I often wonder if I can trace the beginning of the end of my relationship with my husband to my very first canoe trip. My first trip was way back before I had kids. I joined an organized trip with other women who were learning how to canoe and camp in the wilderness.
I initially signed up for the trip as a way to get me out of my comfort zone. (You know, the introvert who avoids group situations.) To meet new people. To try something new.
It was amazing! After an afternoon of learning to paddle, flipping canoes, and learning basic canoe skills, we headed out into the lake. We portaged, set up camp and discovered what silence really was. Hundreds of kilometres away from any town, the night sky was spectacular. Then there were the smells… of the clean water, the trees, the soil and even the smokey smell of the fire. I walked away from the other campers, into the middle of the forest. I sat down amongst the trees. I was hooked.
I spent the next 15 years trying to get my husband to love canoeing in the wilderness as much as I did (and still do). We always camped and loved the outdoors, but I guess the absolute wilderness of the backcountry was too much for him. As someone who is defined by his work, it seemed that his inability to stay connected, either through his phone or computer was too much for him. But still, I tried. I bought him a kayak when he complained of the tippiness of the canoe. I became a gear junkie, buying the best sleeping bag, most comfortable insulated mat, waterproof tent, a cool reflector oven to make backcountry cakes and pizza, a portable screen tent to protect him from the bugs… nothing worked. It really was the beginning of the end.
He continued to immerse himself in his work and I found friends to canoe with. When the kids were old enough, they become my canoeing buddies. Soon, my husband was even avoiding the car camping trips and eventually he begged off the winter trips to the caribbean – it was just me and the kids.
I suggested other trips, other activities, things we could do together to try and save our relationship. He was always enthusiastic, but nothing ever came of these conversations.
Then came my 50th birthday. He invited me along on a business trip to Vegas. Perfect, he would work for a couple of days, then we could head to Valley of Fire and do some hiking. We hadn’t been away from the kids in 10 years – I was optimistic that we would be able to rekindle our romance, at least discover why we fell in love in the first place. It was a disaster! I picked easy hikes, packed lunches and lots of water. He was loathe to even do the shortest hikes. He wanted to get back to the spectacle of Vegas, eat at buffets (I abhore buffets – cold, tasteless food), and go to the after conference parties.
I take equal responsibility for the slow collapse of our marriage. In the most simplistic terms, we grew apart.
He wanted the fulfillment that he could only get from work and I wanted to be amongst the trees