It’s been explored before, I’ve read about it in a multitude of books, across many genres. A Little Life, What Alice Forgot, Us. The list goes on, all adult fiction of course. The idea that when our partner travels for work, when they get home there is a period of re-entry where everything is a little uncomfortable.
This can last for a few minutes, to a few hours depending on different factors that I’ve never been able to consistently pin down. Time they get home, how long the flight was, how long we’ve been apart – none of them seem to come together to give us any clue how long the uncomfortable-ness will stay.
There is this bit of time where you are out of sync with each other, where you have each led single lives for a period of time that the other has no idea about. There is no frame of reference to anything that’s happened while they have been away, because it was all so separate, no matter how many phone calls you’ve had.
My partner came home from a week away, he was meant to get home the night before but the flight was cancelled and he got home the next morning. The level of trust here for any relationship is high – because he didn’t call me to tell me his flight was cancelled until seven hours later. Am I convinced that his excuse of a dead phone was reasonable?
Of course I believe him, but I can’t deny the question was there. What happens if one day that answer isn’t so easily available to me? It is these questions that we have been able to ask alone, while they are away, that may give us a small pause when they get home.
Then it hits me, what if he can tell I’ve doubted him? What does that say about me?
What if he comes home and sees that I have a huge pimple on my face from eating chocolate, and he realises that I’m not that great compared to other interesting travelling people he has met whilst working?
From my end, the re-entry period is about facing someone who has gone for what I consider an exciting time away without children, had an adventure where there is dining out for every meal and talking to other adults the whole time (I work with children, as well as having our own two, so talking to adults all day would be like a holiday). What if he has come back and sees me as boring?
From his end, the re-entry period is about coming home exhausted from having to work the whole time, eating horrible hotel food with adults he might not even like – let alone want to eat with. Then having to see that the house has functioned without him perfectly well, what if I see him as irrelevant?
I’ve had to run the household like a single parent for a whole week, the children and I are in a groove with the different things we do and places in the house we have set ourselves up. Now there’s this other person who has to fit back in – does he feel that too?
This time while he was away, I’ve looked after our son who was recovering from having his appendix out, so most of our phone conversations revolved around that. However, I have some medical issues that came up too, and while trying to tell him about that he was too busy to listen because he was playing a computer game with one of the children.
It hurt, because I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about it because the children aren’t able to understand it, and there haven’t been other adults around to talk to since I was alone. Sure, my timing wasn’t great looking back. But that’s the thing with the re-entry – I never know if we are ready to talk properly or not.
Yesterday it took us five hours to be comfortable with each other. To remember how to interact easily and work out that we both still love each other – that nothing major has shifted or changed. Not the best, but not the worst either that we have experienced.
It’s weird, and we don’t even talk about it – but it’s always there and I didn’t know to expect it. I’m glad it’s covered in all those different genre books, because it validates those uncomfortable times in our relationship that I thought only happened to us.