13 August 2015

On Partnership

It was the end of June 2006. I was newly minted in an increased professional role, and my boss handed me my first project to run. “I know you’re leaving to get married 3 days before it’s due to the Government, but I’ll finish it out. Oh, and the operational lead, just so you know, it’s H.”

It wasn’t the first time H and I had worked together, but it was the closest we’d ever collaborated. At the time, he was much more experienced in that work than I was, and he’s tough. Very tough.

“How can you work with your husband?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten this question over the years. Part of it may be that H and I work in an industry where - at least the perception is - there are a lot of traditional households. Colleagues and friends of ours come from and continue in military families; one half of the couple, often the wife, stays home, manages the household, and runs the non-office life. While some families operate with a lovely balance, others describe their weekends as full of “honey-do” lists and say they’ve “gotta check with the boss.”

Working in the same industry, let alone the same company or office, would feel like an imposition or an invasion to folks who use their careers as an escape from family life.

That’s very different than the life and relationship H and I have. I am blessed to have a partner in life. Because of the way we’ve built our reality, with both of us working outside the home, we have to be in lock step. We have to support each other and balance our collective priorities.

That 2006 project saw us pull more all-nighters than was natural (as if they are, but in this business, they happen). There were tears (mine). There were frustrations (his). In the end, a week out from our planned time off for wedding prep, we set a deadline: We would leave the office no later than 9 o’clock a.m. the morning we were scheduled to take off.

We walked out of the doors at 8:45 a.m., with 15 minutes to spare. 3 hours later, I was doing the final wine tasting with my parents.

We didn’t win that work, but we worked well together, better together than apart. We always have. We travel well together, we plan well together, and we throw a mean party together. Take a look at our wedding. It was an 8 hour party that started with a religious service.

2006 (and 2007-2015) was a good year.

I’m not a relationship expert. Nor do I play one on TV. I do, however, cherish and value the primary relationship I’m in as a partnership. We’ve been together over 15 years. Those years have afforded us a rhythm and a cadence to navigating life. We depend on it. When it’s out of whack - as happens - we find a way to reconnect. Even if that re-connection is a conversation about work. Even if that re-connection is 20 minutes of chatter on our patio well after we should have gone to sleep. Even if that re-connection means we put on the TV for the Beans and let it distract them from us.

Life and family is an eternal project. Parts of it require strict management, and parts of it work best when we let them roll. We check in with each other, and we speak up if we need to adjust. We pick up for the other because there’s a heavier weight on one side, or just because.

This morning, I rolled out of bed and into the fresh morning air first. H and No.2 were still dozing in our bed. H is usually on first for morning Bean management (I take the afternoon “shift”) while I dash out the door to the office, waving goodbye to two small beings on our front stoop.

It was quiet and cool in our kitchen as I picked up breakfast and lunchbox duties that are usually H’s domain. I buzzed the coffee grinder and put the percolator on the burner. As it came to a bubble, I unloaded the dishwasher and put on a pan of bacon. No reason. Just ‘cause. Soon I welcomed a sleepy, mohawked 5 year old. I kissed him and ruffled his hair, old school. By the time H wandered down, the sandwiches were made and No.2 said the bacon smelled “so crispy.” H was mildly amused and pleasantly surprised that I’d taken over. I’m usually on a warpath to get out the door.

“I like it when you’re home,” he said, and pulled me in for a kiss.

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