Had a little setback yesterday. H is trying, trying hard, to do lots of acts of service, which he knows is my primary LL. (Still the odd PT which weirds me out and I haven't really been reciprocating.)
He's been doing a lot more of the grocery shopping and cooking and picking up around the house. it feels a little weird because one of the things I've done during all this (which is probably a 180 on my side but I didn't do it for that reason) is I've stopped asking him to help with anything, because I want to feel like I don't really need him and can do things myself. So now I take the garbage out instead of asking him to do it. I get a stepstool instead of asking him to get something from a high shelf. I just handle the dishes if he doesn't pop up quickly enough to start it or tell me to sit down and he'll take care of it later. Or, even if he does tell me he'll take care of it, if he hasn't by the time I want it done, I just do it. And I am fine with this, I don't really care, because it helps me to feel more empowered and like I can do all this by myself. Who needs an H??
But I see him trying to step it up, and yesterday he wanted to cook all day. Fine. But then he gets frustrated if things don't go 100% as he expected them to -- this is a long-term issue of his that has honestly gotten somewhat better, but I still find somewhat annoying. For instance, our dishwasher has been acting up and things get put away dirty. I fully acknowledge this is probably usually me that does this, because I've made the decision that it is more efficient to put everything away and occasionally deal with something dirty than to inspect every item before I put it away. Saves me time, and it isn't generally gross or a big deal. (haha Sage maybe I *am* just a $hitty housekeeper!!) H hates this and gets super annoyed if he finds something dirty that was put away. Sometimes he can handle this frustration, sometimes he can't and yells. (For the record, he also sometimes puts things away dirty or didn't handwash them well enough, and I just... clean it. Because it takes two seconds and isn't worth getting mad about.)
Yesterday he yelled at me about it and I just ignored him. I was sitting outside, reading a book and drinking a G&T. He came outside to tell me how he felt. I guess he was trying to say that it hurt his feelings that I didn't care how he felt about the kitchen stuff. The truth is, though, I don't care. I don't care at all. He was being a d!ck about it and that is his problem, not mine. So I said exactly what I thought-- I don't care. at all. I went back to my book and he went back to the kitchen.
Later, the kids and I were watching some funny videos and I realized H was sitting all by himself in the other room. They wanted to watch a video a second time and I said hey, let's see if daddy wants to watch it with us! He wouldn't come over so we went to him and I realized he had been crying. I asked if he was okay and he said no, he was mad at me, because I said I didn't care at all. I didn't respond (kids right there, plus not sure what I should say, since that was true). After we put the kids to bed, he slouched all sad off to bed. I asked what was up and he repeated he was really sad that I didn't care, it made him realize that I really didn't care and never did. That I was mean to him all day, he was trying to do something nice for me and the family, and I didn't care.
He'd also driven to the record store earlier in the day to get me a present and he didn't think I really appreciated it. (Cardinal!! Honestly! He is into records and so I get one as a gift and I'm supposed to be all gaga over it??) It was nice. I appreciated it and said so. It was autographed by the artist and apparently he read about it being released, drove down to the record store immediately, and scored the last signed copy. We listened to it twice, I said thank you multiple times (a Christmas album so he wanted to give it to me early.) But I would honestly have been just as happy if he'd said hey, here's a new album I think you'll like and just put it on Spotify.
Anyway. I guess I understand that he's trying to share something he loves with me (the records). That he's trying to be a better partner and do more of the cooking and stuff around the house. I did say to him that I didn't mean I didn't care how he felt in general, I just didn't really care about the spoon being dirty and I didn't appreciate being yelled at so wasn't going to engage.
I feel like he wants a sticker or at least a really appreciative, gaga wife for doing this stuff. But the truth is that none of it means anything to me until I feel like we're in piecing. I don't WANT to appreciate them and feel happy that he's doing his fair share around the house or got me a thoughtful gift because I am still holding onto the idea that this might not work out and he still might walk. I WANT to just focus on me and the girls and Christmas, and he's part of our family so of course I'm good with having him have fun with the family and stuff as well. But I'm not trying to put any energy into connecting with him outside of that. So much of this could easily bring up his A in my head-- that he wasn't doing this before because of the A, that last year at this time he wasn't engaging at all in any of this Christmas stuff, that if he'd given a record to AP she probably would have been all super happy about it and F them both-- and since all of that is totally outside of my control, I'm not giving it any headspace and keeping my head where I want it. On me, the kids, my work, and Christmas.
