I’m A Second-Shift Widow [UPDATED AUGUST 27]

If you’ve ever heard of a Football Widow, you know what the title means. (If not, an example is below)

Football Widow Humor Tshirt from UBUdesigns // etsy

I’m not a real widow – I have a husband, but only on weekends. My husband works a second-shift job and I work a typical 8-5 job which means we see each other unconscious more than awake.

So what does this look like?

  • A second-shift widow (like myself) doesn’t serve dinner every night – or cook.
  • She can leave the dishes for the morning if she wants to.
  • She doesn’t go to bed with a kiss goodnight.
  • She has the bathroom to herself in the morning.
  • She doesn’t fall asleep to someone breathing.
  • She’s always up for girl nights.

Living an opposite schedule from your spouse has its ups and its downs. You’re so close and yet so apart. You don’t have to do all the chores, but you’re still cleaning up after two. Being married to a ghost 5/7th of the week is a strange feeling and an even stranger marriage.

Today I read this great blog post by a good friend, Maggie Johnson, about marriage in the moments between the life-defining highs and the dreaded lows. If you haven’t read it, go read it now (no, really, go!) because what she said is absolutely true. What she says is what I’ve been trying to cultivate in our marriage since it started – intentional time and unintended time are equally needed in marriage. Spouses that work different shifts, however, have an added challenge in cramming everything it needs to be into a finite amount of time.

My temporary solution to working different shifts has been for me to cut short sleep in exchange for 15 or 20 minutes after he gets home (like right now). That doesn’t happen every night, and cutting out sleep certainly influences other parts of life. It’s stressful and hard and I hate it.

I would not wish this marriage on anyone else.

Our time together is limited by jobs and when it does happen, it’s filled with necessities: setting the budget, family events, laundry. These things are good and build us up in other ways, but rarely is it intimate or completely fulfilling. Most of the time, alone or together, I have this yearning to just sit next to each other and be.

Imagine telling your husband this: “Stop whatever you’re doing or planning to do and just be with me.”

(Hint: It doesn’t go over well.)

So we find other ways of fulfilling that intimacy without feeling suffocated. We play board games while discussing books. We bounce new ideas off each other while surfing the internet. We talk about the trips we’ll take while we sip cocktails and beer. We fold laundry and dream of the future. We disagree about who will load the dishwasher while we eat ice cream. We text cool things we’ve found to each other while we’re on our lunch breaks or at home. We Facebook message important things for the other to read when they wake up. We argue about which show to watch or who gets to play the video game first…okay, so it’s not all roses and lilacs – there are thorns and weeds too.

We put a lot of time and energy and love and sacrifice in our Marriage Box to make this thing work. I came across the idea of the Marriage Box earlier this year and it’s been percolating in my head ever since. (If you know the source, please tell me – I searched and searched to no avail.)

The Marriage Box

It’s just so true, and not just for marriage. This is how friendships and family and church and work and marriage all work – you put in more than you take out…or else you’re with an empty box.

UPDATE

UPDATE 8/27: I just got a voicemail from my husband. Less than 24 hours after I posted this blog, he was notified that his shift will be reverting to a first-shift. It’s effective tomorrow.

Words fail me right now. The only thing I can do is sing in my heart and praise with my tongue.

I don’t want to forget the nights like tonight – coming home to a dark house, eating alone, pining, making busy work – but I’m ready to move past them and into that restored relationship, that community that I crave. It’s been a tough three months (June-August) back as a second-shift widow, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter as we continue to build this thing called marriage.

One thing I know for certain: I never take these moments, this mountaintop or the valley we’ve just been through for granted. Every day is a chance to put a little more into the Marriage Box and grow closer to God and each other as we do so.

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