Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Part-time Husband

Posted on: November 26, 2008

don-in-the-mountains1As an apparently single, eligible (read breathing) male in my late 50s, I seem to be flavor of the month for persons of the female persuasion in their mid 60s.  The thing is, I’m not single; it just looks that way.

Rhonda and I have been married for 37 years, and there’s no end to that status looming on the near horizon.  When we decided to return to the U.S. after living all over Europe for 30 years, she participated in the exercise to list what we wanted in a place to retire to and which places matched the requirements.  Boulder, Colorado won, and we moved there June, 2004.

In the next couple of years, however, a steady stream of grandchildren were being born in Austin, Texas, and Rhonda’s father became seriously ill in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  30 years of pent-up familial devotion quickly overwhelmed her, and she decided that she had never been all that crazy about Boulder in the first place.  So she started spending more and more time at an apartment that we rented for her in Austin and at her parents’ house in Gaithersburg.  Now that her father has passed away, she spends about 80% of her time in Austin, participating enthusiastically in the care of a horde of grandchildren, and about 20% of her time visiting her family in Maryland.

rhondaThat’s right, 80 plus 20 equals 100.  She’s not interested in being in Colorado and, while I adore my grandchildren, I’ve developed a life that I love here and I’m not interested in participating in full-contact child care.  We’re both too stubborn to budge, so when I want to see her, I get on a plane and go wherever she is for a week or two.  That usually turns out being 3 or 4 times a year.

When Rhonda tells women her age about our arrangement, they are horrified at first.  But then they quickly come to the conclusion that a distance of a thousand miles and visits of 3 or 4 weeks a year is just about the perfect situation.

In Colorado I spend my time writing plays and books and being involved in productions and publishing, working with several local theater and playwrights’ organizations, taking classes at CU, singing and being on the board of the Rocky Mountain Chorale, being on the board of the Boulder County Arts Alliance, and hiking when I can with the Boulder Outdoor Group.  The approximate female to male ratio in all of those activities is about 80-20, so a lot of my social life revolves around women. I always make it a point to explain my domestic situation to new acquaintances, but occasionally there is some confusion, and that’s when the fun starts.

For example, about a year ago I met a charming lady on a hike with the local Sierra Club.  To save her any embarrassment, we’ll call her Mary.  Mary and I hit it off immediately, and I invited her to have dinner at my house before going together to a public reading of one of my plays.  I had explained my marital situation to lots of people on the hike, but I guess Mary wasn’t one of them.   Because as the appointed day approached, I got stronger and stronger signals that she was interested in something more serious than occasionally going out together to dinner and the theater.  So as soon as she arrived at my house I took her on the “Rhonda” tour, which was my way of making my status clear without greeting her at the door with “By the way, I’m married.”

I guess all those years of living outside of the U.S. has given Rhonda and me some un-American ideas, but I really am capable of having platonic friendships with women and Rhonda is OK (I think) with it.  However, most people don’t seem to understand (believe?) that, and Mary was clearly one of those.  A couple of weeks after our get-together, I received an email from her thanking me for being so honest and saying that she was uncomfortable going out on “dates” together.  What would Rhonda think?  I replied that I wasn’t interested in “dating,” just having someone to socialize with, and that I had told Rhonda all about Mary and our evening both before and afterwards (on our nightly phone call, as we talk about most things going on in our lives).  I concluded, a bit facetiously I’m afraid, by offering to get Rhonda to send her a signed permission slip authorizing me to go out with her.

In the end, the permission slip was not required.  Mary and I are still friends — she came to my choir concert last weekend — and she has met Rhonda several times at productions of my plays.

So that’s the story of how I got to be an eligible-looking part-time husband, living alone in a great big house with a fantastic view of snow-covered mountains.

6 Responses to "Part-time Husband"

Hi Don, I think if this works for you, you shouldn’t worry about what anyone else thinks about it. It’s not anyone else’s business. I could do this kind of thing. I love my husband but I really could do this. I like being on my own but I would find myself getting lonesome at times. The “socializing,” I don’t think I would do that. I’m not sure I’d like him doing it either. For me, I think that could lead to problems.

I’m very envious about your wonderful view.

Joy,

This wasn’t the road either Rhonda or I thought we would end up going down. Still, when we are together we have a great time. Funny how things end up, isn’t it?

Don

Ah… you didn’t mention how you and Rhonda are so funny together! You guys crack me up!

As one of your real life best friends.. I have to say that yours is truly a unique marriage.. but it does work! I can’t ever imagine either of you with anyone else.

I can still remember the day you told me .. why have hamburger when you have “steak” at home!!! Remember that????

Please note that Don mentions my being at productions of his plays. In the interest of fair and full disclosure, it should be noted that I DO get to Colorado – maybe once or twice a year – to see his productions, get annual check-ups, and fill the freezer with home-cooked meals to supplement his (less labor-intensive) dinners. So I should get credit for about 5% of my time in Colorado ; )

I love your blog and am immensely jealous of your living arrangements. I try to get my fiance out of the house at least one night during the week – but that’s about all he’ll go for. Your wife/life sounds great!

I love the line, ” …and there’s no end to that status…”. My fiance, Valerie and I have been engaged for 5 years. She lives in Parker and I live 30 miles away in Denver. We see each other most weekends with our teenage daughters. I figured out what she really needed from me was a ring and monogamy. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever had and there’s no end to that status looming on OUR near horizon. ;)

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