My husband Seth and I take our dog Tanner on a walk together every night. It is our time alone to talk. Usually it goes very well. We joke around that it’s our date nights. Usually we have wonderful conversations filling each other in on our days. Once in a while we fight on our walks, but not very often.
We started our walk tonight and at some point, putting in a pool came up. My parents have a beautiful pool and live five minutes away. We have enjoyed their pool every summer. It is my favorite part of summer. Sometimes I dream of just walking to my backyard and having my own pool, but I am greatly appreciative of their pool. This afternoon Lillie even had a private swim lesson in their pool. We are very blessed, and I remember this every day.
Before I move on with our negative marital pattern that I think we fixed tonight, I want you all to know that I do not in any circumstances feel that we have to get a pool. Do I think that we can afford one? Yes. Do I want one? Yes. Do I have to have one? No.
I have not talked to any pool companies. There are a ton of them. I have not priced a pool. I have not gotten any details. I have heard through the grapevine that there is a waitlist for next summer. I don’t even know if that is true.
My goal in bringing up a pool to Seth tonight had to do with the fact that if we want one next summer that we probably need to get on a waitlist now. Seth’s response to me was basically that he doesn’t want to do anything right now. He doesn’t want to discuss moving. He doesn’t want to discuss putting in a pool. He said, “Let’s discuss this next summer.” There is no point at all in spending a lot of money on a pool if we are not staying in our current house. I am very thankful for our current house. I know our original plan was for this to be our second out of three houses, but I am also not attached to that original goal. I’m going with the flow and don’t have a current house plan. All I know, is that when Seth said, “Let’s discuss this next summer,” it struck a nerve. I was trying really hard to stay calm, cool and collected and to figure out what button he was pushing.
As we continued our two mile walk I started to cry. I hate when I cry. Crying is not weak. I need to learn this. I need to learn that it is ok to cry. It is good to let our emotions out. I feel more powerful when I get angry. I wasn’t angry. I was sad and I couldn’t hide the tears coming down my face as much as I tried to.
Seth was very perplexed and stopped abruptly as he realized I was crying, and he felt terrible. “It is not about the pool. It is just how you communicate” I explained to Seth. I started to realize how small I felt when he just shut me down. Here I was earning a really good paycheck every month and I wasn’t feeling anymore powerful. It wasn’t doing anything for me. I was contributing to our bills, but I wasn’t feeling like I could have the pool, the trip, the hot tub, etc. I wasn’t feeling any sense of control.
I explained to Seth how upsetting it was when he just shut me down. I explained that it wasn’t about having what I wanted, it was about not feeling like an equal partner. I told him I wanted us to actually have a conversation about stuff when I bring it up. Whether it is a trip to Paris, a new hot tub, a new house or a pool. Whatever I bring up I wanted to feel like a 50 percent partner who could discuss my dreams with my husband.
I could hear Seth in my head saying “It’s never enough. I never give her enough. She always wants more. She is a spoiled brat. She wanted more kids. She wanted more pets.” I felt worse and worse as I heard these words taunting me in my head over and over again.
Seth was hearing everything that I was saying on our walk. He was trying so hard to stay calm and not to be defensive. He never wants to upset me. He is a wonderful husband and if I calmly explain anything that is upsetting me, he always wants to fix it. I appreciate this so much about him.
Seth told me that he didn’t know if we were for sure staying in our current house. He was happy to talk about putting a pool in if we made a decision to stay put. He didn’t know if we were going to stay put. He would love a nice office in our house. Lillie would love a bigger bedroom. I would love a huge master bedroom and bathroom. None of these are necessities. We are very thankful for our current house. We could live here forever. We just needed to make the decision to stay put if we were going to put in a pool. He said this very nicely as we arrived home and gave me his sad puppy dog eyes. “I never want you to be upset,” he said in his heartfelt, wonderful husband way.
We sat on the couch and it turned into a very long discussion. I explained to Seth our negative pattern: I ask for something. Seth says no. I ask again. Seth says that it’s never enough and that I’m a spoiled brat. Seth gives me a hard time for a while, but eventually feels bad and gives in and gives me whatever I want.
This is a terrible pattern. Seth agreed with me as I identified this and mapped it out for him. Social workers are always looking for patterns. It is so engrained in me that it is automatic to notice patterns all around me.
I just finished the book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. It’s a great book if you haven’t read it yet. It had me thinking as I sat there staring at my husband. The book talked about having personal, professional, and spiritual goals. “You know what Seth? My constantly having personal goals is a great thing. I am a first born child. I am always striving for more. That is who I am. I never stay idle. It is not a bad thing that I always have goals that I want to achieve. Whether it’s a hot tub, weight loss, exercising, a pool, a new house or a trip to Paris. None of these things are bad. You tell me that ‘It’s Never Enough,’ and you make me feel so badly. That’s not what this is. This is me being goal oriented and a high achiever.”
It’s like I struck a light bulb in Seth’s brain. He looked at me and gave me a huge smile! “Now you are talking my language,” he said to me excitedly. “I can talk goals for days! I talk about goals every day at work. You just needed to explain it to me in that way. I’ll help you achieve any goal you want. Now you’re talking.”
We were both so happy. Seth ran upstairs to get my journal because he wanted me to write out my personal goals. Ironically, I wrote out 7 career goals the night before. Tonight, I started a personal goal list. We decided that we were both going to do this regularly and share them with each other. I want to help Seth achieve his goals and he wants to help me.
Boom! Negative marital pattern was just fixed! This does not mean that I get whatever I ask for. This means that when we have personal and professional goals that we were going to help each other figure out HOW to achieve them. We wanted to take the word “No” away and to replace it with the word “How!” We were both so excited. What amazing marital work we did tonight. I went from sad and crying to total excitement and feeling like a united partnership.
My personal goals may include materialistic things, but they also include marital goals, parenting goals and weight/health goals. I have been doing really well staying calmer in my communication with my family. I have also been doing well with working out every day and eating better (and less). I am constantly a work in progress. Am I happy? Yes! Do I have a wonderful life? Yes! Do I appreciate it? Yes! Am I still working on myself? Yes!
I hope you will look at some patterns in your marriage (or parenting) that aren’t working for you. You can identify the pattern and work together to change it. I hope this will inspire you to go make some goals for yourself. Share them with your partner or a friend! Share them with me! Make some marital goals with your spouse!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R