I’m Marrying Who?

Parenting and marriage meet in a sort of bizarre way: sometimes we assume that our mate is going to be like our parent. And sometimes our mate ends up being like our parent.

Crazy, right?

A few people commented the other day that they felt their partners really thought they were marrying someone just like their Mother. What does that mean? It means that perhaps a man thought that because his Mom did things a certain way, for example, took complete control of all child rearing duties, that his new wife would take on the exact same responsibilities. So when the couple had children, the man was shocked to find out that his wife wanted to share parental responsibilities.

What do you mean? the guy thinks. The wife is supposed to do the kid stuff. My Father didn’t change diapers and I’m certainly not changing diapers…

And then the trouble starts.

Why do we often think that all relationships are the same? Why do we assume the power dynamic will be exactly how our parent’s was?

Then you have the other side of the coin; people who marry someone without realizing how many traits they share with their parent. And it isn’t always the good traits. I know this first hand.

It took me years after my divorce to realize that I had married someone with some of  the same bad traits as my Mother. I’m guessing my rationale was that if your parent is supposed to love you the most, you need to find someone who treats you the same way. And while that theory is somewhat sound, the reality is that even parents with the best intentions don’t always do the right things. As we know from yesterday, the parent child relationship is often a rocky path, and sometimes only maturity will make you see how things really were.

Why do we often do this? I have no idea. But it sure makes me wish I studied more psychology. I’m hoping Deb jumps in here with some sociological explanation as to we unconsciously seek out people like our parents.

Today I am battling a bit of a cold- I think the stress of Saturday manifested itself deep in my sinus cavities. So this is all you get from me today.

But, as always, think about your relationships: Did you seek out a partner like one (or a combo) of your parents? Were they good traits or bad traits?

or

Did you expect that your partner would act just like for parent did?

Write my blog for me please:

The Comment

People often tell me that I look like Susan Sarandon. I don’t thing that I do, and I don’t think she is particularly attractive, so I don’t really like when say that. I do not consider it a compliment.

My Mother, Sister and Niece were over the other day. They were recounting a story about my Mother having told a waitress that she looked like Jennifer Hudson.

Fine.

The ensuing conversation went someting like this:

Me: I know that you meant it as a compliment, but maybe the woman doesn’t think Jennifer Hudson is attractive.

Mother: But she is.

Me: But maybe she doesn’t think so. It might not be a compliment to her.

Mother: of course it is. Everyone wants to be told they look nice.

Which then evolved into me being crazy, the whole world has gotten ridiculous if you can’t give someone a compliment.

Me: But she might not, and however you look at it you’re in a superior position as the customer and she just has to laugh at everything you say because her tip is dependent on how much you like her. You should never put someone in that position.
Mother: Well I don’t consider myself superior (now consider this said in a negative, whiny, superior tone)

Mother: Well (imagine a really haughty tone) I don’t consider myself superior to her

Me (or my sister- I don’t remember at this point) But you are superior in that she is serving you. Her tip, therefore her livelihood depends on what you think of her service. Just like why a superior at work shouldn’t tell an underling that they look nice. It’s a power imbalance. (who knew we’d end up talking power balances again)

This then evolved into a conversation about workplaces. I having been the only woman in the room who worked  as a female executive in a male dominated field said that I did not like when men at work would tell me that I looked nice.

My mother responded: Of course you liked it when people told you that you looked nice at work…

Let’s just say that my voice is hoarse right now from the amount of yelling I did. I stood there telling my Mother about what it felt like to be one of the only female executives on a floor full of men- open cubicle. How it was not how I wanted to be viewed. I wanted to be respected for my intellience, not my legs…

To which she recounted a story about how she had to once train a man who was going to make more money than she did.

So- I was emotionally spent, and relating a story about the topic at hand. And my Mother had to one up me with the one story she had about her 1 year stint in corporate America, which didn’t have anything to do with the topic.

And…my Husband is not usually one to notice things (seriously- I rearranged something in my living room a few weeks ago and he didn’t notice till my daughter came home) so when my Husband said:

There you were, spilling your guts out about how it felt to be on the trading floor in the 80s ad 90s, and she didn’t even say that she was sorry that you had to deal with all that. She showed no empathy at all. She had to counter you and bring the conversation back to herself.

Mind. Blown.

Because I am so used to a lack of empathy or warmth or understanding from my Mother, that it doesn’t dawn on me that she should be empathetic….

Which brings me to some of my own personality traits: lack of empathy and a certain coldness.

When you have been raised by an emotionally distant, controlling, narcissistic parent, how many of those traits do you retain yourself?

And when you have grown up with little warmth and empathy, you begin to think that you don’t deserve any: you begin to think that you are not worthy of it…

So- to all of you who say that kids are resilient- I would rethink that thought.

To those of you who think that parenting doesn’t matter: I would rethink that thought.

We are the products of our parents actions. Period. What you do and say, how you act begets the person that you become.

We all make parenting mistakes.

ALL OF US

Making mistakes is fine. But we must own the mistakes we make with our children. When your adult child says that the way that the parent handled something, or did, had a negative impact, as a parent you must at least think about what they said.

