Saturday, June 28, 2008

BMTTS.....more thoughts

It is possible that some of you might have found yesterday's post a little "hard". Emotion-less. Believe me, you could not be more wrong. Lots of emotion there, just hidden. Probably much deeper than the ordinary woman would need to hide hers.

In our day to day lives, I was the only security my children had. And if I had been weak and feeble, they would have had no security. Because I could cope, and did, Geoff was able to continue to do the work he loved. And please do not think I am donning the robes of martyr here. Nothing could be further than the truth! It is just the way it was. The failure rate of marriages in the merchant navy is one of the highest in the world. And that is completely understandable. It is a tough way to live. It is a tough way to be married. And so is the life of a pilot's wife. A soldier's wife. And so many more.

Normal expectations don't work. Normal ways to do things don't work.

Had I let my children see me constantly crying from loneliness, or incapable of functioning, I would have been cheating them of a childhood full of happiness and security. They had a wonderful happy childhood. And I developed from a 21 year old "child" into a woman capable of running a home and raising a family. My own family, my parents and sister were part of the team raising my children.

Andrew was a very deep thinker, even as a toddler, and he needed his Mum to be functioning and happy. Diana had me, and she had her big brother. David had what was, effectively, 2 sets of parents, as Andrew was 12 and Diana 8 when he was born. They saw me cry at times. They also saw me smile again, and get on with things. They knew it was ok to be sad. They also knew that it was ok to cry. Just not to spend days doing it. Wallowing.

And they always knew their Dad was coming home.

Geoff's career also meant that our social life was entirely shaped by my friends. He didn't work in an office. He didn't have the opportunity to grow his friendships. His fellow officers came from all over the country and indeed, the world. They didn't live in the same town, and every ship he moved to, had different men on board. Sometimes he only worked with them for 6 weeks. So friendships were different for him.

We used to laugh (and sigh too) - his idea of a perfect holiday was to be at home. Mine???? Hahahahahaha. I had been home for months and longed to go somewhere new. Exotic places??? He had seen them all, of course. The idea of him on a cruise is laughable. Remind me to tell you about when we sailed out as passengers to SA. I have never seen a man more out of place in my life. He followed anyone in uniform about all day and kept telling me what the ship was doing. It was hysterical. The ship was moving, therefore he should have been working. You have no idea.......

In the end though, it is all about compromise.

We could never guarantee that he would be home for holiday time, so I took the children camping, and away for breaks, although not very often. If he was home, he came too, but if not, we went with friends. If we had waited for him, we would never have done anything at all.

When he came home, he just wanted and needed his family. I, on the other hand, had to develop networks of friends who were there for my family. Both when he was away and when he was home. I needed friends. I needed contact with other adults. Conversation. Sometimes he had nothing at all in common with them, and sometimes they became good friends. But his friendships were not individual ones. He was never around long enough to build them. He was an insular man, in a sense, but he was happy.

So the balance in a long distance marriage is difficult to quantify. Judge. Assess. I do know that had I been married to anyone other than him, my life would have been markedly different, and so would I. I wouldn't have had to develop some parts of me as I am today, but I would have had the opportunity to develop parts I will never know about. Life is strange.

I am on a path unique to me, and I have been since the day I was born. I know where I will ultimately end up. It is just the route I am taking which is so very different from the routes I imagined as a child.

I used to worry about how my children would settle down and raise their own families, you know. They had never seen a "normal" family in operation. Been a part of one. You know what I mean. Going to work. Coming home. Living together like most of you do. Working as a team. Building something together, without each going off at different tangents. I think that was the most difficult part. We would start planning something, and then he would go to sea, and we would both work on those plans, but by the time he came back again, our plans had gone off in randomly opposite directions!

I likened it to 2 vines planted alongside each other. In a normal marriage, the vines intertwine all the time as they grow. Bouncing ideas off each other. In my marriage, because of the complications of distance and time apart, the vines grew in different directions, and had to be trained back together when he was home. Sometimes they managed. Others they did not.

I think that one thing I am eternally grateful for is that I was born when I was. My generation was not raised expecting perfection, or with the notion that you discarded things which were not perfect. You worked hard, weathered storms, celebrated things going well, and when they didn't, made changes to make things work better. The idea of "having it all" was never an option.

Was it ideal? No. Absolutely not. Was it worth it??? Without a shadow of a doubt. I look at who I am now, and at my three great kids today, and I am glad I survived

Being married to the sea.......


At A Hen's Pace said...


Thank you for your great perspective! My husband is sometimes an absent father, since he works a regular job, and then is also a pastor--which means he needs alone time to prepare for sermons, and sometimes has meetings and pastoral appointments which take him away from the family.

I've really had to make choices in my attitude toward that, including how I respond to my children's occasional comments and complaints. Would it be good for any of us if I joined them in that? Of course not, so I do what I can to accept and normalize the situation.

It's not easy, and it does take a certain emotional toll. But it seems like a healthier, more secure environment for children, as you say.

I love what you said about not expecting perfection of each other or of the marriage, too. What a key!

And I also like your insight that parts of you developed (or didn't) that might not have (or might have) if things had been different. In Prince Caspian, Aslan tells Lucy that she can never know what might have happened--which really speaks to your point, of acceptance of one's individual circumstances.

Great post!


Isabelle said...

Very interesting post. I think of my beloved younger daughter and her relationship with an actor - sigh. He's not around much since he lives in Nottingham and when he gets work, it's usually on tours round obscure theatres in England. I worry what it would be like for her if they married and had children (not that there's much prospect of this, since he of course earns pennies).

Mary said...

You are so right when you say all marriages are different and each have their own unique hurdles (I know you didn't actually use the term hurdle:)). My husband was not at sea, nor a pilot, nor an actor, nor did he work off shore on an oil rig or any other job that took him away from his family. Still,he may as well have been.I married an introvert. I married a husband and father who went missing in action (emotionally) for a lot of the time. Had I been wiser I would have embraced his different approach and saved myself from a lot of grief and 'single parenting' without being a 'single parent' issues. It is with some reservation (a lot actually) that I make this comment, as I don't want to be misunderstood in what I am saying. I just wanted t say that I am reflecting on your second to last paragraph where you asked was it worth it? Like you, how can you regret something that bears the fruit of your union (children and character building).

Does this comment reflect my mood? I bet it does! I feel a bit 'icky' today.Running through my head is the song, 'Regrets, I've had a few - But then again......

I survived!

Judith said...

Happy Sunday, Linds, God knew what He was doing when He married you to the sea. But I do commend you for cooperating in it. I suspect your children are stronger today, too, because of living the challenges that came with it.

Sometimes I grow weary of new difficulties, but then God shows me why He sent them, and the outcome of all of it is worth what I had to do to get there.