Wednesday night Spouse and I had plans. Thursday was his one day this week off from his regular 16 hr per day first-year medical residency job, so we thought “fun, late, date night it is!”. Oysters in Lincoln Park was the plan.
Then around 7 PM, I began to feel a familiar anxiety about going out with him. So, I defaulted to what I used to do with this anxiety: I called him and asked if we could stay in instead because I just felt too anxious and overwhelmed to go out. As he always does, he understood and agreed to come to my place instead.
Then, in the hours between that call and his arrival, I worked out what I was truly feeling anxious about. And it happened with a simple thought experiment: if I had a date with Feathers or someone new, would I have canceled or opted to stay in? No. So this wasn’t that. Ultimately I worked out that the familiar anxiety I was feeling was something spouses of people in high-pressure, time-consuming jobs often feel: pressed for time and unsure of the best way to spend it.
When you choose to share a life with someone there is a fair amount of “business” to be dealt with. Who’s filing the taxes? Who will take the dog to the vet? Can we coordinate days off with a family vacation? Etc., etc., etc. But when you will only truly have a good 3 hours per week with your spouse, it’s awfully hard to spend it on “business” items, or worse yet, an emotionally fraught discussion about needs and boundaries and sex. The tendency is to have a fun date night, which is great…. except then the spouse with more time ends up with resentment for the “business”, emotional or practical that wasn’t sorted.
It’s an issue we were hitting again and again during the first few months of residency. So when he arrived, I explained how I was really feeling. And here’s the wild thing that happens when you say how you really feel to someone who really wants to know: they listen! Together, we brainstormed some ideas on navigating this issue. We had tried most of them before, but ever since Spouse entered therapy, it feels like he will actually hold up his end of what is a demanding emotional or practical task (aka the things of a RELATIONSHIP).
So, we’ll see how it pans out. But it felt like progress.
THEN! An even wilder thing happened. I asked him how much he wanted to know about the other men I was dating. After some thought, he answered that for now, he didn’t need to know a lot of specifics. He wanted to know names and generals for anyone that might begin to feel important and he was open to hearing about some activities and experiences (not the romantic or sexual kind).
I told him a few funny things that had happened and a few nice experiences I’d had and he responded in the best way possible: he asked me to help him create a Tinder profile! I don’t know what that will look like for him, but I’m very happy that he’s opening himself up to the idea of meeting other people because it’s been so beneficial in my life and I want that for him.
We created him a profile (I’m an expert by now) and I taught him how to use it. Adorably, he read every profile, even if he didn’t think they were cute. “I need to what they’re about, maybe they’re a really great person”, he reasoned. This is so him. We laid in bed, laughing and Tindering together. We even matched! His amazing first line to me? “Hey baby, let’s never have babies”. Swoon.
This man really is my best friend. And the fact that he is taking all this in stride, opening himself entirely to the process and truly committing to self exploration, even while working a 90 hr per week, very stressful job is such a testament to the kind of person he is. I really did marry well.