I have told my Mother countless times that the way that she did things was bad for my mental health.

But she still insists that her course of action was correct. She can not admit that she may have not handled something in the best way possible. I am 55 and she is 79, and she will not listen to what I have to say as a rational adult.

When my daughter came home last weekend, she said that distance has made her realize something about my parenting that was not really good for her. I admit that I was hurt, sad and angry- at first. Then, when I got over my initial feelings I began to think about what she said, how it was impacting her, and I thought of ways to actively change. My daughter wasn’t telling me that I was a bad parent- she was telling me her true feelings about certain things.

Why would you not actively listen to what your child is saying to you?

My Mother is not happy that she and I do not have a particularly close relationship. I understand that- because I am not so happy about that either. But her unwillingness to even think about what I say to her is hard to deal with. I leave an afternoon with my Mother emotionally drained and sad. My sleep numbers, which had been really good, plummeted on Saturday night because I was so upset. Two days later I am still not great…

When someone tells you how they feel because of something you said or did, you have two trains of thoughts: you can cling to your belief that you did nothing wrong, or you can think about what the other person said, put yourself in their shoes.

It all depends on what is more important: being right, or having a relationship with that person.

 

Highlights of the week that Was 2/23/20

Gratitude Saturday 02/22/20

Look at today’s date… you know I love symmetry…

This was a pretty good week- the worst thing that happened to me was that my hair looked awesome yesterday but then I had to put on a hat because I was cold… thus ruining the effect of my good blow out…

On another note- I have one of those five year journals- the same thing bothering me a year ago is still bothering me today- so this week I’m taking care of that situation…

But anyway…

My sister and niece came to the tri state area this week. I was supposed to see them the other day but my niece came down with the flu. Yesterday her fever broke so finally I get to see them today!

I am grateful that my niece is feeling better and we finally get to have an outing!!

 

Mighty Morphin Power Holders

Have you ever tried an activity because your partner loves it?

My guess is at some point, we have all done this. We love our partner, we want to be a part of their lives, and we want to be a part of something they love. That seems fair and reasonable. One day a week you go bowling with your partner, one day a week they go dancing with you, and you live happily ever after…

But what if one person joins every activity their partner enjoys, but there is no quid quo pro?

Should there be a balance of power when it comes to free time activities?

Think about your free time, and by free time I mean the time when you are not working, taking care of parents/children, or taking care of the house. (unless gardening or decorating are actual hobbies):

With the time that is left over- what do you do? What percent is spent with your partner? With partner time, was the activity chosen by you, your partner, or is it something that you both love equally?

If you are in a relationship, who is making the “free time” decisions?

I admit- I plan the majority of our social lives, so the balance definitely tips towards me: I read about new restaurants and activities and such. I keep a running bucket list of places and activities that I want to try.

But…

When I look at the list I think of which things my husband will love (cider tasting or archery) and which ones he will not love (embroidery workshop or lecture on flower arranging) If I take him to something he might be so-so about (documentaries or botanic garden), I include really good food. My husband will do anything if outstanding food comes into play…If we are going to a movie or the theater, I take him to the things I think he will enjoy, and save the other things for my daughter, mother, friends or I go myself.

Technically we are doing things I love, but I try to make the experience somewhat enjoyable for him.

But what if you don’t love your partners choice of activities?

What if you are constantly doing what your partner wants, but never what you want?

Have you “learned” to love what your partner loves?

Does your partner try to “love” the activities that you do?

What is your free time power balance?

Do you wish the free time power balance was different?

Assume that your you have a completely free day on Saturday with no responsibities:

What is your perfect day?

What is your partner’s perfect day?

Now what’s the Venn diagram…how much do you overlap?

Discuss….

 

Chameleon

Recently my Husband was out with a friend of his. They were talking about a party that we all were invited to. His friend asked if I would be attending the party and my Husband responded “No”. Husband went on to explain that I really don’t like social gatherings of more than six or eight people and would rather bang my head against a wall instead of going to a party.

His friend was surprised. His friend exclaimed- “But- when we were at that wedding, LA was the life of the party. She was dancing all night, and she commanded our table with stories and jokes. She was the life of the party!”

Now- life of the party is something that is never going to make it to my About page. I am the antithesis of life of the party- for the most part…

Extraverted introvert is what some call it. Also known as ambivert. I am mainly happy sitting on the sidelines during a social event. Actually, I am mainly absent during a social event. But on the rare occasions that I need to attend something large, I do have the ability to be “on”.

You’ll see me putting my right foot in and my left one out. You’ll see me wearing silly glasses at the photo booth. You’ll see me telling bawdy stories at my assigned table. That is me. Sort of…

If one were to meet me at an event, you would think (like my Husband’s friend) that I love the nightlife and love to boogie…

Am I a bait and switcher?

Some of my blog friends stated that they can be on the spectrum for any number of things. While maybe they don’t dress up and wear make up every day, they might love to do it on the weekends. Or they will occasionally think that a bowling outing is fun, but that doesn’t mean they want to join a league. They can be different people at different times, but all are authentically them.

