I’m having some trouble just getting down to things this week and I am not sure why. Restless perhaps? Ready for a bit of a break from going one way and then the other? I’m not sure. But I am looking forward to having a few days off this weekend even though it means attending a very “het” wedding of some of Brian’s friends. (And by het I mean, straight, flat, traditional – and very likely boring.) What I am really looking forward to is the cabin on the beach in Sooke with a hottub and some time with just my partner – something that has been in short supply lately what with all the moving about and family stuff going on. Not to mention needing some time just for me too.
Brian has moved into the upstairs suite of his house now that his ex has moved out, and the new renters for the downstairs are expected Thursday. Most of the moving work is done, with bits and pieces to be put away and some pictures to go on the wall still, but the main furniture is placed and the kitchen sorted out which makes it liveable. I haven’t been too helpful on that front because of my work schedule, but I have spent the last three nights there, which has left me feeling slightly ungrounded since I have barely been home in the past week.
It’s pretty strange to me that after almost a year of dating, I am finally allowed to stay in my partner’s home (not only stay, he has given me a key and the alarm code). The bed has been arranged so there is access to my side, I have a reading lamp, I have brought a set of toiletries and a yoga mat to leave there. And because Brian has a dog (not to mention a kid), I expect that in the next year we will spend more time there than at my place.
Which is jarring to me in a way I didn’t expect.
I suppose it really is just more of the transition our relationship is going through – from dating, to partnership, to (next year) living together – I am experiencing the fear of identity-loss through being swallowed up into my partner’s home and life. I think the feeling is compounded by the fact that he lives in a home and neighbourhood I never would choose for myself (not really his choice either, it was bought out of practicality), and already I can feel my neighbourhood routine disrupted. Too far for me to walk to work, it’s not close to anywhere I want to be (except my guy).
But maybe it’s not even that which I’m worried about as much as my own inability to express my needs to my partners without feeling guilty. Pretty much all my past relationships have followed a similar path whereby I subsume my life into my partner’s and within a few years get frustrated, resentful, and want out. I allow them every liberty (hell, D. slept with my best friend for several months and I didn’t leave him over it), do essentially what they want, put dinner on the table every night, take on all the household chores – you name it. The perfect wife. Until I can’t stand it and just want to be left alone.
Which is why after a decade of those types of relationships I wasn’t disappointed for the first few years of being single. It just seemed like so much less work to look after myself and no one else. A little more of a struggle to pay the bills, but overall a worthwhile trade when it meant I didn’t have to answer to anyone else’s needs for awhile. A much-needed break, and one that I sometimes find myself reluctant to leave entirely behind.
Now I should say that I am less worried about those prior patterns in my relationship with Brian for a few good reasons. First, five years alone gave me the space and time to develop a good life of my own which has its own responsibilities, relationships and commitments. I enjoy myself now more than I ever did as a younger woman and have a lot more confidence. For his part, Brian is used to looking after a kid, and as a result does more than his share of cooking and grocery shopping when we spend time together. More importantly, he is genuinely interested in reaching a state of living where we can both feel comfortable and be happy. (And for the record he does not expect me to stay at his all the time, or move into that house).
But of course whether I allow myself to slip back into the (miserable) “good wife” role is up to me and no one else. Because Brian is certainly not interested, nor would he put any woman in such a place in his life.
(And if you are wondering if I know what childhood modeling and trauma this is rooted in – yes, I do. It relates to the need for acceptance by my father who did not want me, and the fact that many times expressing ourselves in my family lead to explosive anger and occasional violence. The problem for me then, as it is now, I can only shut-up for so long without things leaking out in all sorts of unpleasant ways.)
It all comes down to trusting myself to develop strategies that will work for both of us, and trusting that Brian will not leave me just because I express a need to spend time at my home or on my own. Seems simple, but it’s not when you are as convinced as I am that every relationship must, by necessity, fall apart in some spectacular fashion.
It’s a lot to unpack, this stuff that lies dormant until the next big relationship, and lately I have been having daily revelations of exactly where my deficiencies lie. At least I can say that despite these little doubts, I am very clear about the fact that if there is anyone I could possibly work them out with – it is definitely Brian. Cause, you know, he’s the man for the me who isn’t a good wife, but just a loving woman.
I’m pretty sure the key is figuring out the difference between those two selves and acting accordingly.