As a woman married to the same man for fourteen years, I’ve begun to notice a shift in our relationship. And I’ve seen it not only in my own experience, but also in the lives of several other women I know. I’m going to speak in generalities here, but from my sample size of approximately seven or eight or nine, I have noticed a role reversal the longer the couple stays together.
On Friday morning my husband was shuffling around the kitchen, packing binders and snacks into the kids’ book bags and organizing himself for his weekend away for golf with the guys. He may have chattered something about the NFL draft last night and I may have grunted in reply. “Are you going to miss me at all while I’m gone?” he asked next. “Yes,” I said dryly without looking up from my oatmeal.
There was a time when we were freshly dating that I didn’t want to take my eyes off him, enjoying sipping my bud light from a bar stool, and still keeping my gaze on him as I tipped my beer back for another swig. Later on I ended up “between apartments” for an extended period of time which conveniently landed me at his apartment for over a month. We rode to and from work together, ran together, and picked up our take-out dinner together. Oh yeah, and because I was so smitten with this guy, I watched four hours of wrestling per week with him. FOUR hours! (I admit he taught me the soap-opera-ish beauty of WWE wrestling, which I still like in small doses to this day. Unless the Rock is on. I’ll watch him all day long!)
I don’t really know how it is in today’s terms, but being in a new relationship used to mean getting excited to check your email or answering machine to see if he has called or written. Now, I guess it’s the same but with texts.
In Stage One it is also the man who usually plays it pretty aloof. I wonder if long eyelashes and aloofness are related to the male peacock’s showy feathers? It seems aloofness makes a woman want to date a man all the more. Why won’t he answer the phone?! Why didn’t he come by when he said he would?!
When the hubs and I were newlyweds, I remember asking him if he was sure he really wanted to go play poker with the guys. I was so yearning for his company to sit on the sofa and watch T.V. together. Once I complained to my mom about this weekly abandonment issue, and my mom said, “Why aren’t you glad he’s out of your hair?!”
Fourteen years in, it seems my husband talks more than me and makes the occasional comment if I mention out loud my thought of traveling overnight with the kids, leaving him potentially home alone.
As I was noticing all of these feelings and non-feelings run through me, I got feisty and texted my love: I bet you miss the days when I begged you to stay with me instead of go play poker! Ok, I never begged; that’s just sick. But the gist was there. Then I thought ouch, that was pretty harsh and vaguely open-ended. So I added another: I still love you though. I’ll be scared when I go to bed without you tonight. Granted, I’m afraid of the dark and my own shadow, but there are some things I am very used to after fourteen years under the same roof – and having another adult in the house at bedtime is one of them.
It’s just funny to me that we women crave our significant other’s attention so much in the beginning, where later down the line, we can get very comfortable doing what we want, when we want, without male interference. The guys, on the other hand, after playing it cool for so long on the front end, now crave the female attention.
The hubs comes home tomorrow. I’ll certainly be glad. He’ll tell me about when so-and-so shot a bogey or a par on such-and-such hole, and I’ll listen with half an ear while one kid interrupts him about her lack of playdates and the other walks between our legs to rummage through the refrigerator for a snack too close to meal time. I’m not saying that the men become giddy teenage girls starving for attention. Maybe it’s just that their timing for communicating is off. Maybe as a couple our goals become more balanced between us now that we gals are no longer lunging for the remote to cue up WWE as he brings the bowl of popcorn to the coffee table (or seeing the newest action movie in the theatres or attending the Auto Show or Boat Show.) I remember one of the longest trips my husband went on when we were dating, and when he finally arrived at my doorstep, I grabbed him around the neck as I exclaimed, “It’s about time!” I was so eager to see him! I’m ready for the hubs to come home, but that probably won’t be my same reaction. And that’s ok because some of that eagerness from years ago has been replaced by things I’ve learned about my guy – how caring he is for our kids, what a great coach he is, how fantastic at his job he is, how much he roots for me to achieve my goals, and how he can pick out a wine that I will guarantee like every time. Fellas, you are loved, but there is a reason Girls Night exists. Back in the day, we may have skipped Girls Night just to watch your intramural softball game. Now that we are older and wiser, and as much as we love you, we need time to un-hear all of the man-gossip that you bring home in your old age.