Sometimes I'm stupid enough to think we should make a more conventional deal. During the boom, with millions making millions, my husband remained content with his modest take-home pay. "You're smart," I'd occasionally nag. "Why not be a banker and make us rich?" His reply was succinct: "Nine weeks of vacation, and job security." In my heart, I knew they were both key to my own treasured freedoms: to travel, and to freelance. And when the financial market crashed, and FOR SALE signs blossomed in London's bankers' neighborhoods, I was reminded once again of his wisdom and my foolishness.
His ambitions were tame—except those he had for me. When I got a chance to leave London to study in New York, he said, "Go." Once there, when I was offered a Manhattan-based magazine job, he was hardheaded: "Stay." When the chance for a summer in Cairo came up, he said, "Go." Even now, 15 years on, married, with two children, he still wants me to keep going. The other week, as I planned a few days in Pakistan for a story, he was busy arguing that I should tack on a short hop to Kabul. "Go," he urged. "Go." "Are you trying to get me killed?" I teased him. No, he just knew a few days there would help me with a book I'm writing. I didn't go, fretting I'd miss home too much. That panicked him, for he worries I'll get so enmeshed in our family that I won't do the two other things I love to do: write and report. "I want you to stay the woman I married," he'll murmur. "You need to hit the road again. Go."
These urgings, of course, only make me want to stay. That said, I know that even if love lasts, deals don't. To stay married we'll doubtless have to broker new deals, and newer ones after that...till death do us part. Making deals with God may be a nonstarter. Done right, making deals with your spouse never ends.