Reader: Hi Athol,
Last night I watched a William Shatner produced documentary called “The Captains” in which he interviewed all the actors who were Star Trek captains throughout the “franchise”. It struck me as understandable but very sad to hear them speak of the failure of their marriages due to the extremely long and taxing production schedules. “Capt. Picard” said with the deepest regret in his voice that his two failed marriages were his greatest regret. They all spoke of the tremendous hardship also on their children. Kate Mulgrew talked about how wrenching and physically demanding it ended up being.
Though they recognized the great acting opportunity this gave them, the cost was personally very,very high. You have used the captain analogy before and that’s helpful but in real life acting that role meant a heavy toll on marriages and children and the man or woman involved. All of them divorced at the time ,Kate Mulgrew was a single parent and I don’t know that she ever remarried, and the only one so far that is not divorced is the actor who played the young Kirk in the most recent movie.
Fascinating interviews but acting is a rough profession!
Athol: I think this is an example of going too far to the Alpha and not balancing it with the Beta. At first it’s exciting to have your spouse becoming famous and being on TV with a hit show, but after a few years you start feeling like the only place you actually see your spouse is on the TV. When the deepest relationship your spouse has is with their job, it’s direct emotional effects on you are not wildly different than them having an affair that you haven’t discovered. You’re just slowly robbed of their time and attention. At some point, it becomes very tempting to start looking outside the marriage to sustain yourself.
There’s plenty of similar professions where there’s this dynamic: Doctors, pilots, human services workers, politicians, high level executives and so on. There’s something about a job with crazy scheduling, high caseloads and/or on-call responsibilities that can simply suck you into it and take over your life. The money may be great, and ironically many men do these jobs in order to be good providers, but end up loosing their family in the process.
In short, if you turn yourself into someone that is essentially never there, and just acts as a wallet for the wife and kids… you’ve already got one foot in the divorced lifestyle. When divorcing you means “not much would change really” to her, you’ve wandered into dangerous territory.
Importantly it does not take long for your family to start getting to the point where they no longer miss you. Somewhere between 6-12 months of you being AWOL… Always Working Overtime Lifestyle… and the emotional vacuum of you being constantly gone can start to be filled.
You must find ways to stay in touch with each other. It’s not even wildly important how you do it, or how long individual touches are. You just have to stay in constant contact. Simple texting during the day is quick and easy. Ping an email to each other. Leave the office on time and go home. Do breakfast together once a week. Simply anything that is direct contact with each other. This is all Beta stuff, but if you’re working in an Alpha profession, you have to add the Beta to balance things and keep an emotional connection going.
Switching to talking about Jennifer and myself…
We’ve talked together a lot about what our plans are for the upcoming year in terms of growing MMSL. One of the things we’ve talked about is doing seminars and that would involve some travel. Using Google Analytics to see where I have the most readers coming from, I identified twelve primary cities and thirteen secondary cities that look good for doing something. So what does that mean? Three months of me being gone every weekend to hit the primary cities? Three months of us going and leaving the kids behind? Dragging the kids with us? Me just being gone for two solid months touring and hitting both primary and secondary cities? The whole family touring for the entire summer? Many difficult choices and we both hate being apart from each other. Six years from now when youngest is in college, this is all easy as we’d just go on tour and anywhere that would have us, but tricky for now. So we’re still brainstorming on this issue.
The point is though, we’re a Captain and a First Officer on the same ship, heading in the same direction and we’re both engaged in this activity. MMSL is a massive time sink for me, much less so for Jennifer, but she supports it by picking up the slack on some of my household chores. She edits my writing and I write in the living room – the same room she is in. We discuss together some of my reader email questions.
If five years from now MMSL hits the big time, and I’m gone for half the year but rake in a million bucks a year, while Jennifer stays home… lonely and bored… well that would obviously be a bad setup for us. For sure I’d be a Captain, but she wouldn’t be my First Officer as I’d written her out of the script. Captain and Observer or something.
If you’re in an Alpha profession, you have to try and actively maintain the emotional connection with each other. If you’re the Captain, you’re more responsible for that than she is. I’m not saying 99% of all contacts are started by you as you act like a needy Beta, I’m saying if the mutual contact seems to have taken a decline, it’s up to you to say “I think we’re getting off track with each other.” and restart the communication lines.
Importantly you won’t be told when the lines of communication are broken… because the lines of communication are broken… that’s what broken lines of communication means. You have to notice you aren’t getting her messages. If she not obviously happy with you, her mysteriously stopping nagging looks like a good sign, but is in fact a bad sign as she’s withdrawing from you further.
“Yes” that’s running awfully close to “blaming the male for not manning up” or whatever. I’m just telling you how relationships work in reality. Most women want to be led in a relationship, so you have to act like a leader.
The other thing you can do is try and create opportunities where both of you have shared time and attention on a common task. Maybe that means she has a meaningful role in your workplace – I’ve seen plenty of doctor/nurse pairings where the wife runs the front of the medical practice and the husband the back for example. Or it’s some sort of complementary professions where you have some sort of contact like a real estate lawyer and a real estate agent. Or it can be something outside of work, maybe that’s coaching kids sports, being in a band, working on the garden or… going to church even. Any shared activity works. Take up ballroom dancing, or samba or something. Truly anything is better than nothing.
Just pay attention to the essential pitfall…
When you put a woman in the lap of luxury and deny her either (1) an emotional connection or (2) having a meaningful task required of her, she will be greatly understimulated. Or put more plainly, just bored.
It’s very predictable that bored wives will find something else to do… or someone.
Jennifer: Athol and I have only been apart for one weekend since we married. Three years long distance before we married was quite enough! The MMSL dream is that we get to be together all the time.