At some point in a long-distance marriage, your spouse will probably visit you. It’s a strange thing to have your spouse visit you in the place where you are conducting your separate life. This is the person with whom you vowed to share your life, yet you have to introduce him or her to this whole other side of you. It can be a strain on both parties.
George and I have been experiencing this strain since November 21. At first, the reunion was wonderful: a Hollywood-style pick-up at the train station, a ride through an exotic new country to your apartment, a home-cooked dinner, champagne, etc. I showed him all of the little touches I had added to my apartment just for him, like a tea sampler, his own shower poof, and a frozen pizza with spicy sausage and jalapeños for lunch when I worked late. We watched movies together, cuddled under a blanket and split large bottles of delicious German beer. Pure bliss.
As George grew more comfortable and settled in to German life, our patterns became more normal. This trip was no longer an exotic vacation for him, and my daily life continued as usual. This was about the time when we started bickering. If the arguing itself weren’t bad enough, it tended to come coupled with the disappointment in us. Why would we argue about anything when we had only a short time together? Shouldn’t the sheer joy of actually being with one another override any negative feelings?
The answer, it turns out, is no. But why? I replayed some of the arguments we’d had and realized that I was most often the instigator. Why was I so on edge all the time? I was genuinely happy to have him here. What the hell is my problem?
This question had been plaguing me for days, and when George left for Luxembourg on Sunday, it completely consumed me. A chat with a friend who has also done the long-distance thing helped clear things up a bit. She told me that in her experience, the “hosting” spouse is the one whose whole routine has been disrupted. For the other, the trip is just a trip. After considering this for a moment, it became clear. She was spot on!
I realized that I had developed a certain routine during my time here, which has helped to keep me calm and organized when the stressors of life abroad become overwhelming. I have also been keeping my apartment cleaner and neater than I typically do because I am living in someone else’s home. Things like oatmeal in the kitchen sink trap, twice the clothing in my bedroom closet, and someone else using my laptop when I wanted it were driving me crazy! George and I were reliving the worst parts of moving in together, the transitional friction, if you will. This time around, though, it hurt a bit more, because we never saw it coming. I think we had both expected things to be going as smoothly as they were before I left. The tension blindsided us. Add a sprained ankle and a nasty cold to the situation, and the result was a hot mess.
I’m so relieved I figured this out before the last week plagued we spent together in Germany haunted us for the next seven months. Furthermore, we know what to expect when I move back the US and into the new apartment, where he will have been living for five months without me. He will be excited to show me around, and I’ll try not to be hurt when I inevitably drive him nuts. We can do this.