Friends, lovers, playmates. How I survived 32 years of marriage and maintained my sanity.
I was married for 32 years to a strong and introverted man. Scot was, in the Myers Briggs sense, an Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving (INTP) guy. I used to facilitate the Myers Briggs assessment, and often taught about how Type affects our relationships. I was an Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving/Judging (ENTJ). We were similar when it came to how we made decisions (Thinking: fact-based, not emotionally), and how we viewed the world (Intuitively: at the 50,000-foot level, seeing connections). But Scot always wanted to keep his options open to the very last minute (Perceiving), and I tended to want closure to be able to move on (Judging). And we definitely got our energy from different places—I, as an Extrovert, was energized by being around other people, and he, as an Introvert, needed his batteries charged by being alone. I learned early on that Scot couldn’t fill all my social needs, so I created my Extroverted, battery charging activities outside of our relationship. He was fine—he was getting energized with me being gone!
In spite of our differences, we made a good business team. He was the expert in whatever he set his mind to. He was an amazing problem solver, and his mental capacity was enormous. When I would be stymied by complexity at step 3, he would be on to steps 10, 15, 20. I was the face of the company, the people person. I opened the doors; Scot came in and dazzled them with brilliance and kept them coming back for more.
I loved playing tennis with Scot as my doubles partner. I know many people who can’t play tennis with their spouses. Scot was a very good player, had a killer serve (when it was “on”) and moved well on the court. I was no slouch myself. I never remember being chastised, even when I was horrible, nor do I ever remember anything but teasing him when a shot went wide or long. We were good partners on the court as well as in business meetings.
He was the oldest, I was the youngest in birth order. Sociologists would say that’s a perfect match—oldest are caregivers, youngest are used to being taken care of. But because of our personalities, the gap between the next siblings being 3 years for each of us, and he being the only boy in the family–we were raised much like only children. We both got inordinate amounts of attention as we were growing up, and consequently both demanded attention as adults.
If a successful relationship is built on give and take, we had a successful relationship. At any given time, Scot would say I didn’t give as much as he. Most of the time I would roll my eyes and say, “It’s his way or the highway.” But mostly it was on the small stuff that I gave in to him—and in the end it is all small stuff.
We dealt with a great continental divide when it came to politics. Scot prided himself on being a “rational man.” His world was black or white. I lived in a world of gray that I rather liked. Of course, my way was the right way, but there was no convincing him. I tried not to get sucked into those no-win discussions, but sometimes I just couldn’t help it.
Neither Scot nor I suffered from a lack of self-confidence. Our differences could have driven us apart, and sometimes it did, but our self-esteem stayed intact. Few people had the backbone to confront Scot—but I did. I did because I could and someone had to do it. It wasn’t just at work; neither one of us felt that a conflict shouldn’t be faced down or ignored. So as two strong-willed people, we had our share of differences. And that’s where our mutual respect became the glue that held us together. I knew that no matter what I said or did, he would be faithful and loyal to me. And vice versa.
Major decisions we made together. Our last major decision was about making an offer on the condo where I currently live. I loved the location in downtown Hopkins, I wanted the condo lifestyle of being able to close the door and leave without worry. It was a bit small, but it was to be our Landing Pad, a stopping off point going or coming to or from the lake home and the rest of the world. I knew that available units at this location were rare and never stayed on the market for long. I really wanted to make an offer. Scot did not. He thought they were asking too much; he wasn’t sure he wanted to live on Mainstreet. I had this funny sense of urgency that he didn’t have. I knew I couldn’t go forward without his blessing. We just didn’t operate that way.
So one night I worked it out on a spreadsheet—an offer at a price a little higher than what he wanted to do, but lower than the asking price. I asked for the washer/dryer. And I presented it to him as though he were a client. He looked at me with an irritated frown and said, “If you want it that badly, then go ahead. Make the offer.” So I did.
They rejected us. We sat in the mid-May sun that Friday after we were told the offer failed and planned our future. We worked out contingency plans. We would wait to buy. We could live at the lake and stay at a hotel or residence inn for the weeks we had to be in the cities. We would use this time to shop the housing market and not rush into anything.
We were in agreement on the decision. I had made an offer I thought was fair, it was rejected, Scot was OK, I was OK. We had to move out of our big house by the following Thursday. We didn’t have time for anything else.
It was a classic end to our marriage. We butted heads, I presented my case, we came to an agreement, we stood together. That decision was the last of our marriage. Scot died that night. I’ve made hundreds—maybe thousands—of decisions since then. Sometimes it feels lonely. And it certainly doesn’t seem very romantic. But love, and friendship, manifests in many ways. Scot was my best friend. Our partnership was grounded in love, mutual respect, family and shared goals. I have been able to thrive in widowhood not in spite of him, but because our partnership wasn’t based on dependency but on synergy.
We were our best selves at work and at play. Even though we spent 10 hours a day together at work, I wanted to spend more time with him after work—why? Because we were different people at work than at play. Which is what made this friendship so special. We had our work relationship, our parenting relationship, and our playmate relationship and maybe a few more. And in each role, we were different people interacting with each other. And the fact we could compartmentalize those roles made us able to tolerate each other, too.
I would be the first to say our relationship wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is.