Values

I know a couple where the husband said to the wife that they have to make a certain amount of money a year. It is a very high amount. They have only one child and live in an apartment.

Meanwhile, the wife is miserable, stuck at a job that she hates, where her manager is abusive to her. She is so stressed out that she has begun pulling out her hair. Doctors have put her on anti-anxiety medicine, but it isn’t helping because it is treating the symptom, not the disease.

I believe that the husband has his priorities wrong. It isn’t about money at all, and it never should be. If his wife is so miserable that it is affecting her health, then something has to change. They need to evaluate everything that they are spending money on and how much money is coming in. Perhaps he needs to get a second job. Perhaps they can trade out a car for a cheaper one. Perhaps they can move back in with a parent.

But there is no reason that a spouse should ever put money before the health of their spouse. No money is worth more than your spouse.

My husband was very stressed out recently about extra responsibilities with his job. This is a new job, but suddenly he is being expected to do things that he did not sign up for and is not trained in. He wants to do well, but these added expectations are not reasonable. It was obviously very overwhelming to him.

I chose to play the biggest card and speak of my fears. I told him a story that I’d just read about a woman whose husband was very stressed out over his job. He was so anxious over all that was going on that he had constant pains in his stomach (the stomach and the head are the most common sites for stress to manifest). Doctors, as usual, gave him medicine to treat his stomach pains but did not advise him to seek help about his job. She woke up one night to discover that he’d killed himself while she slept.

I told my husband that I don’t want to live through that. No job is worth that kind of stress. If his boss got angry that he wasn’t able to do what he expected him to do – a duty that was not on the list of expected tasks when he was hired – then perhaps he needs to find a new job. We can make do. We will work it out. We have before. But his health is worth more than money.

Don’t ever put money before your spouse. Remember “forsaking all others” as part of the vow? It normally refers to intimacy – that we promise to only be intimate with our spouse. But I take it to also mean that their well-being should be seen as important and valuable.

It doesn’t make sense if you have a lot of money but your spouse is miserable. It doesn’t make sense to demand that your spouse work at a place that is harmful to their well-being. Even if that man’s wife doesn’t kill herself from the stress, she’s living a half-life already because of it. It is not right for him to demand that. But this is her battle to fight. If he cannot see that, then she must speak up for herself.

Thoughts about taking care of a marriage.

I’ve realized that building up a marriage is a lot like building up your immune system. If I’m not getting enough sleep or eating well, my immune system gets low, and I’ll catch any cold. If I take care of myself, then I don’t get sick.

Showing love and care for your spouse builds up your marriage immune system too. Showing attention, saying thank you, being thoughtful -they all build up the “bank”. That way, when there is a bad day, everything doesn’t come crashing down.

If you make deposits into your marriage bank, then when something big happens, your spouse can draw on that and come out fine. If the bank is empty, your marriage is in danger.

All the things you did when you were dating are all the things you should do when you are married. The number of years married makes no difference. Perhaps that is part of the “seven year itch”. You are used to each other, and you start to take each other for granted. So you slide a little, and then you discover that you just don’t care about each other as much. You don’t care, because you don’t “take care”. You have to tend a marriage, like you tend a garden. If you don’t work on it, it gets overgrown and ugly.

Just like a bank, you have to make “deposits” – make special breakfasts for each other, give cards for no special reason, come to visit at work, do an extra chore – it doesn’t have to be things. In fact, you are probably better off if you don’t buy things. You want to show them that you are thinking about them.

Flowers and vegetables

I buy my own flowers, and I cook my own vegetables. I have to. I need to.

I wanted my husband to buy me flowers and to cook more vegetables, but it didn’t happen. Rather than feel resentful, I decided to show love to myself. Every week when I go to the grocery store, I get fresh vegetables and some flowers. He benefits from these things, sure, but I’m the first recipient.

For years I told him that we needed to start eating more vegetables. Eating mostly meat isn’t healthy. We didn’t have to go to being vegetarian, but at least more like omnivores. And by vegetables I meant actual, fresh vegetables. Not ones from the freezer, and not ones that had been processed to a point that they were unrecognizable.

