A Wave of Disappointment

My husband studied for the Fire Captain’s test for months. Day in and day out. Pouring over books, calling co-workers for advice, everything.  This was an all-or-nothing approach to working toward a promotion to become a Captain. And the work behind it was something my husband was willing to do to get there.

My husband is a Fire Fighter, or more appropriately, an Engineer. He handles driving the truck and a bazillion other things on fires, medical aides, and whatever the situation calls for. He literally applied for seven years to get into the fire department, it is that competitive. And now that he was in, he was doing exactly what he wanted. He loved it.

But, promoting to Captain was the next step. Not everyone could be a Captain and not everyone wanted to, either. But, my husband had decided to move forward in his fire career and going through the testing process to become one was next on the list.

I was beyond excited for him. Sure, it meant more responsibility. But it meant more income as well as a work experience different from anything he’d had before. Being a Fire Captain meant he was responsible for his entire crew for the entire 48 hours they were on duty together with him. Being a Captain meant he was their leader and instructor, mentor, and everything else in between.

While the job would be more stressful (because that is the nature of the job), it was something he wanted to do which ultimately outweighed any fear or discomfort for promoting.

The day came for him to take his test and after he finished and came home, I asked him how it went.

“We’ll just have to see,” he said, not adding much to his response.

“Did you think you understood everything?” I asked, trying not to pry, but pry at the same time. “Were any questions harder than others? Was it easier than you thought?”  The questions were coming fast. But, I couldn’t stop.

“We’ll see,” he said again, averting his eyes slightly. 

At the time, I thought nothing of his words or body language. He seemed happy with the turnout of the test. Albeit, not as enthusiastic as I thought he should be, but happy.  Fine with me.

In a few weeks, the results were out. He failed. 

My husband, who was pretty much a genius and had a photographic memory, didn’t pass the written Captain’s test. Needless to say, I was confused. And I was disappointed. But, I knew he had to be disappointed, too. 

Or was he? There was an air about him that seemed I don’t know. Relieved.

I pondered his attitude and later that night, we got into the spa to unwind for the evening. I had been thinking all day about the test failure. It didn’t make any sense. It should’ve been a piece of cake for him. Yes, he studied. Yes, he was smart. Yes, it all added up to passing. Especially for him.

So, what happened? 

And then, just like the proverbial light bulb going on, I knew what had happened. 

I scooted away from him, letting the bubbles swirl between us. 

“So,” I said casually, lifting a hand to caress the hot water, “you intentionally failed the test, didn’t you.” 

I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t even upset by then. I was more confused and frustrated. Why hadn’t he told me he had changed his mind? Would he think I’d be so disappointed I’d hate him for backing out of the test? Had I pressured him to do something he didn’t want to do?

He just smiled and said. “I may have.”

All I could do was smile back. And the frustration melted.  We talked about it in depth. Turned out, he didn’t want the responsibility as Captain. Not yet. 

And I was fine with that, though disappointed. When I expected one thing, but got another, it sort of turned my world upside down! But, did it matter?

Truth was, I cared more for him than my disappointment. I cared more for his feelings, his wants and dislikes more than the promotion. And while I was all for him being a Captain, I didn’t want him to be Captain but hate every second of it, all because he thought I wanted him to promote! 

We have to roll with the tide. All of us, at different times in life.  And this was a wave I didn’t have control over, anyway. Disappointment? That’s standard in relationships. Lord knows I’ve disappointed him, too.

But, I didn’t marry my husband for his career, or what he could do for me. I married for love.  I married him for him. So, why should my intentions change now almost fifteen years later? I wanted what was best for him and not just for me. And the best for him in this decision, would be the best for both of us! 

Though I didn’t want to admit that, I needed to accept it.

The wave has since receded. Life is definitely good. And always has been.  One day, the timing will be right and he will want to promote. And if he doesn’t? That’s okay, too.

During these moments, I remind myself that through disappointment and change, I have much to be grateful for –and that those are the only things I need to focus on when the tide gets rough.