I can’t remember how I first told him I worked at an abortion clinic. We met online, which was sort-of new territory 10 years ago. I had this rule that I wouldn’t meet anyone in person unless they were pro-choice. We’d talk online and on the phone, I’d gauge how liberal they were, ask lots of leading questions, then pop the big one: “are you pro-choice?”
Even if a guy told me he was pro-choice, I’d still wonder how pro-choice he was. Wonder if he was pro-choice enough to handle me working at a clinic. So I’m sure C and I had an initial discussion about abortion, but I doubt I immediately told him I worked at the clinic.
Isn't it strange that I don't remember the first time I mentioned my abortion work to my husband? I must've told him very soon after meeting him, though, because he came home with me the first day we met...and I had clinic the following day! Ha.
Here’s something interesting. I just asked C if he remembered when I “outed” myself to him about working in a clinic. He doesn’t. He thinks that tells a lot about his feelings/thoughts about abortion: it wasn’t a big deal to him, he just admired the work.
He also wants me to point out that he wasn’t exactly a typical guy (that’s for sure!). He’s not American, and he had been doing overseas development work in emergency situations. So he was aware of the consequences of unsafe abortion in developing countries. Providing safe abortion, from his perspective, was a no-brainer. He remembers we did discuss my interest in women’s global rights and health, so that all tied in to the big abortion reveal convo…Which wasn’t a big deal after all.
So, C was traveling around the USA when we met. He had been on the Afghan/Pakistan border during 9/11 and got a little burned out from doing aid work. He wanted to be in a country with smooth pavement, clean water, and good food. Within a week of arriving in the States, he was hanging out at my house.
One evening, I came home from a long day at clinic, feeling exhausted. It was one of those days where you felt emotionally drained afterwards. Well, more than usual. We were having protester issues, to complicate matters. I couldn’t wait to open my apartment door, get a huge mug of tea, and fill up the bathtub. This was my ritual: soak in the bath for ages, read a book, then make phone calls from the tub and talk. I lived alone and it's how I relaxed after work, decompressed from work. How I tried to leave work at work.
So that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t stop to hang out, say hello, or have a chat with C. Just went straight into the bathroom to run the bath. C didn’t know me well enough to realize this was my usual routine. And I didn’t realize it needed explaining!
You can see where this is going.
C was left wondering if he had upset me, had overstayed his welcome – if I was sick of him being around. It made him very uncomfortable and he asked if I wanted him to leave!
That wasn’t the case at all, of course. But I realized I had to communicate about my needs, about how I had to take care of myself, especially after a really stressful clinic day. Obviously this work can be very stressful at times. I had to learn to become aware of my ways of taking care of myself and how they might impact my partner. That was new for me, and a first step in the gradual intertwining of our lives.