It is summer of 2014 as I write. My husband and I are Facetiming right now while he is deployed to the Middle East for the military. As you have observed, while he and I are “talking,” I am writing. We are having what I think of as Secondary Quality Time. My husband wanted to see me and hang out with me, but he had stuff to do. My husband did not announce this to me, I simply noticed that he wasn’t really listening to anything I was saying and was looking at other stuff.

I could have pouted and gotten snippy with him for blowing me off. Instead, I thought: “No biggee.” I adjusted accordingly and started writing you. He’s very happy to see his lovely wife and feel as if I’m in the room with him, but –oh wait he’s talking–

He told me about a photographer who took some pictures on one of his airdrops. Something funny happened that made the picture look like no one was flying the airplane. Now he’s staring at some paperwork again so I am writing again. Let’s call it Being Together But Working in Our Separate Cubicles. Now is not the time for me to bring up anything important, ask him any questions or expect him to be able to concentrate on my feelings.

Our husbands cannot gaze at us lovingly and give us two hours of undivided attention all the time. They have a lot of stuff to do, and sometimes they just want us to hang with them. Once a few months ago, I plopped down on the driveway and watched my husband change the oil on our car. He could not really talk about anything, as guys generally do not multi-task. “Dude, I’m changing the oil,” a husband might think. “How can I also talk?” 

Now if that had been you or me, we could stir the spaghetti sauce with a spoon in our mouth while we held the baby, cradled the phone in our shoulder talking our friend through her toddler’s temper tantrum while petting the dog with our foot. But I respect the one-thing-at-a-time nature of men. While my husband changed the oil, he was glad I was there. When he was finished, he smiled at me and said, “You’re my girl.” Hearing those words cheered my heart just as much as a meaningful long, conversation would have. 

Oh, and that picture of the football player? One, I think it is so incredibly sweet to see a big strong man kneel down and pray. And two, our men are busy and have heavy things weighing on their hearts. I’m happy to be my husband’s adoring cheerleader sometimes, standing in the sidelines. 

[Jennifer Houlihan is a columnist who has contributed to National Guard Magazine and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. Find her at or]