Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I met "Jeremy" several years ago. Our connection was instant. We were both divorced and had some friends in common, and after running into each other at gatherings and parties and bars, we started dating. I think we were both nervous at first, having had our marriages end somewhat recently, but neither of us had kids so that made it easier to start dating again. Another thing that helped is Jeremy is a Sloper. He's worked on the North Slope for years. He said that was maybe partly why his marriage didn't work out. Anyway, when we first started dating, it was kind of nice having him gone half the time because it helped us go slow. But once we both realized the relationship was going to last, the distance was really hard. There was a good year there when I wasn't sure we would make it. It was really hard figuring out how to date a guy who was only around half the time. For him it was normal, but for me it was new.
Well, we figured it out in time, and actually the arrangement really came to work for me. We moved in together, which made sense; it was kind of pointless, him having a place that was empty all the time, and when he's in town we see each other constantly. Living together has been great, and as the next couple of years passed, I worked out a really good balance in my life. When Jeremy was on the Slope, I spent more time with friends, took time for myself to do things he simply doesn't enjoy (like going to plays) and I would get all the housework and errands done so when his two-week hitch home came around, we could be together.
Jeremy has just learned he's been transferred to a town job. Yep, after years on the Slope, he's becoming a townie. And I am completely freaking out. There was a time I would have killed to have had him home all the time, but now I am used to him being gone, and it's allowed me to have my own life and independence while also enjoying this relationship. What's going to happen now? If he's around all the time, when will I see my friends? Watch my TV shows? Cook the food only I like? I am worried that Jeremy being closer is going to maybe drive us apart. Help!
This is not a new predicament: Scores of Slope spouses and partners before you have had to re-balance their routines and rejigger their rhythms when Slope-based partners come home to roost. For years, you and Jeremy have shared a unique relationship -- one that wasn't quite totally long distance but similarly wasn't a physical presence in your life on a daily basis. That's about to change. And change, my dear, can be good.
As much as you're fretting about figuring out the new world order with Jeremy around on a daily basis, he's surely curious about how it will work out, and is probably mourning his own losses, too. Goodbye, free gym. Goodbye, peaceful little Slope dorm room. Goodbye Spike Room, the magical 24-hour food paradise full of free doughnuts and nachos …
Step one: When Jeremy comes home, have a talk. Tell him you've felt anxious about this and you know it will be an adjustment but that you're committed to making it work. Ask him what he needs to be happy and what his expectations are. And explain to him what it is you need for continued happiness. Maybe that's a night a week with the ladies, or a Sunday afternoon to catch up on errands. By sharing with him what it is you need, you're opening the door for him to do the same. Hopefully this will help you both move forward, aligned on what it is you need to manage this transition and come through it a stronger couple.
Oh, you think your life is about to change? Your man is the one who should be tripping out about this situation.
His longtime work/life routine is about to get flipped upside down because of a transfer, which probably means the change wasn't his choice. He's leaving behind the benefits of working on the North Slope -- Wanda mentioned many but I'll add free cable and Wi-Fi; a handsome Slope salary; a bed all to yourself; some deep camaraderie and friendships built on years of trust and working together; and a nice little buffer zone between all the home chores, friends, family and partners.
While you're stressing about maintaining mani-pedi dates and Shakespeare Saturdays with the ladies, he is about to experience some serious culture shock. Consider that he's not going to enjoy commuting to and from work, dealing with traffic and a bunch of people everywhere. Or waiting for a treadmill or a weight bench at a loud, packed gym. Or having to shop for dinner ingredients at a big, bright grocery store, then make dinner himself or wait 20 minutes to get seated for dinner at a restaurant. Sure, that's normal life for most of us. For him, it's going to be like moving to a foreign country.
And like you, I'm sure he's totally freaked out about the thought of suddenly spending every morning, night and weekend with you, not to mention sharing the bathroom. He's used to having his space, so don't worry -- he'll need some breaks from you, too.
So how about this: Instead of lamenting the monkey wrench that your loving boyfriend's work schedule could potentially throw into your life of leisure, try making his immersion back into city life and his first hitch of full-time living with you a little easier by asking him what he needs?
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