Tom and Sue sat waiting for their food and looking out over Sydney harbour. They sat silently for some time thinking of the fun they’d enjoyed each evening sitting by the harbour during their courtship days. They could hardly wait to end work so they could be together during those courting days. Now more than three years later they were back here again to discuss how to regain some of that old magic. Finally Tom broke the silence.
“Sue you look just as beautiful tonight as you did when I proposed to you three years ago.”
“Tom, I know we can’t continue to live in fantasy land, even though I wish we could. We need to own a home; you want children and so do I. These are great goals but it requires money to reach them. Getting that money means we have to work hard, but there must be some way we can do this without losing each other in the process.”
Tom nodded soberly. “What do you suggest we do?”
“Apart from my need to feel important in your life, we’ve to consider the children you and I want to have. They’ll need to feel we have time for them as they grow up if they are to be well balanced at maturity.”
“I suppose it’s selfish of me, but I don’t want to live with a burned out husband when we eventually have to retire. With your program you’ll be a candidate for a heart attack or a stroke by the time you reach fifty.”
“I hope not! What else?”
Sue’s eyes widened as she thought over what she’d just said. It was such a nice evening, and Tom was being so romantic when he’d told her she was beautiful. Now he was looking tense, and on the defensive. Was she spoiling the evening? Would this further strain their relationship?
“I think I need to hear how you feel Tom,” she said softly.
Tom relaxed. He loved Sue more than anything else in the world, but she could climb onto her hobby horse and make his life uncomfortable at times. He quickly put his resentment on hold. His romantic mood was not going to be put off that easily, and Sue did have a point. They had a serious problem to confront!
“Sue I‘m not going to argue about my lifestyle. The things you said attracted you to me while we were courting are the things you’re bringing into focus as problems now. You admired my participation in sport, and liked to come with me to watch footy three years ago. Now you’ve other interests that take your time. You were enthusiastic about my career plans then too, and we talked about how this would involve a lot of work in the learning process as I climbed the ladder. The rotary and golf clubs are part of the climb up that ladder.”
“To be fair I want you to take a long hard look at your own program. You go to work the same time I do, and often make it home just before me in the evening, and a lot of your time is spent doing good things. I’m proud of what you do, and it was really helpful when you did all that research on the house purchase. That took days of your time, I know.”
Sue looked surprised. “I guess both of us have a problem, don’t we?” She laughed and handed him the menu as the waiter appeared to take their order.
“What I said was valid, but it looks like I’ll have to work on my own lifestyle if we’re to rebuild our relationship. I hope you’ll give it some thought too Tom.”
Tom nodded happily. This was not going to be a confrontation after all, and Sue did look radiant now she had unburdened herself. She loved the atmosphere of the Harbour Light. He wanted her to be happy and decided to take a hard look at his program and see how he could spend more time with her.
Later as they were paying the bill Tom whispered, “Do you want to spend some time sitting by the harbour before we go home?”
“I’d love to” she said squeezing his hand.
They found their favourite bench and sat down to enjoy the view. Tom put his arm around Sue and she snuggled as she used to do when they were courting.
“I think personality affects the way we live our lives, and mine may be getting in the way of our relationship.”
Tom was enjoying sitting around looking at the lights and the boats moving around the harbour. How long had it been since he’d taken time to do this with Sue?
“I’m a hard driving, burn a hole in it kind of guy who wants to see everything happen yesterday; and my work has to be perfect at that! That’s the way I am.” He could see Sue smiling and nodding her head in the reflected light. He hugged her, then suddenly bent down and kissed her.
Later as they were leaving the harbour, Sue decided to make her own confession. “Tom, I think you noticed me smiling when you said you’re a hard driving personality and can’t help it, that’s you. Well, I’ve been thinking as we were sitting by the harbour. It’s good to just sit and take stock of things once in a while. I guess you’d call me a rescuer type personality. I‘m compelled to help people at the office when they give me a hard luck story. I don’t want them to get into trouble with our boss. I end up working overtime to help them, and sometimes they don’t deserve to be helped. Mum constantly lectured us as we grew up on our obligation to help others in need, and this translates, for me, into such activities as teaching kids art, working for charity and visiting Mum daily. She’s an invalid, but sometimes I think I smother her by doing things that she would like to do for herself once in a while. Maybe I need to think that through a bit more as I do have an obligation to you too, and that’s very important to me.”
Tom nodded as he hailed a taxi. “I’m sure there’s more to our problem than just personality traits Sue. In some ways we’re prisoners of the environment we live in. We both agree there’s a need for money to buy a house and prepare for a family. The average person doesn’t have a hope of buying a home with the cost of real estate as it is today. That means you have to first of all get a good job, fight to keep it against desperate competition, and then advance through the ranks to a salary range, which can provide for substantial monthly payments. Did I tell you the guys at the office were saying by the time they retire, they’d probably need to have a house and a couple of million dollars to provide them income through retirement years? I was blown out of the water! That means I’ll need a lot of income if we are to pay off the house, educate kids and provide for retirement. Do you still feel you should be at home with the kids as they grow up? I’ll have to make up for that loss of salary as well.”
Sue sighed. “Life isn’t easy is it? We thought we were going to live in wonderland when we were courting; now we have to deal with reality. I would never want to become insensitive to social needs, but will sit down and find a way to provide for this need and keep you at the centre of my attention. Tom, I had a wonderful evening! Thanks for cancelling out on your business appointments. I know some of them were very important to you.”
“I needed this evening away from my career stuff Sue. Seeing you so happy at the Harbour Light reminded me all the effort I’m putting out is for you. It would be tragic to be so tied up with the mechanics of doing something for you, for us, that I lose the one who is the rationale for my efforts. That could happen if we don’t make quality time for each other while doing other important things in our life.
“I don’t think the traffic noise will bother us tonight,” Sue said softly.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2010 All rights reserved”
TO BE CONTINUED