RFA Home Life

Hi Peeps,

I have mentioned before that my husband works for the RFA (that’s like the navy, but it’s full of civilians) and for a change I wanted to have a talk about what that is like. Obviously it’s difficult, but not in the way you think.

I know this because whenever people learn that my husband will be away for the next 4 months people look at me with pity and say things like ‘oh, that must be really hard on you’, and it’s not. That’s not to say I don’t love him and I don’t miss him, I do, but personally I really find it much harder to have him around.

In general he will have 4 months away and 3 months home. That’s the theory anyway, but the fact is it depends more or less of the whim if the company. Planning anything is very hard because unless its square in the middle of his leave then there is a good chance he will either come home late or go earlier than we might hope. Getting married for example was very hard to plan. Particularly as neither of us is very organised and frankly my husband can be a little…dense, where planning ahead is concerned. I don’t want to talk about it.

Anyway, let me sum up a trip away:

*husband leaves*
*I pine for just under a week because I like to get it out of the way*
*I get on with my life and work on my career/education/general interests*
*I feel like I am doing well*
*he says that he is coming home*
*I get excited*
*he tells me that he is not coming home for another week or more*
*I get pissed off*
*he comes home, after some delay, there is much rejoicing*

It is important to add that there is still a relationship going on here, we call and text and generally try to spend as much of our free time together as we can. That’s ‘long distance together’. If I am in the UK he can sometimes visit, or I can visit him on the ship.

Normal relationship things can happen in this time that either make me love him more or less. For example: Husband is particularly bad with money and say buys a large unnecessary purchase (In our relationship I am the one who budgets our cash and dictates how much we need to save or put aside for expenses, this is explained in explicit detail so he definitely knows what’s what). This repeats over and over. In this time the relationship grows weaker and at several points I give serious thought to doing things like moving house and not telling him (because what am I? his nursemaid or something?). This is quite normal, alternately we might have lots of deep chats about emotions and shitakes and then bond and grow closer/remain stable.

Now the part where he is home:

*much rejoicing occurs*
*we spend a couple of weeks being all lovey and I ruin a month’s budget by spoiling him* or *if it is going badly then reconciling takes place (after arguments), followed by him spoiling me, I permit budget to suffer*
*we try and re-settle him into the house, get to know the area, do stuff, meet people and generally spend as much time together as we can. This takes another two weeks (we are one month in already)*

*At this point I start to resent him being in my house and touching my stuff, I mean, I just got it how I liked it and now I can’t find anything. There is more washing up (which to be fair he does anyway, but I don’t like to see it build up) and because I have been trying to bond with him I basically have done nothing towards my career** and that makes me feel like an under achiever (I hate that)*
*we half-heartedly attempt to reconcile all this with finding a routine suitable for the two of us, so that we can live in harmony and what not (this step lasts less than a week, but its intermittent, a day here and there)*
*Soon we realise that we are over half way into the leave and just redouble our efforts to bond before the inevitable decline (this is the point where I gave up on my bog recently, I figured I was not producing much of value and that it was not worth thinking about it for a while if I was just going to resent him)*

*The decline, this is a stage of high pressure bonding, interspersed with arguments and worry. We realise we only have about a month left before he goes back and it will feel like less because of the uncertainty of his return. Even if he is given one date to leave this will almost certainly be altered to an earlier or later date.*
*we plot fervently for a way for him to leave the RFA sooner, upon receiving a solid date for his return we have about a week left*
*I generally flake out a little at this point, I get needlessly clingy and say things like ‘I don’t want to go through this anymore’ I sincerely wish we had found him a nice, land based job when we had the time (somehow this is forgotten the next couple of weeks and not remembered until the same point in the next leave)*
*he leaves*

I hope I have here demonstrated that people should not act like it is a hardship on me when my husband leaves. One of the upsides of being a partner of an RFA type is that you end up growing pretty darned competent when you’re alone. I definitely do not sit around feeling sorry for myself for 4 months at a time because my schnookums is fawr away. Here are some forum posts from an RFA partners group:

”Don’t you just love being a one man band!!!! I don’t think there is much I haven’t tackled on my own over the years mind as I am getting older it is getting beyond a joke now & I do get fed up organising & deciding just about everything in our lives – oh never mind – life in a blue suit as they used to say & it’s no different now he is in the RFA & not the RN (except at least I can stay on board in his cabin). E-mails have been a bit of a sore point on this trip as theirs keep going down & they seem to take forever to fix it, he gets mine so at least I keep him going. Mine is due for a relief Mid-May so am hoping he will get that otherwise no idea when they will get home.”- Sue

”I know what you mean about extra long leave time. don’t you find after a certain amount of time you just want him to go-just for a bit so you can have some space? Maybe it’s me but as much as I love him I do worry sometimes how we would cope if he was here all the time! I’m sure by retirement I’ll have got used to having him around during leave. We are only married 8 months so lots of time to adjust to each other still!
Saying all that a common topic of conversation is Get a proper job. Especially when things go wrong at home and here’s not here!”-Angela

The problem is really trying to maintain a close bond when the partner in question is away for more time than he is home. The concentration of emotions is comparable to a child not doing any work at school and then catching up during the holidays. It might theoretically be possible, but it’s going to be pretty unpleasant.

I have nothing but admiration for people who manage to this with children in the mix. I definitely do not think I am made for that kind of pressure and it must be pretty darned tiring.

**also, when he is gone I do consider myself to have a proper career, I have art and I have writing to focus on, I am also studying Thai. I do this daily. I also have a little blog, which gets me out of the house and doing exploring things. When he is back I get to hear about how the guys on ship assume that I am just travelling around, spending his money and not working. This affects me quite allot.

Because I budgeted for it, I know that it doesn’t cost me more to live in a little house in Thailand then it would for me to live in my mother’s dining room in the UK and it also means that when he comes home he has his own bed and everything.

He also claims to respect my decision not to have a job (different to not working, though I have been known to do that when the budget requires it. Sorry my BA is only good for getting me a job as a waitress or a cleaner nowadays and that I actually want to work in a creative field).He even claims he would respect me less if I did not stick to my beliefs, but random people at work can really make him question this. Also they assume I’m some Thai gold-digger, not his not-even-Thai partner of 7 years who stuck with him even when we had less than no money. And also who got him out of 8k debt by nagging the crap out of him, budgeting, refinancing and generally clearing his way out of it (over about 5 and a half years).

Cover image from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RFA-and-Royal-Navy-Wives-and-Partners-support-group/149519281847741