I don't live with my partner
One writer finds room to grow while living apart from her husband
Two weeks after my now husband and I realised that we were falling for each other, he was posted to Singapore. We’d met six months earlier and quickly became the best of friends. Here was someone with whom I could share my innermost thoughts without fear of judgment. Here was someone that wanted to explore every nook and cranny of the world as much as I did. And, most importantly, here was someone who made me laugh so hard my body literally hurt. It was obvious to everyone but us that we’d end up together.
And then he was gone. I felt the loss profoundly. My work suffered, as did my relationships with my friends and family. When I wasn’t checking my phone for a text message or my computer for an email, I found ways to steer conversations around to him. I arranged my life around our scheduled telephone calls, often cancelling plans without a second thought. I counted the days until we’d see each other again. Like a child in January desperate for Christmas, I willed time to move faster. Yes, I was that girl. Obsessed from the get-go, boring to all within a 1,000km radius. No doubt, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when, six months later, I made the move to join him.
That was 10 years ago and we’ve been together, give or take our many business trips, ever since. Well, until July last year, that is. When he was first offered another overseas posting — one that it wasn’t practical for me to follow him on — we made the decision together. It was a positive step for his career that came with some pretty nice financial rewards and we’d be able to see each other for two weeks out of every eight, for 18 months. The situation was never going to be ideal, but it was a now-or-never moment where the positives outweighed the negatives. Just.
Before he left, I knew that I was going to miss him immeasurably, but I was also concerned about the other ways his absence would manifest itself in my day-to-day life. I consoled myself with thoughts of Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp while thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t born back when Somerset-Maugham was writing his Far Eastern Tales. Imagine how much worse it would be if I couldn’t see him staring back from one of my many screens on a daily basis — let alone having to wait months for a letter and years for a face-to-face? Unimaginable!
And then he was gone. Again. This time, however, the sky didn’t fall in. I’m not saying it’s been easy (quite the opposite), but the experience is very different this time around. I’m sure that it has something to do with me being older and our relationship being more stable, but I have found myself enjoying some aspects of having time to myself. I’m cherishing every moment spent with my friends and have had some fantastic bonding time with my family. However it’s the time that I spend all by myself that has been the most rewarding, which sounds weird when you consider the fact that I’m a freelance writer and spend most of my days on my own anyway. It’s the same, but different.
When he’s at home, my days are filled with us — from the mundane what-are-we-going-to-have-for-dinner type thoughts to the deeper schemes concerning our future. Of course, I still think about these things when he’s away, but there’s more space for me during the six weeks he’s not by my side, which so far has resulted in a solid business plan for my fledgling business, and a rewrite of my first novel (that’s been put off for two years). It fills me with joy and a great sense of achievement that I’m profiting from my time alone instead of wishing my life away, though I’d be lying if I said that I’m not counting down the days until he returns.
This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of ELLE Malaysia.