“I missed you,” my wife said while hugging me, “You’re not so bad.”
It was Sunday and she’d just returned from a girl’s weekend at the beach. I’d managed the monkeys since Friday afternoon with a little (and much appreciated) help from my mother-in-law. All had gone well, but it was sure nice to have the lady of the house home. And, as usual, upon her return, I was a knight in shining armor.
Of course, it was only a few weeks before that I’d been the embodiment of evil.
“Do you adore me?” my wife asked one day after coming home from work.
As a man, my first reaction was, of course, wrong.
“Excuse me?” I asked with a perplexed look.
“Well, I was talking to a woman at work and she was saying how her husband adores her. When she asked me if you adored me, I said I don’t think so. She said that was so sad and it made me feel bad.”
“How long has she been married?” I asked.
“A few months,” she said.
“No kids yet, right?” I asked.
“Uh, huh,” I said as if I’d made my point.
Now, before I get bombarded by emails from our female readers who say, “Having been married a while and having young children is no excuse not to adore and cherish your wife,” let me say that I agree, it is not an excuse. But it is, perhaps, a reason. For when we have been bickering over which is more arduous: emptying the diaper genie or the dishwasher, there is little inclination or energy to adore.
This is just a fact of life, and does not indicate a deeper evil or problem. By its very nature, the causes of this stress are temporary (kids grow, get more independent, etc.)
Often, when locked into our day-to-day struggles and challenges, we hold our spouses, employees and managers not up to the acceptable, not up to the superior, but up to the ideal. As such, I rise or fall in my wife’s estimation more by comparison than by conduct. If she’s spoken to a starry eyed newlywed, I don’t stand a chance. But if she’s spent a weekend at the shore with her girlfriends who speak frankly about their husbands, boyfriends, or the lack thereof, I’m Sir Walter Raleigh.
What is the lesson here? It is that we do well to compare those in our lives to the realistic rather than the ideal. The latter sets us up for frustration and disappointment; for mere mortals can only transcend their faults in very short bursts: anniversaries, Valentines’ Day, birthdays, etc.
The other lesson is that absence sure does make the heart grow fonder. Every time my wife goes out, even if it’s for dinner/drinks with her friends, I get a hero’s welcome when she comes home. But when I have her by my side for weeks on end, all my idiosyncrasies grate like sandpaper. Believe me, I’m no peach to be married to.
So get away, take your vacations and insist that your employees take theirs. This will give all parties concerned a much needed opportunity to miss each other, to realize what each is bringing to the table, and to reach out with a big hug when they return.