My husband and I met in 2005, a lifetime ago, when we were only 22. One of the first things I learned about him was that he had been playing ice hockey since he was in Kindergarten. Our school had a recreation hockey team, and he obviously joined. The team would regularly have games on Thursday or Friday nights. For three years, I sat in the stands watching him play, and then we’d caravan to a bar to meet friends.
Then we graduated, got real jobs, and had to start “adulting,” as they say. As our relationship progressed, and as circumstances changed (from dating, to engagement, to marriage, to home ownership, to children), my husband’s hockey habit was one of our lives’ constants.
After we had kids, my entire life changed. Time for myself became mostly non-existent. My husband’s life, at least in terms of day-to-day scheduling, remained mostly the same. As a result, hockey became a regular source of resentment and conflict.
My husband has two, sometimes three, hockey games per week. If his teams do well during “playoff” season, he might have four or five games during that particular week. These games are all at night. After I have been alone with two children for 12 hours, he comes home (if at all) for mere minutes, changes his clothes, grabs his bag, and leaves. I generally won’t see him until the next morning.
Here are the main reasons for our butting heads:
- I can’t quite understand why he has to play so often. Why is one night per week not enough? His response is always that hockey is his only source of exercise, which he needs because he sits at a desk ten hours a day. Okay, fair. We all need exercise. But when do I exercise if you’re never home and I always have a child on my hip?
- Why does he have to stay out and socialize each time? Apparently it is standard fare for everyone to stay for a chat and a beer after every single game. As an introvert, I cannot understand this (I’d rather be home watching Netflix). But, my husband is an extrovert and claims to “need” this time or else he feels isolated. When I ask him how he would feel if I were to go out with my friends three times per week to sip wine, he says, quite honestly and literally, that he would be happy for me.
- Who is helping me at nighttime after I’ve taken care of everything all day? Most of his games are after our kids are asleep, so he is never absent from family time. Because I actually like being alone, he thinks he is gifting me extra quiet time. Yes, I like that part (I won’t deny that). But what I don’t like is not having an extra set of hands to help me around the house on those nights. He often tells me to leave things until the morning for him to take care of. But, let’s be honest – will I really leave a sink full of dirty dishes and a kitchen floor covered in food? So I do everything myself, even though he says I don’t have to.
- Most importantly, what about us? Despite my love for alone time, sometimes I do get lonely. And sometimes I do feel like my husband chooses his hobby over me. Are his random hockey acquaintances really better to be around than me? He often reminds me to tell him what I need – if I want him to stay home, then all I have to do is ask, and he will. But, I suppose like many women, I don’t want to ask. I want him to want to come home to me as soon as possible, because I’m fun to be around, right? Shouldn’t he have to sacrifice his social life, at least in part, because he chose to spend his life with me?
These conversations have gone around and around (and around…) for years.
I hesitated to even write this post, fearing my husband would feel attacked and that I would be painting a false picture of him. Husband, I love you. You are wonderful. In the grand scheme of life, this is not an insurmountable hurdle. However, I do know that many people struggle with this same issue. Perhaps your partner plays golf, or competes in triathlons, or maybe he or she has to have drinks with colleagues too often, leaving you home alone (again).
So, for fairness, and in the spirit of hearing both sides of an argument, I have let him read this post and then asked him to write, in his own words, why hockey is important to him. I believe that the success in our marriage is mostly attributable to the fact that we are open and honest with each other and do not hesitate to have hard conversations. I felt it was only fair to let him weigh in on this issue.
Hilary asked me to explain why hockey, and more so socializing after hockey, is important to me.
I have been on skates since I was five or six. The longest I have gone without skating since I began is the one year I lived in Manhattan. Since my early childhood, my closest friends were my hockey teammates. I played other sports and did other activities, but none of those things involved the same time and commitment as hockey, so hockey families, both parents and kids, were close knit.
This closeness has remained. As a 27-year-old, employed, engaged, and knowing no one in town, I was eager to resume playing hockey upon moving to Connecticut 7 years ago. I didn’t anticipate also meeting new friends. In fact, until I started writing this as Hilary requested, I had not made the connection between the ice, the locker room, (now a cold beer, too), and my best friends throughout my life.
I have always been a social person, and now as a husband and father of two, working mostly in an office, life doesn’t afford much time for frivolity. Hockey, my friends, a light beer and some wings are my frivolity. I play my favorite sport, get exercise and the company of friends I truly enjoy all in one spot.
I knew who my husband was when I met him. His personality has not changed one bit. He has, however, transitioned amazingly into his role as a husband and father. We all should be well-rounded people, both for our own mental health and to set an example for our children. I wouldn’t be myself without my hobbies, so why should my husband live without his? But, yes, I am at times bitter and frustrated.
In the end, no one is right, and no one is wrong. He has his opinions, and I have mine. We are open about these opinions, express them respectfully (most of the time), and try to come to a compromise. We can’t always have our way. I say this to my children daily. We can agree to disagree, as long as we respect each other’s feelings and each sacrifice something on behalf of the other. He is learning. I am learning. And that’s marriage.