My wife and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this year, and I could not be happier. Despite some very challenging circumstances over those years, our marriage is stronger and better than ever, and I am truly, madly, and deeply in love with that woman. One of the unique characteristics of our marriage is how much our lives have really been intertwined. We share a small one-bedroom suite, we drive one car, we have worked together, and we have even been interviewed for jobs together. I know some couples need the space, and sometimes I feel like I might want a bit more, but our style works for us.
In the past five years, we have been apart only two extended times: for ten days when we were working with Chinese tour groups in the US; and when she went back to Saskatchewan for a week two years ago for a funeral while I stayed here and worked. We have had a few nights here and there, but nothing like the past two and a half weeks, when I have been here working and she has been on a prairie tour. Despite our nuptial bliss and how much I knew I would miss her, I was actually looking forward to our time apart: I thought it might be a good time to collect my thoughts, do some things I wouldn't normally get to do, and learn a bit about myself as a temporary bachelor. Well, I ended up working a lot and her trip was more stressful than we had initially anticipated, so not everything went as I had planned - I didn't go to one movie, for example - but I still was able to do a lot of things I wanted to do and to learn a few things along the way.
Here are the top ten things I have learned about myself from being a bachelor for the past two and a half weeks, the longest time I have been alone in six years. Some might seem obvious, but they were all revelatory to me in some way, regardless of how simplistic or superficial they may seem.
1. I work more when my wife isn't around. Granted, I have had a lot of work to do with camps, but I just tend to put more time into it when I don't have to manage her time as well. And even if I'm not doing "work" work, I end up doing a lot of housework, too. It's just my default setting, and I have to consciously shift to "play" and "rest".
2. I spend less time at home - significantly less. Again, not a shocker; working more seems to have an inverse relationship with being at home less. But I did also eat a high number of meals at friend's houses over the past couple of weeks, and I just tended to do more "on the run".
3. My wife is not the reason I don't play many video games. If anything, I play more video games when she's around. Other than playing Race for the Galaxy (a card game) in its electronic version, I did not play any video games at all. Then again, I was busy with work and being social. I did, however, enjoy having a few extra board gaming sessions when I wanted to, especially on longer more involved games like Le Havre or Twilight Struggle.
4. Food is functional, and I don't spend much time in the kitchen. I go in, I make the food I need to eat, and I get out. I think I only ran the dishwasher once or twice the whole time. Even if the meals away are accounted for, I still just don't eat a lot on my own.
5. My TV and movie-watching habits are actually mostly unchanged. I could watch a few more of my "non-wife" shows, but I kept a pace that corresponds to what I would have done if she were around, for the most part.
6. I am more emotionally disconnected when I don't have my wife around. It's not that I have fewer emotions - I just don't spend nearly as much time acknowledging them or processing them. So the next week or so could be interesting if those emotions start coming out...uh oh...I can feel them bubbling up...
7. I don't like the rhythm of living alone. I'm too much of an extrovert to live by myself, which is probably why I was away from home so much. The last time I lived alone was my first year of university when I was 17 and 18 years old. Since then, I've lived for six summers at camp, lived with twenty roommates, and been married for five years. And what do you know - I actually need people around to balance me out.
8. I am terrible with bedtime and the process of going to sleep. I used to resent that my wife would make me go to sleep; now I resent myself for not having better self-control. Seriously - even when I'm tired I don't sleep.
9. I blog more. Perhaps it's the fact that I don't have to negotiate computer time, or just that I can write when I think of something, but I have been blogging a lot more in the past couple of weeks. It has made me realize just how much I miss doing this all the time, and how much it means to me to work through things this way.
10. My life is too stressful right now. I mostly already knew this, but I have had some time to think through it, and I feel like I need to make a couple of changes to sort things out. That's for the discussions when she comes back, starting tomorrow.
In all, I am glad that I had the experience. It has been a challenging few weeks as we have navigated this time apart, but I think the things I have learned have all contributed to one very strong conclusion: it is SOOO much better for me to be married than to be on my own. I have a better, more balanced, more complete life with her around, and I cannot imagine life without her. It's going to take a few days to adjust to the constant presence of someone else around, but I wouldn't trade her for anything. Plus, now I have my automatic partner for board games and video games, and I get to start watching some of the TV shows I was not allowed to watch without her. The Newsroom, here we come!