He was lucky to get a teaching job when few were available in 1973. I was lucky to have his financial and emotional support. We were both lucky because we were in love.
I was also pissed off. I didn’t want to move away from the home we’d bought the year before. I didn’t want to leave my community and friends. I didn’t want to be a Colgate faculty wife and nursery school mother.
Why did I decide to move? Because I loved him. Because I was pregnant with our second son. I wasn’t about to bust up my marriage. I was trapped.
We rented a small place in Hamilton, NY. I packed, growled, and sputtered. My body developed angry red boils. Every Monday we drove to Colgate. Every Friday, we returned home to the place we loved.
Six years after Vic took that teaching job, with both kids in elementary school, we realized we couldn’t keep moving back and forth. Our sons needed one home, one community, and one school. We were forever loading the car with suitcases, laundry, kids, dogs, and soup and heading somewhere else. They needed stability. So did I.
We decided I would live at our home in the Finger Lakes with our sons. Vic would commute to his teaching job every Monday and return home Thursday evening. Friday was a research day so he worked at home. I packed his clothes and food for the three nights he was away. It was only thirty-two weeks out of the year with fall, Christmas, and spring breaks. Maybe we could get used to this.
I did. He didn’t.
“I don’t even have a dog here,” he said.
By the time our kids graduated from high school, I had a job as a nutritionist. Vic continued to commute alone. We talked on the phone each night and accepted our compromise.
In 1995, three years after our youngest had left home, our vital friend Leslie was diagnosed with cancer. I visited every week. We talked about philosophy, beauty, and the inner life. My heart ached as Leslie became thinner and frailer.
Leslie’s illness proved again that organic food, clean air, meditation, and peaceful rural surroundings aren’t enough to save us. I realized my time with Vic was limited.
“We’re mortal. Our marriage won’t last forever,” I said.
Vic loved my way of thinking. What had taken me so long?
I quit my job as a nutritionist without complaints this time. Vic and I traveled back and forth between work camp during the week and home on weekends. I wrote, read, and searched for new work. Soon, I taught women’s health classes at Colgate. I’d made the right choice for me as well as for Vic.
Vic had ten more healthy years. We were together for all of them. We shared dreams in the morning, meditated before dinner, and took long walks on spring evenings.
Leslie’s death opened my eyes to mortality. It was an unexpected gift.
How do you manage differing needs in your relationships? Do you fight for your position or surrender? For another post about managing differences, see Talking Back: Essential Marriage Skills 101. During her illness, Leslie and her husband Sam edited a book of Paul Brunton quotations called Meditations for People in Crisis.