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Marriage in the Long Run

Recently in this column, we addressed the issue of infidelity. Since this article is written weeks before you will read it, the responses may not arrive in time to include them in the next issue. So for those of you who are responding to the problem of infidelity, we will cover that issue in the future. For now, a reader has asked for insight in dealing with a trucker spouse who demands that his wife cater to him when he's home.

Nothing is wrong with expecting a spouse to make her driver a priority when he walks in the door. In fact, most of us do make our husbands our top interest in the short time he's home. However, the stress comes when he asks for more than we can handle. That level varies with the person and the amount of time he is home, but is directly related to the issue of respect.

How do you determine how much time you can give him? Many of you have said that spending a lot of time with your spouse when you can is the secret to keeping a strong marriage. Patty in Texas figures she gets only 52 days a year with her spouse, so she can do what she wants the other 313. She also writes, "I value the time I have with him and I usually do cancel whatever I have planned if he comes home unexpectedly." The secret here is in her statement, "It's not because he tells me to though, because he wouldn't ever think of doing that anyway." Patty's husband understands her need to live her life the way she wants when he's gone, and he respects her plans. In turn, she doesn't feel any pressure from him to drop everything when he walks in the door. The important thing to learn from Patty is that she still has a choice, but she chooses to be with him.

When our choices are limited by someone else's desires, we feel burdened because we don't have control over our decisions. Sandy from Pennsylvania wrote about her husband who, "never came home and tried to run the home, or step on my feet… whether out of respect for our relationship… or because he was too tired to take on one more responsibility." Sandy's husband is probably confident in her abilities, and since he feels secure in her efforts, he continues to allow her to make the decisions. But the word "respect" is important.

For those women who don't feel valued, it's more difficult to give your husband undivided attention, especially when he doesn't return the consideration. A mother of four whose spouse is away for weeks at a time calls her husband a "control freak." She writes that her driver controls the remote, the time they eat, go to bed, and even what they say when he's home. "Don't my feelings count?" she asks. It's hard to give up your ability to make decisions and to allow someone else to control your activities, especially when they don't allow any input from you.

A reader in Ohio who has been married to her husband for almost nine years reminds us that there are three things important in keeping a trucking family together. Arlene writes, "…in order for our families to remain intact there has to be a tremendous amount of love, trust, and respect for each other." She admits that, "the road may be rocky at times, but it will definitely be worth the ride together."

There's that word again– respect. Maybe these women hold the key to the problem. It is something that can't be one-sided, or nonexistent. Respect for your spouse's ability to handle things when you're apart goes both ways. Respect for the choices your spouse makes in your absence, and respect for your loved one's commitment to your marriage is the value that can't ignored.

Think about this the next time you talk to your partner. Remind him or her that you love them and that you appreciate their hard work in earning a living, or in keeping things on track at home. Neither job is easy. But when there is mutual respect, you feel that your efforts are recognized and valued. That's what keeps our marriages strong… in the long run. LL