So my self-imposed task for today was to think about how I want to feel in our relationship. I thought this was an easy question I was asking myself. However, as the night and next day progressed, I found the answer to be more complex than I originally expected. What I thought I would say was that I wanted to feel appreciated, loved, cared for, etc. – you know, the easy answers. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that those words neither represent the gestalt of my needs, nor do they, on their own, illustrate what it is that I need in order to feel that way. In other words, feeling “loved” isn’t the same for everyone and consequently, the word is liberally used, but rarely well-defined. Thus, it is difficult at best, and impossible at worst, for someone else to figure out how to make us feel that way.
Bottom line: If I don’t know what it is exactly that I need, then how in the world can I ask for it from anyone else?
So today, I began figuring that out and I started with this thought: What makes me feel the happiest? Strongest? Most energized? That’s easy – my kids, when I’m on my own, and when I’m working. Hmmmm….where is “when I’m involved with someone”? “when someone makes me feel good?” “When I spend lots of time with someone?” Well, it’s not there. And that’s not because I don’t like spending time with people. It’s because I enjoy others’ company when I want to be with them rather than when I have to be with them. My next question was – When do you feel your worst? Your neediest? Your sluggish-ist? (is that even a word? Well, I’m coining it)
That answer was easy too – when I’m in a relationship with someone, when I expect a certain amount of attention and don’t get it, when I feel overburdened. So the real answer to my question isn’t so much that I need to feel appreciated, loved (here I use it in an enmeshed way), cared for – those feelings don’t really bring out the best in me. I’m not the best me I can be when I’m looking for someone else to fix me, to make me feel better, to do what I want.
Two recent events struck me as I was thinking this over. First, when Pea was in the hospital, most of the parents were quitting their jobs (permanently) while I only took time off. Why? In our shoes, Pea was expected to have life-long major complications from her illness – because of this, she was provided immediate, full disability status and when that happens, the government also pays the parents a relatively high amount of money to stay home with the child. But I told the nurses that I didn’t think quitting was a good choice. I believed that if I stayed home, I would become obsessed with her issues, needs, etc. Essentially, I would rely on her to fulfill my needs to feel successful, accomplished, etc. and I didn’t feel that was fair to put that burden on her. (I did change my job to a fully flexible position and reduced my hours but I still work some – and the good news is that Pea doesn’t need anything – she’s fully recovered, despite her expected prognosis) Fast forward to yesterday, when my oldest was melting down, he was afraid to tell me that he didn’t think he wanted to do the same type of work I did – he was afraid it would hurt my feelings. But I said – oh honey, you wouldn’t hurt my feelings! I told him that I am happy, that I feel accomplished in my career and my life, and that I am fulfilled all on my own. In other words, I assured him that he doesn’t have to take care of me – he doesn’t have to be something or someone so that I can feel better about myself – his only job is to make himself happy. I can take care of myself.
And then it hit me – that’s what I don’t do with Piper. I expect him to take care of me, to spend all his time with me, to make my dreams come true – essentially, I’ve been expecting him to fulfill everything for me! How selfish, unrealistic, and sadly, very unsuccessful. <sigh> Sometimes I hate self-realization. :/
I knew I needed to stand on my own to figure this out – I just didn’t quite know why. Well, now I’m one step closer to understanding me. While I do need to feel loved, cared about, and appreciated (among other things), FIRST, I need to feel stable, calm, centered, self-reliant, self-fulfilled, strong. Only then can I be any good in a relationship. Otherwise, I’m doing to Piper (or anyone else) exactly what I’ve well-avoided (thank goodness!) in doing to my children.
Being in my own room has given me some space. It has given me time to take care of myself. It has given Piper the space he needs. And it has given him and Colada time to work on their relationship (which seems to really be improving in a steady, healthy manner). Last night, she spent the night again – but this time, I didn’t stress. I didn’t whine. I didn’t cry. I enjoyed the time I had with Piper and then I did things I had to do and let go of needing him to take care of the rest of my night. I felt, weirdly, strong.
Who would’ve ever thought that spending less time together would be energizing. Who would’ve ever thought that being ok with another woman being involved with your husband would be a welcomed event? She’ll be staying at the house this week while we’re on vacation. She’s even inviting friends over to swim/party. She’s tip-toeing into our ‘real’ life….good or bad? Too slow? Too fast? Too weird? Or, maybe it’s ok?
Rule #4: Treat my space with the same respect you would if you felt that it was truly my space. In other words, Piper cleaned up stuff in my room today and I felt sorta violated. I guess I’m taking some ownership in my space and I kinda dig having some control over it.
Task #4: Think about 3 specific ways to achieve feeling empowered, strong, and centered…..without requiring someone else to make you feel that way.