Thursday, April 9, 2009

Real Husband vs. Work Husband

[These are the facts: "Real Husband" and "Work Husband" are two different people in real life. A guy I work with is "Work Husband". He has about three years of seniority at this job over me, but we are peers otherwise and we have to check with each other over almost everything we do (because our boss wants consensus on everything). He and I have worked together at this same job for over six years now. I'm not a big fan of his. But he's a hard worker and saves me from having to do a lot of grunt work and a lot of travel. He is a necessary evil, as far as I'm concerned. "Real Husband" refers to Leo, the guy I really am married to, the father of Q. We've been married, in the real-life traditional sense, for ten years.]

They can both be super pissy people. I often fight with both of them. But I need both of them. I need each one to do his job so that I can do mine. And I need to coordinate and collaborate with each one. What's weird is when I work with one within minutes of working with the other.

When I am "discussing" a contentious issue with Work Husband, there is a point where I am awaiting his response, after a couple rounds of question-and-answer. There is slight tension in my neck muscles and I'm squinting my eyes (even though we're talking on the phone) and I'm just stressed in a Is-he-actually-going-to-give-me-a-substantive-response-this-time-or-what kind of way.

When that point is reached with Work Husband, I am used to him coming back with an off-hand dismissive tactic, or with outright defensiveness, or sometimes a direct attack (these are getting more rare, thank god). I've gotten so used to this (we've worked together for over six years) that I have a timer ticking off in me, waiting for his withdrawal from the actual conversation. I am conditioned to expect a lack of resolution and lack of agreement.

I brace myself for this moment. It's like waiting to return a serve in tennis. And that's fine. It's not debilitating stress. But then the ball is not served. He just pretends like he's gonna serve, but he really just starts packing up his gear and is getting ready to walk off the court. It's very unsatisfying and you're left with all this anticipatory energy that just stays in your knotted up neck muscles, even after you've hung up the phone.

I didn't know there was this concomitant tension until the same moment would arise with Real Husband. Same scenario. We're having a contentious discussion and I've thrown out some point or some query and I'm awaiting his response but am really just expecting more contention. But Real Husband actually lobs the ball back! In a collaborative, thoughtful, substantive way. It knocks the tension right out of me. I'm so surprised to feel my shoulders fall, my eyes un-squint. Aaaaah. An answer! A real answer without attitude or strategy behind it. Just an honest-to-god, substantive response. And it is such a moment of simpatico. Like he just gets me. Like, I had forgotten that talking to somebody could be this easy.

It is the most relaxing sensation. And it is an absolute surprise every time, because each time it catches me off-guard how tensed up my muscles are and how good it feels to have them relax instantly, unbidden, unintentionally. Naturally relaxed. Suddenly at ease. Comfortable.

And it is those moments when I know how compatible we are. We are not strangers fighting to mesh two disparate, jagged natures. We just "get" each other. This is the part that works, effortlessly. This is the core of "us". This is when I know there is no mistake, that he really is my Real Husband. And this is when I know how glad I am about that.


dgm said...

Phew. I'm glad this had a happy ending because I was about to say "girlfriend, you need to let it go." Expect the best from Leo, and that's what he'll give ya.

gudnuff said...

dgm, such optimism, such forthrightness! Thank you.

Bea said...

Totally get where you are coming from on this one. There are days when I look at J and wonder "who the heck is this guy and what was I thinking?" And then later on he'll do something that reminds me why we work so well together. It's an interesting dance, this marriage thing. I guess as long as it stays interesting, we'll be OK.

Hyphen Mama said...

Thank goodness for those reaffirming moments in marriage when you know you're with the right person. Can you imagine the wife of Work Husband? She wants to strangle him and secretly hopes you do it for her.

gudnuff said...

Oh, his wife cracks the whip. They don't have kids and they both are work-obsessed control-freaks. I think he throws his weight around more at work because he's so stifled at home. He's got a LOT of weight to throw around. This guy is like 6'3" and at least 350 pounds. His wife is almost as big as him. Again - they don't exercise, they don't eat right, they're not involved in community activities, they don't have kids...all they do is work. And fight to get their way. They never dated (anyone, at all) in high school or in college and met on the job and they were both almost 40 when they married (first marriage for both of 'em). Yeah, working with him is a real treat.

gudnuff said...

Oh, and the funniest part is that his wife is totallly jealous of any woman he works with. It's hysterical.

newduck said...

See? I'm totally going to find a husband to rent. This is obviously a great thing.