There was a time that my husband and I were married, but did not see each other. It was one of the most challenging times in our marriage to work through. The impact of having a spouse you do not see on a regular basis varies for every couple. Some couples, have become so accustomed to the routine that they have managed to fit their lives around it. Other couples, such as my husband and myself, couples counselling psychologist advised that was a significant impact on our marriage that we had to address immediately .
My husband got his first position with his current company, working on the bottom of the career ladder. It was an overnight position that paid half decently, but required him to be at work up to 14 hours a day. Although he worked a shorter work week, his days off were the days I was working a typical 9-5 position at a local bank.
At first, we were excited by the idea that we could both make money, without having to pay for childcare. It was a huge boost to our monthly income, and we both got the benefit of spending time with our children. Agreeing to work opposite schedules was an easy choice. Although we knew we would see one another less, we figured it was the weekend that really mattered, and we would spend our quality time together then.
At first the sudden change in schedules seemed doable. My husband would leave to work at 3:00 p.m., work until 5:00 a.m., go to bed around 6:00 a.m., and sleep roughly until 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. I on the other hand would leave the house by 8:00 a.m. and be home around 6:00 p.m. The overlapping hours where my husband was sleeping, our children spent with his mother.
After about three weeks in, I noticed that my kids seemed particularly anxious. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew that before, going to grandma’s seemed like a treat, and then suddenly they treated it like they were being asked to clean their rooms. I brushed off their behavior as a simple poor adjustment to change in routine, and thought with a few more weeks they would get the hang of the new schedule. After all, it was my husband I was really concerned with.
Adjusting to a graveyard shift was more challenging for him than he previously imagined. Relying on cups of coffee to get through his labor intensive night job began to be a problem when it was time for him to go to sleep on his strict schedule. Some days he was downright miserable because he couldn’t get to sleep until 12:00 p.m., only to have his alarm go off an hour later to go get the kids.
He assured me he would adjust and he just needed time. But, by the time six months on his new schedule was approaching, I felt like my husband was no longer the same person I married. Constantly moody, and quick to anger, this once passive and loving man seemed like a stranger.
All of the “quality” time we had scheduled soon transferred over to “nap times”, as it was his only opportunity for uninterrupted sleep. It quickly became that any moment I was home, I was responsible for taking over the kids, even on weekends, so he could get some much needed shut eye.
I suddenly felt incredibly alone. Many times I approached him upset saying I felt like I was doing the work of a single parent. It was around this time we decided that it would probably be best for our family for me to become a stay at home mom, as my being home would allow him to get on a more suitable schedule, and his income would be enough to sustain our family.
Somehow I thought being a stay at home mom would improve our relationship. I had reasoned in my head that I would at least get to see him sometime between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. before he had to leave for work again. However, it was much of the same loneliness. His alarm shifted from ringing at 12:00 p.m., to 1:00 p.m., to 2:30 p.m., and then it was time for quick shower before leaving out of the door.
The few years we attempted this were some of the loneliest times of my life. I felt like I was waiting every moment of my day. Waiting for him to come home, waiting for him to wake up, waiting to be married again. From his perspective, he was working 24/7 for a family he never got to see.
We had many discussions over whether or not his career with this company was worth it. We always ended the conversation deciding that we would give it a few more months. Months would pass, and we gradually began talking about it less. Our relationship was dissolving.
I finally told him one night when he got home from work at a shockingly “early” time of 3:00 a.m. that I could no longer do it. I told him when I got married and chose to have kids it was because I wanted a family, and I wanted things we could experience together. I asked him to please consider his career option one final time, or try to seriously decide with me how our marriage would survive.
My husband stood by the fact that the opportunities he had with this company were so limitless that he could not pass them up, but he agreed that a shift in schedule was the easiest place to begin to repair our lives. He went to his management team and made a very strong case for himself to be considered for higher level employment, and surprisingly they knew of a position that would be opening soon.
They invited him to apply, and gave him strong consideration since he was so upfront about his goals with the company. He was awarded the much higher paying position, with great benefits, and a more reasonable day schedule, because management felt that his initiative was a huge asset to their team.
Once he was established in his new routine, we finally were able to focus on our marriage again. We spent a lot of quality time together, both with our kids and alone. We went on our first vacation together as a family, and as a couple, both in the same year. And we vowed that work would not come before family anymore. Since my husband’s promotion, things have gotten better for our family, and we have grown stronger together. I know that his work schedule was the biggest factor contributing to our issues. Although we have proven that hard work, and open communication go a long way in a career and in a marriage, we have also learned the biggest influence in maintaining a successful family is spending time with one another.
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