This was beyond him.

Preparing fresh vegetables takes 20 minutes, from chopping up to steaming, but every night we’d end up eating an hour after I came home at 8. That is way too late to eat. I still can’t figure out how he was wasting that much time.

What pushed it over the edge was when I hurt my back and my chiropractor said that I needed to eat a vegetarian diet for a week to reduce the inflammation. My spouse totally didn’t get it, and I became even angrier and angrier as my physical pain got worse and worse.

I felt helpless.

Food is a basic need, and eating healthy is important. I felt that he was not providing for me in the way that I needed. Deep down, I felt that he was not loving me in the way that I needed. This is part of why I decided to make learning how to cook my goal for this year.

While I’m glad to feel self sufficient, I’m a little sad that he isn’t able to take care of me in this basic way.

It isn’t like I needed him to make a six digit salary, and to buy me furs and diamonds. It isn’t like I needed him to work hard enough that I didn’t have to.

It sounds selfish, and sad, and empty, that in this basic way he can’t support me. It is food, and flowers.

But, in a good way, I’m glad that I decided to love myself in the way that I needed to be loved. Rather than feel empty and abandoned, I decided to take matters into my own hands. It is healing at the same time it is sad.

Somehow, while I’m building myself up, I’m separating from him. I’m getting stronger by not relying on him as much. It is scary in a way.

I don’t trust women who crow about their husbands all the time – about how awesome they are, how wonderful, how supportive. I don’t believe them. Everybody has a shadow side. No person is perfect. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for them to get really angry about how much of a slob he is, or how scatterbrained or thoughtless.

Who cares if you stay when the relationship is good? It is how you work out the hard stuff that matters.

Plus one

You know how you’ll have a friend who you’ve known for many years and then she will get a boyfriend that you don’t like? Or worse yet, it is a spouse that you don’t like. So then you don’t want to spend any time with that friend, because she feels like she has to bring her boyfriend or spouse along to every single thing that you two normally did just together. I think the same thing about people’s children as well.

These are all their “plus one” relationships. They are invited to the party, and they bring someone extra that you don’t know. You haven’t really agreed to them being there, but you have to go on trust. Except it isn’t a party, it is a relationship between friends.

I want to have a relationship with just that person, not the significant other and not their child. To me, it shouldn’t be a package deal. Sometimes I luck out and the s/o or the child is very pleasant. But more often than not the opposite is true. The s/o is self-centered or abusive, and the child is, well, a child. Children can’t help being annoying when they are young. They can’t help being loud and interrupting all the time. That is just part of the nature of young children.

Sometimes you might try to arrange the gatherings when you know that the child is with his other parent. I know a lady who will invite her friend out for seafood – knowing that her husband is allergic to shellfish. This way just the two of them can be together.

Sometimes adding a s/o or a child to the mix signals the end of a relationship. Sometimes it is because people get too busy to spend time with friends. But sometimes it is because they don’t realize that their friends didn’t sign up for the s/o or the child. They’ll try to drag them along, and then nobody is happy.

Having a relationship with someone is like a contract. We agree on how we will be together as friends. We agree that we’ll call or write or visit a certain amount of times with each other to keep the relationship going. We agree that we’ll share each other’s good times and bad. But when you add a significant other or a child, it adds a whole other person to the contract. Everything has to get renegotiated, and rarely do people even talk about this. They seem to think of it as “Love me, love my partner or child” and it isn’t always that way. Just because I like you doesn’t mean I like who you live with.

Sometimes partners are abusive. Sometimes children are unruly. Sometimes the problem isn’t just dealing with the abusive or unruly other person that is suddenly in the mix, it is dealing with your feelings about this new and unpleasant person in your friend’s life.

You love your friend, and you don’t want to see her hurt. You can tell that this guy is bad for her. You can tell she’s totally inept at parenting. Watching her with these people hurts, because you know she is in for a lot of pain.

So some of the problem is about how you feel with this “plus one” added to the party. Some of it is about how it changes or destroys the relationship you had with your friend. Some of it is about how you feel bad for her, living with such difficult people.