This post is about life, not about infidelity like most of this blog. FYI.
I’m still processing an electrifying session I had with my therapist yesterday. Normally it’s quite chatty and thoughtful. Rarely confrontational. He doesn’t get angry; it’s not an emotional interaction for him, and he’s professional. But he did get FIRM.
Bottom line: I can reduce my stress levels and my frustrations if I do things for myself and stop letting my husband do tasks for me. My therapist has been telling me for a long time that this is needed, and he reminded me of it, strongly, today.
My husband does nice things because he wants to help me. He also likes it when I’m appreciative. He also exerts control, both directly and in passive-aggressive ways.
And I stupidly, selfishly, gullibly lap it all up.
Why do I do that, I wonder. Some of it is laziness; being waited on in small ways is nice. Some of it is my own emotional neediness; it feels like he loves me when he does small humble things for me. Some of it is because my husband prides himself on doing things for me, and I know it genuinely makes him happy to do something for me, and for me to thank him. He will even seriously pout if I do things for myself. (If I stop by the grocery store to pick up some frozen meals for my work lunches, he will poke out his lip and say accusingly, “But *I* would have picked them up for you.”)
Sometimes it’s just not worth the time to have the “Me do it myself” argument.
I have let myself get far, far too dependent. And it is so, so hard to change! But I have to.
A lot of this started when I began having some health issues and work stresses at the same time. But it also began very early in our marriage, too.
His shopping for food began when I got tired and stressed at how he always sighed and grimaced and carried on when he took the food receipt from me. (He’s always been the disapproving financial dispenser in the family. And yet he felt free to spend $300 on a Valentine’s Day necklace for me without consulting on our budget.)
His cooking began when my mother (who lived with us) relentlessly criticized my cooking — even back when I cooked fancy multiple-course meals — while raving over his Hamburger Helper (that literally happened); I threw in my dish towel and abdicated cooking duties.
He knows I am diabetic, and yet he brings me things like chocolate donuts and chocolate-dipped strawberries. I love both. But I really shouldn’t eat them. I’m not healthy, and I’m also super-super-fat. This isn’t helping.
I handled the money for at least the first half of our marriage, but I passed the mantle to him when I was overwhelmed with other priorities. He bobbled it, but he’s kept control of the money ever since — so it’s hard for me to take charge and do things for myself if I never know how much we have to spend.
He also gets pissed when I try to financially help my older daughter from a previous marriage. It stresses me to the max to feel like I’m choosing between him and her, and he forces that choice on me.
He won’t track his expenditures or stick to a budget. He doesn’t plan for irregular expenses. He gives vague warnings about “we’d better watch it” instead of saying, “We only have $75 for groceries, FYI.”
All of this has become habit by now, and this isn’t good for me or for him. And it’s also not good for our marriage, despite my husband’s wishes to please me.
Problems that result include:
- Our budget is out of control, and we’re both stressed.
- He insists on doing things for me and yet acts hugely burdened while he’s insisting on doing them. (Not cool.)
- He exerts control by insisting on doing tasks for me but stubbornly doing something about them wrong. He washes laundry, but he *always* washes only pants or tops, not both — or he will not wash my underwear until I have nothing left to wear but a gut-squishing pair of Spanx. (At least he has learned not to wash any more delicate knits with jeans that have the zippers open.) Or he’ll run my sweaters or wool socks in the dryer for hours. These are not amateur hour; he’s made the same mistakes for years and years. I have trouble giving him feedback because it just pisses him off.
- Instead of taking feedback, he takes offense and wants to argue. He’ll buy Snapple for the household, but he’ll only buy the mixed cases at CostCo, half of which are flavors that only he drinks. Then he won’t buy more until those are gone because “we still have plenty.” If I get something I like to drink, then he’s mad that we’re “wasting money on drinks when we already have plenty.”
- He exerts control by insisting on doing things for me but doing them on his timetable, not mine, and getting irritated when I take charge (such as checking the “engine” light on the car or picking up a prescription at the drugstore after waiting for days or weeks).
- He expects frequent, sustained, effusive praise and affection. He acts like I don’t love him if I don’t offer a kiss and a hug EVERY SINGLE TIME I pass him in a room. He’s not satisfied with a small peck, either. If it’s not a mini-makeout session or a sustained hug, he is affronted. It would be nice sometimes NOT to have to be the person who pulls away, honestly. He is so needy for affection that he will often stand in the middle of our tiny kitchen so that I have to pay the “kiss toll” just to fix myself a glass of gingerale with ice. What results is that he feels even MORE unappreciated and unloved and needy if I get irritated, and I feel like he’s this giant sucking black hole of neediness that I keep tripping over.
Well, those things are about to change.
What I will & won’t do
- I won’t ask him for the millionth time to leave cheese toast under the broiler until the cheese at least bubbles. I’ll make it myself. If he makes it for me without being asked, I will thank him, and I will get up and put it back under the broiler so it’s cooked the way I like it. I’m tired of eating food I don’t like.
- I’m getting involved in our budget again. (Lord help me. I hate that shit.)
- I won’t refer to him as the Panty Police and ask him to parole a clean pair of panties for me; I will go back to washing and putting away the clothes myself.
- I won’t mention it again if he picks up the wrong cereal. I will just leave it on the pantry shelf forever, and I will go to the store myself and pick up the cereal that I like.
- I’m not going to ask him to agree to a household-wide housework schedule anymore so that we actually get crap taken care of at our house. I’ve tried that for years. I’m just going to make one up myself, do as much work as I can, and ask him to do some of the tasks. If he doesn’t, I’ll still do them myself or will find the money to hire some help.
- I’m not going to be frustrated by our family’s unhealthy eating habits, boring menu or limited food choices anymore simply because he has a lot of foods he doesn’t like. I’m going to plan ahead for an interesting and affordable menu with variety and flavor, and I’ll keep simple options on hand for anyone who doesn’t want to eat what I fix.
- When I run out of my next prescription, I won’t ask him to refill it; I will do it myself.
- I’m going to have a talk with him about affection and how it comes across as neediness. Am I not giving him enough? Is he demanding too much? What can we do about it?
- I’m not going to wait for him to do the final tasks that are still pending at our old house anymore. I’m going over there THIS weekend and doing them myself.
- On the way home tonight, I’m stopping at AutoZone and finding out what that damned “check engine” light is about.
I’m feeling really stupid, blind and selfish right now for letting it get to this point. I’m supposed to be a grown-up here.
Things are changing, starting right now.