Absence Makes the Heart Grow Deprecating. Which is a Good Thing. I Think.
Justin has been in Afghanistan for over 3 months now, and I’m ready to admit something.
There have been times in our marriage when I’ve looked at him and thought, I can’t believe I’m actually married to you.
Like the time he realized he didn’t brew enough coffee after he poured his cup but before he poured mine, so instead of making more coffee to fill my cup, he just ran new water back through the soggy, used coffee grounds and hoped I wouldn’t notice that my cup was filled with light brown water as opposed to actual coffee.
Times like that, my friends, when I thought, I can’t believe I’m actually married to you and not in a totally smitten, pre-honeymoon, post-vows kind of way with a mental tone of adoring and grateful affection, but in a we’ve-been-living-together-for-over-8-years-now-and-you-think-I-won’t-notice-weak-coffee? kind of way with pure, unadulterated, incredulity.
I know it sounds terrible, but there it is.
The “good” thing is, I know I’m just as bad.
(What can I say? I’m a Libra.)
Like the time he came home after 3 months in Africa to find I’d bought dog beds so our little monsters could sleep with us in our bedroom to keep us safe from intruders and bogeymen and fill the space with protective methane fart gas throughout the night.
Because I always think these things through, you know?
Even though I do these things too, I still usually feel that I’m in the right. That I know best. That really, if we would just do everything my way, the world would spin smoothly and double rainbows will fill our home and the sex will always be fantastic and no one will ever — ever — have to sleep in the wet spot.
(Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
But now he’s been gone for 3 months.
Three months, apparently, is enough time for me to stop blaming him for every cluttered mess that collects on counters, for almost-empty orange juice bottles in the fridge, for laundry that sits in the dryer for days, and the pulpy, globulated mess that coats my clothes when an errant pocket receipt goes through the wash.
It’s enough time, apparently, to realize that I’m actually fallible.
I mean, I’ve always known I’m capable of making mistakes. In fact, maybe my blunt, drunken wrist tattoo should read erroneous, because I’ve certainly made more than my fair share. And I’d be the first to admit it.
But it was always these little things. These little house things that would get on my nerves make me mutter under my breath as I’d fritter around the house collecting crumpled papers that someone — and certainly not me — was too lazy to throw away, are not always entirely his fault.
And that’s the gift of distance.
They say, you know, that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I know a secret.
The real benefit of absence is clarity.
The way it gives you a chance to look at yourself.
The chance to experience the discomfort that comes with the dawning realization that wait — I’m not perfect?
It’s not a good feeling.
But it’s a helpful feeling. And a relief, too, to know that he’s not the only one to blame for the messes and the occasional late charge and sometimes erratic online shopping binges.
Wait. Maybe that last one has always been me.
But my point is that true perspective — not just about a partner but about yourself — is something that most people who’ve been living together for a long time never have the space — or the distance — to experience.
And that’s unfortunate.
Because while I would never recommend that you ship your significant other off to Afghanistan for a quarter of a year or more, a little space can sometimes help.
Not to get away from your partner. But to get back to yourself.
So now, at least I know. I remember. I can overlook the little things when he gets home because while cohabitation definitely creates more messes and chaos, it also provides an extra set of hands to help.
Except the coffee thing. I can’t overlook that.
But I’m working on it.