing post... amazing... I feel like I should thank you profusely for your many small sacrifices - without you (and many others like you) we couldn't live the lives we do... lawyers don't keep us safe do they?

at the same time - I just want for him to be there for you more often.

thanks for the post!!!!!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Hey I just wanted to pop in and say any of those that commented that would like to write how they deal and handle their spouse being gone, you are more than welcome to.

And Elaina, again, great post! Thank you so much. I ditto what Sage said in his first comment except I'll still let him pay for dinner.

Elaina said...

Thanks, everyone! And he's actually home right now. The last time we were apart was last October and November, when he was in Kuwait for a few weeks. I'm actually getting a little antsy; being together TOO much isn't something I'm used to!

And we'll take you up anytime, Sage :)

nitebyrd said...

My ex put everything/everyone ahead of me and he wasn't doing anything as important as your husband does.

Thank you for being there for him and your family and THANK him for defending our country.

Rebecca at Healthy Green and Frugal said...

Hi Elaina! I enjoyed reading your post. I've told you before...I don't know how Army wives do it! Although it's difficult, it sounds like the hardships have made you stronger. Thank you for your sacrifices - we are all just as indebted to the wives as we are to the soldiers.