Great Expectations Should Belong To You

Lisa Rosendahl recently asked me to participate in a series of posts that she was running on the Women of HR blog. The basic theme of the topic was the notion that there are societal expectations, or lines, in place that are much less tolerant of women.

I wound up not writing for the series but her topic got me thinking in a different direction.

Whether we like it or not, there are still societal expectations in place that tell us we should conform to certain norms and institutions.  This is applicable to all of us, no matter our gender. I like it when I can find a way to successfully defy those expectations, and make something work in a way that most people would find weird. It makes me feel like I accomplished something worthwhile.

One of the things in my life that I find myself explaining over and over to people is my marriage, for a variety of reasons. It starts with my spouse’s name and goes on from there. I met Kyle on Yahoo, and proposed to Kyle via instant messenger.  That was our first moment of non-conventional behavior.  There have been many others.

I married Kyle in 2004. We went out of state to get married legally, and then had a ceremony here in Florida in front of our family and friends later that same year.

Kyle is 6 feet tall, has brown hair, terrific eyes, and a  great smil, and she is the love of my life. Kyle loves to do home improvement projects and is much better at that kind of stuff than I am. It is really handy to have Kyle around for these types of projects.

Right now, Kyle is hard at work at our home in Georgia doing a demolition job on our fireplace. In the past two weeks, Kyle has taken down a stone wall, removed the framed wall that was behind the fireplace, re-framed a new structure, cut and hung drywall, and is now doing the masonry work necessary to build a new 8 foot by 6 foot hearth with stone walls behind it.  All of this is prep work for the installation of a wood burning stove. My only contribution to the project has been to give Kyle my thoughts on the color of the stone we chose, and to provide encouragement and morale support from our other home in Florida.

That is another thing about my marriage that is unconventional. We live apart a lot. I work in a job that requires me to live in Florida. Kyle is a web designer and can live anywhere. Kyle really likes being in the mountains of Georgia, walking our dogs and doing work outdoors on our property there. Many people would question how strong our marriage can be when we live like this. 

How do you stay committed when you live alone so much?  It takes some creativity and, surprise, some technology. We do simple things to stay connected.

This weekend, we watched an episode of Fringe on television while using our cell phones to text back and forth about the relative merits of the plot. Last night, we both watched a documentary movie on Netflix about India, using instant messaging to point out places in the film that we had visited when we visited India together in 2007.  

We find ways to be together – even when we are apart. We make it work for us and we are happy.

The HR lesson?  There are a couple here.

First, take some of what I have said into account when you have people working on long term assignments away from home, or if they travel frequently. Coach them and give some help on working on staying in touch.

Second, don’t make assumptions. If you don’t know me very well on a personal basis, you may have assumed that I am married to a guy named Kyle. That would be incorrect. You can see Kyle and I above on the balcony of a restaurant in Cuzco, Peru when we visited Macchu Pichu in 2009. 

Oh yeah, did I mention we love to travel as well?

About the Author

Mike VanDervort

Mike VanDervort is a labor and employee relations strategist at a Fortune 100 company. He has two professional passions: human resources and social media and uses his extensive knowledge of both in the work he does every day. Mike speaks and write on how businesses can utilize social media tools to protect their brand and promote positive employee relations. He blogs at the Human Race Horses and is an active contributor to other forums.

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