Most of my life I’ve had traditional relationships and values. When my father warned me at a young age not to talk about politics or religion at family gatherings I obeyed. When my first husband always took the lead in discussions and continuously corrected my stories to perfection I stayed silent until I left. When my second husband stayed silent at my attempts to converse I adapted. When he silently made decisions with little input from me I seethed. I made plans to leave this relationship and then and idea formed.
I love this man and my only complaint is that I have to stay silent and be beholden to him because he is the major bread winner. I discovered I don’t. I’m not sure where that idea came from except that it’s rather traditional. I take full responsibility for the fact that we combined money after we were married, that I stayed behind in the shadows and let him decide things early on and so he became used to that. I allowed him to have the attitude that I just spend his money but I don’t have to continue that kind of thinking. I can change things.
I started my mission with delegating making dinner. It was a small thing but it happened one day when my husband had been laid off and although there was a menu plan posted in the kitchen, no one had made an attempt at dinner. As I descended the stairs after a long day working at home and realized that they were waiting for me to fix dinner I lost it. Big Time.
That night after discussion I realized that I had been a control freak in the kitchen and it was time to let things go. I assigned each one of us one night to be in charge of dinner, Thursdays were random leftovers, Fridays take out, and the weekends always had a standard grilling plan so we were set and I held my ground. I became his character sitting in the living room with my feet up while they struggled in the kitchen. I kept my nose out of it and read the news. It became a habit with all of us and we have all adapted well. Case closed.
My next course of action is to give up grocery shopping. I’m handing that over to the men as well. They can figure it out and we don’t cook intricate meals here so they will adapt. I’m letting the traditional wife meal planning go and doing more independent cleaning instead. I’m still contributing but on my own terms. On the weekend I don’t plan lunches anymore. It’s a sandwich day. As much as I used to love to bake and cook I now realize that my main motivation for that was love and approval and to show my value. I have plenty of value without that thank you. Now I don’t have the mess or the calories. Done.
There are plans for financial independence coming soon as well as increasing my income to either match my husband’s or exceed it. Until that day comes he will always have the attitude that I rely on him financially. That’s tradition and it doesn’t matter how much work the woman does in the home, men still often think that. Not every man but many still are the major bread winners in the family and still have an authoritative attitude because of it. There is also the reverse that the woman is responsible for everything and the man does little. My mother used to say that you either mother a weak man or serve a strong one in a marriage. I can only speak for relationships similar to mine. I would welcome commentary on how your relationship works.
The thing that bothered me most in both relationships was that I could not speak my mind. It’s been spoken and implied that I should keep my opinions silent if I disagree because it would disrupt the family. This doesn’t apply to my spouse as much as other family members. Both in-law families as well as my own have members that are radical, idealistic, or just plain damn rude. I do agree not to poke the bear all of the time. Being right doesn’t always make you feel better but I’ve grown tired of always having to swallow my opinions and yet have had to listen to the rants and soapbox speeches of others. Tired. I do know from prior experience that arguing my point to them usually doesn’t work but I can disengage. Luckily we live far away from both families now and I can set some easy boundaries. I don’t invite my dad to my house anymore because I find that I turn into that ten year old that won’t meet the cleaning inspection again. Dad’s a former Marine. Need I say more? Instead we meet at a place of interest such as Native ruins or a great place that has a museum and a hiking trail. Meeting away from each of our homes enables us to have common ground and the visit has points of interest to infuse our conversations. Quality. I won’t go and see my husband’s family in Montana anymore. My sister-in-law has imposed her conservative religious views on me one too many times. We haven’t been there in years anyway so it won’t be noticed. His parents come here a couple of times a year or we could meet them as well. Makes sense. In the past years I have culled the herd of crazy female friends that I have that didn’t nurture me anymore. It sounds harsh. Making myself crazy by listening to people complain about things over and over that they refused to fix didn’t serve me well. I cut off the friendships. I’m not sorry because it has brought me peace. I don’t look back. An alternative is fixing them. If you think it’s a relationship that would respond well to an attempt at that then do so.
Currently I have learned to embrace the fact that even though society says that social interaction is healthy I don’t really need it that much. I get plenty of that at work with conversations with clients and caregivers. I have just a couple of people that I call friend and I don’t have to talk to them every day. I am an introvert and I’ve finally learned not to be silent about that. I don’t apologize for not wanting to go out sometimes and I schedule alone time daily. This has enabled me to recognize that I can balance my needs with family and society. I don’t have to feel bad about speaking up for myself or for not doing what others think I should do. There’s so much of that in the world. I’m all for expressing opinions but I try to be careful about imposing my beliefs about anything on others. Although I don’t enjoy my sister-in-law’s extreme beliefs, I think that she has every right to believe what she does and to express it. I just don’t feel the need to be exposed to it. Instead of vehemently objecting I remove myself from the environment. People ask me how that damages our relationship. There really isn’t one. We are simply related by marriage but we’ve never had much in common or made an effort to bond. Nothing lost nothing gained. Some think that’s sad. It doesn’t bother either one of us.
My mission here is simple. I’m sharing my journey because I want other women to know that they don’t necessarily have to make the choice to leave in order to have a voice, in order to be at peace and to have a life of their own. If they do have to leave, they can survive well and make a new life. Women using their voice is more important now more than ever. We cannot be silent anymore.