A Marriage Constructed on Compromise Grows Deeper Through the Pandemic

When Lesley Friedsam took a three-week boating tour to Antarctica in 2003, it was deliberate months upfront. Peter Damisch purchased a ticket for a similar journey simply days earlier than it began.

They met by chance every week into the journey when each left the group tour to go to Grytviken, South Georgia Island, to see the grave website of the British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

“I obtained to the grave and this man was standing there. He introduced a poem to learn. A person who brings poetry at a grave website obtained my consideration,” mentioned Ms. Friedsam, then 57 and a divorce lawyer dwelling in Tampa, Fla. “He was a person of substance, concepts and values. He had what I referred to as ‘depth of discipline.’”

The connection between them was immediate.

“We had been so shocked,” mentioned Mr. Damisch, then 50. “It was clear to each of us we needed to pursue this relationship throughout the journey and as soon as it ended.”

On the time, Mr. Damisch was separated from his spouse, was dwelling in Marina Del Ray, Calif., and was the managing director of Bluewater Crusing, a college and boat constitution enterprise. Ms. Friedsam had been divorced for 30 years.

Upon returning to land, each day emails, love letters and telephone calls started. Inside two months they determined to marry.

On Feb. 19, 2006, they returned to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave website to change vows.

Since their wedding ceremony 15 years in the past, a lot has modified.

Their first few years of marriage had been spent taking the weekend red-eye as soon as a month to go to one another.

“I used to be nonetheless working in Florida and Peter was nonetheless working in California,” she mentioned, now 74. “It was enjoyable. We didn’t know one another very effectively however we had been devoted and dedicated. It was like early courting however we had been already married.”

“Lesley understands the wanderlust. She is aware of I’m a sailor at coronary heart,” Mr. Damisch mentioned, now 67. “We met 15,000 kilometers away from our hometowns, not being with one another on a constant foundation was our rhythm.”

Ms. Friedsam, who had supposed to maneuver in with Mr. Damisch, spent a yr finding out for the California bar. After taking it, and passing, she determined to remain in Florida, having realized the job alternatives had been restricted and he or she would lose her partnership standing at work if she moved. She hoped Mr. Damisch would migrate East as an alternative.

Mr. Damisch was obsessed with California, his sizable dwelling and his boating enterprise. He possessed an enormous dislike for cats and bugs. Nonetheless he conceded, and in 2010 moved in with Ms. Friedsam.

“I went from a spot that was a crusing group to 1 that was not, and dwelling with a lady who had half a duplex, three cats, and was rising butterflies in one among her two loos,” he mentioned.

Mr. Damisch adjusted to his new environment. He was employed by two totally different boutique expedition firms that targeted on small ships (125 passengers or much less) and commenced touring to unique areas — the Arctic, South Pacific and Bangladesh — spending 5 to seven months a yr at sea. Ms. Friedsam continued to apply regulation till she retired in 2012. An fulfilling rhythm developed. Then in 2014, Ms. Friedsam obtained a breast most cancers analysis. A yr later a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma analysis adopted. There have been a number of surgical procedures and rounds of chemotherapy. Mr. Damisch stopped working to look after his spouse.

In 2017 they upgraded their small dwelling in Tampa to a four-bedroom home. Mr. Damisch, who was within the Navy from 1971-2003, the place he served as a captain and commanding officer, saved his Navy memorabilia in a single room and his expedition and backpacking clothes and kit in one other; whereas six totally different butterfly species (Ms. Friedsam began cultivating butterflies in 1994) took up residency of their again backyard. “I like nature and wonder and little critters. It’s an important stress reliever to place a reside butterfly on my finger and have it fly off,” she mentioned.

Then the coronavirus hit.

In 2020 they traveled in South East Asia. Mr. Damisch had a gig lecturing on a ship, and Ms. Friedsam accompanied him. After the primary leg, Ms. Friedsam flew dwelling, leaving her husband to complete the tour. In March, the corporate, fearing a worldwide shutdown, ended the expedition early, and docked in Sydney, Australia, the place Mr. Damisch obtained a flight again dwelling earlier than lockdowns started.

“It was very scary. I didn’t know if he’d be capable to get dwelling,” Ms. Friedsam mentioned.

Due to Ms. Friedsam’s compromised immune system, the couple took quarantining critically. For the primary time in 17 years they had been dwelling collectively, 24/7, for greater than two months at a time.

“I do know this has been a tragedy of unmitigated proportions, however for us, it’s been incredible,” Mr. Damisch mentioned. “I’ve fallen deeper in love together with her. The entire good issues about our relationship we now have the chance to expertise.”

Ms. Friedsam spoke equally.

“This was the primary yr of our marriage that we had been collectively to have fun Valentine’s Day, each birthdays and our anniversary,” she mentioned. “Each morning I get up and he’s nonetheless subsequent to me. He’s been right here to kiss me good evening. He’s grow to be extra of my finest buddy whereas nonetheless being my husband. When he goes again to work I feel lacking him shall be more durable. However that was a part of the deal.”

They’ve discovered new initiatives.

When Mr. Damisch isn’t finding out for his subsequent expedition, he spends his day writing; he’s engaged on a ebook about Antarctica. Ms. Friedsam, who, for years misplaced her ardour for regulation, discovered it once more.

“I’m mentoring a younger girl who desires to go to regulation faculty,” she mentioned. “I’m taking part in the Socratic professor. I’ve fallen in love with the regulation once more.”

Through the years they’ve discovered to be tolerant of one another: that making ready separate meals is OK. He’s a frozen microwave man, she’s a make-it-from-scratch cook dinner. Politics are off the desk. “I’m a Democrat. He’s not. He’s retired army,” she mentioned. “Let’s simply say we no less than voted for a similar presidential candidate in 2020.”

“Lesley is an advanced girl. She’s a tapestry. That describes our relationship, too. It’s multifaceted,” Mr. Damisch mentioned. “How many individuals uncover one another? It was life altering. I’m very fortunate I did. We’re wealthy in recollections.”

Since discovering one another on the different finish of the world, they’ve been again to Shackleton’s grave eight occasions. They plan to go to once more in 2023 to have fun the twentieth anniversary of after they met.

“Our marriage is even higher than the marriage,” mentioned Ms. Friedsam, who was fast to acknowledge how a lot her husband gave as much as make their relationship work. “As a divorce lawyer, I used to be conscious of what makes marriages not work: lack of respect and name-calling. We be sure that to not do both.”

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