Don’t worry. My husband and I aren’t divorcing.
But we did spend the weekend apart. A few years ago I read an article authored by another mom raising a complex child and she noted that one of the coping strategies she and her husband found helpful was spending time apart doing something of their own choosing. This time away could be used to do anything they wanted – fishing, hiking, city fun, hanging out with friends, or silence. The idea was that for a few days their wishes and needs took centre stage behind even their spouse’s. They still took holidays as a family, and as a couple, but they also made sure that personal time was a priority as well.
Until recently my husband and I only talked about this idea. Sure, he had “boys'” weekends at the cottage and I had similar “girls'” weekends, but we weren’t intentional about it. Since purchasing our own cottage we have made a point of each having time alone at the cottage. Since we are both introverts this works well for us. We have both found we appreciate a couple of days where we can both unplug and engage in whatever activities speak to us without worrying about our partner’s happiness or sense of inclusion. While away my husband tends to binge watch sports, fish, kayak, and read. I prefer to hike, read, knit, quilt, or binge watch favourite TV shows that I never have the time to enjoy during my day-to-day life. I worked through most of the Call the Midwife series during such retreats.
These past two weekends I enjoyed chipping away at my goal of hiking the entire Bruce Trail. The first weekend my husband joined me at a quaint B and B and we enjoyed some lovely, kid-free couple time. After I finished hiking we visited local wineries and ate dinner at a quite bistro. But, this past recent weekend I was off hiking while my husband puttered in our garden, and watched the Raptors lose while sipping a cold one. We were both happy. My husband has absolutely zero interest in hiking 25-30 kms at a stretch.
It took me a while to get over feeling selfish every time I took off. Years ago I remember reading the classic Erma Bombeck vignette where God and Her angel are deciding which parent should raise a child with special needs. For many reasons I disagree with the theology behind the story, but one thing that resonated was that God believed that the parent needed to be selfish to be able to cope. If the parent wasn’t then it was a just a matter of time before he or she became so enmeshed in their child’s journey and needs that it would become destructive to both. As an extreme caregiver I can totally understand this sentiment.
So my husband and I will continue to nurture our selfish streak by periodically taking breaks, including breaks that allow us to go our own separate ways.