Is that okay? Should I be nicer? Should I be able to appreciate these things he's doing even as they feel a little like window dressing and irrelevant? I mean, part of me feels kind of bad. He CRIED. And I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him cry. Maaaybe two hands thinking through all this $hit he's put both of us through the past couple of years.
There are certain things I've decided I'll look for to communicate to me that he's ready for piecing. They would include reading the Shirley Glass and Gottman books, initiating R talks, spending time and energy figuring out an MC who will take our insurance. There are other markers that I'd previously had in my head that he's met, like remembering to put his wedding ring back on immediately after surfing, making eye contact and smiling, PT, acting like he wants to spend time together just the two of us, like suggesting we go grab a beer together before picking up the kids, or making drinks after we put the kids down and suggesting we watch a show we both like and exchange backrubs. These things he's been doing pretty regularly, now.
But he has yet to tell me she's completely out of his head, that he wholly regrets what he did, that he understands how I must feel and wants to do whatever he can to support me. None of that, yet, and truthfully it isn't a big deal. We are where we are. But I feel like I've been crystal clear that I'm not open to piecing (I wouldn't use that word with him, but being open and vulnerable to him, trying to rebuild intimacy between us) until that happens. It kind of bugs me that he seems to expect or want ME to behave in certain ways like a wife would when HE is not behaving as a husband would (i.e. forsaking all others and making it ultra clear to me I'm his one and only). I think it really gets back to he wants a cookie and I'm all out, for this stage.
Anyway. So much for not thinking about any of this for the next 20 days but I really didn't start this one. And I believe I am kind and nice and civil and all the rest to him. I'm just not MORE than that. And I'm okay with that and sorry he isn't but it is what we've got at the moment.
May! I think this is the most honest, clear headed and confident thing Iíve read from you. I love it. I was surprised at the last two postersí reactions. You are holding firm on your boundaries and teaching him what is acceptable and what is not. Because this isnít about a dirty spoon! Thatís not what really matters. The power dynamic in the relationship is slowly shifting, and yes it will be uncomfortable, but itís about time. I do not feel sorry for him, not at all. He needs to be broken of his entitlement and selfishness and it doesnít behoove him for you to allow that to continue.
Itís so much easier to step up and be Mr Super Dad and H than to dig deep and work on the M problems. He puts on his cape and he cooks, cleans and buys the most perfect gift (only perfect in his design, and so obviously not perfect for you) and then he expects praise and appreciation ó look what a great guy I am tho!!! ... Thatís the easy stuff. .....You know what I want to see? I want to see a man that wants to see you. I mean really, really see YOU. What do you need? How much has he hurt you? Itís not just about him. All the superness doesnít erase the destruction he has caused. And no, you do not have to tell him this explicitly, you already have. He knows.
He can only fake it until he makes it for so long. He will have to really look at what he has done and explore the whys ó itís hard and itís painful to look inside and do that kind of work. I watched my own H and itís a dark place. I have had to do some of that too.
Keep holding your head up high and stand firm. Never let go of your standards for anyone else. Command the respect you deserve. You got this May.
And on an aside note ó I know it works because my own H Has had to do some of that with me. Iím the sh1tty spouse that rages over dumb little things, like dirty spoons. Many years ago, H silently rolled his eyes and put up with it. He learned to resent me and I lost respect and unknowingly saw him as weak. And then he ran to OW. Itís not like that anymore. He will hold his own or very gently put me in my place. Itís uncomfortable and I dont like it. It pains me to admit it, but I know I need it. I also respect him a lot for it!!! Heís a stronger and more confident man now. Iím still learning not to be so moody and controlling ......
ďForgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.Ē Ė Nelson Mandela