Here is a great thing about my husband and, I believe, a key reason that our marriage remains a strong one: when I am away from home he does not call me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve run to the grocery store, if I’m out for a girl’s night on the town, or I’m in New York City for a couple of days, like I was this weekend. He does not pick up the phone.
Some may find this odd or even troubling. I’ll admit in the beginning I felt the same way. “Doesn’t he wonder where I am or what I’m doing? Doesn’t he miss me?” These thoughts crossed my mind often in the days before children when we were still two college kids learning what it was to share a living space with a significant other.
After Anders and Danica were born, I still fretted over it, only instead of worrying about his affection for me, I wondered if the kids had tied him up and gagged him in my absence. I just knew that on my return home I’d find him bound to a kitchen chair, a jump rope wrapped around his wrists and a zhu zhu pet shoved in his mouth.
Instead he and the kids would be piled on the couch watching cartoons together or seated at the kitchen table coloring and eating goldfish crackers. More often than not though, I would pick up the phone and call long before I made it home.
“Is everything all right there?”
“Yes. Why?” He always sounds surprised that I am asking, like he is genuinely confounded by the fact that I have equated his cellular silence with misfortune.
One day, after I lost a telephone stand off with my husband he wasn’t aware we were having, I decided to just ask. I had silently pondered the matter in frustration long enough.
“Why don’t you ever call me or check in when I’m away from the house and you’re at home with the kids? Most husbands do, you know? When out with my friends I am consistently the only woman who doesn’t get some version of the ‘Where are you? What are you doing? When are you coming home?’ call.”
Spoken out loud, the words sounded preposterous and unbearably insecure. I immediately wanted to take the question back.
“I don’t call because I don’t want you to feel like I need you to rush home,” he said. “We’re fine here. I can handle them on my own. I know you need time to yourself.”
Since that day I don’t worry (as much) when my phone doesn’t ring while I’m out. I love that my husband recognizes the value in the occasional mental break or trip away. I need those to maintain sanity and the guilty voices that tell me that, as a mother of small children, I really shouldn’t take time away are loud enough without my husband adding his to the chorus.
I must admit, I struggle to return the favor to him and, perhaps, that is really where my insecurities lie — in his ability to consistently cope in a single parent setting when I seem to regularly cave to the draw of the speed dial. At any rate, we seem to have found our balance as a parenting duo. A duo in which one member needs a little more solitude and the other possesses the ability to not only recognize that in their partner, but to deliver it consistently.
Do you have any weaknesses that perfectly complement your partner’s strengths?