We’re allowed to be different things on different days. I can choose to be “on” at an event even though that is not my “normal” personality. We are allowed to explore all aspects of our personalities and that is fine. As long as we show all these sides to our potential mates, it is OK.

The problem is when you deliberately go out of your way to be something that you are not.

My Husband knew at the beginning of our friendship (because we were friends for years) that I need a lot of quiet reflective time (he may not always give me that time, but that’s a whole other blog). He knows that it takes a lot for me to me “ON”, which is our word for when I am 100% personality and 0% reflective. He also knows that the moments when I am ON are few and far between…that’s why we term it ON, because it’s like I flip a little switch inside my brain and I am my alternate self…

Am I a chameleon? Am I changing my colors to fit in at a certain thing?

Maybe. Survival instinct tells us that we must blend in in order to survive. You could say that I am blending into an environment that is supposed to be fun and boisterous. I am doing what I can to survive the party…

Do we make the best of situations that we may not like?

Yup- most of us do at some point or another. We squeeze the lemons to the best of our abilities.

But is trying to fit in at a certain event a bait and switch?

I think it comes down to intention and expectation. If your intention is to try to fool someone into thinking that you are a different sort of person, then it is bad. If your intention is just to make the most our of a given situation, then I think it’s OK.

And with the make up and bowling examples- it’s OK to enjoy something 50% or 25% of the time. That doesn’t make you bad, or indecisive, or a bait and switcher or a chameleon. It just makes you interesting (assuming you partner or potential partner sees all sides)

As with everything, examine your intention, and ask yourself what the expectation is. Then be yourself…

 

 

What’s the Lesson

When my daughter was about four, she looked at a picture of my pre baby. She looked at the picture and looked up at me, and did this about five times. She looked up at me and said “This is you?” I said yes. She responded “What happened Mommy. You used to be so pretty.”

Four year olds. Got to love their tact.

My initial reaction was to wonder how I was raising a child who put stock in appearances.

And then I looked in the mirror.

Sweats. Oversized Giants T shirt. (I’m sure something was stained) Hair that hadn’t been trimmed in a loooong time. Perhaps my face was washed…perhaps not…

Unfortunately, I think you get the picture.

I’d had a kid and let myself go. I mean really go. Gone so far…

My reasonings are multiple and confusing. First off I was a mother and time just seemed to slip away. If I had extra time, ha ha ha, I would try to read or nap. Grooming was something I squeezed in. On top of that,  I had a mother who was obsessed with her physical appearance- I won’t bore you with those details, but it’s not easy to grow up the daughter of someone like this, and therefore, my goal as a mother of a daughter was to show her to just be herself and that outer appearance doesn’t matter.

Yeah right.

But at the moment my daughter wondered why I no longer looked like I did in the picture, I realized that I was still sending my daughter a bad message, even though it was totally different. I was showing her that Mother’s don’t take care of themselves. I was teaching her that when you’re a Mom it’s ok to put everything and everyone else ahead of being a person. 

I was teaching her that I, as a Mother, didn’t matter.

Mothers come last.

Mothers take care of everyone but themselves.

So yes- as many pointed out this week, many women ease up on the routines of beauty once they become Mothers. I totally get that. Been their, done that, had the stained t shirt…

But

There’s a difference between not spending as much time on ourselves and letting ourselves go.

Maybe you don’t have time for a hairstyle- but make sure you get regular trims and get a cut that is maintenance free. Don’t color your hair at all if you end up with four inch roots… And really-just wash and comb your hair on a regular basis!

Avoid sweatpants and your partners XXXL t shirts that they got for free as a promotion.

Clean clothes (I had a friend with a four month old- she was going out to lunch with a single friend . Her shirt was stained and her friend remarked on that and she told her friend “Doesn’t matter. Whatever I wear will be dirty by the end of the day.” True- but how much do we give up?

Lip balm and sun screen and moisturizer- these are preventive, not vain. Wash your face at night with cleanser. Trim your toenails and file your other nails.

You don’t have to look like you’re going to tea with the Queen, but you should do your best to be clean and neat. If your children and spouse always look done, why should you be odd one out?

We can’t let young children be an excuse for stopping maintenance. We need to spend a little time on ourselves each day.

We matter.

We have to treat ourselves like we do.

We need to send a message to our families that we matter. That we are not just spouses, partners and parents, but we are unique individuals who deserve to take care of ourselves, even if it’s just taking ten minutes at night to wash up and put on lotion.

Why do Mothers think they need to be martyrs?

Why do Mothers think that everyone else and everything else comes before them?

Self care comes across as narcissistic. I get that it can get like that…

But self care is also just that: taking care of yourself so that you can be the best you possible…

We matter. Let’s make sure everyone knows that.

Nope- Not Doing It

Lack of effort extends more to just physical attributes. Sometimes one will pretend to like an activity just because the potential mate enjoys it- men will say that they love going dancing, or a woman will say that she wants nothing more than to spend Sunday afternoons on the couch cheering on the local football team…and as soon as the courtship ends and the vows are taken…the dancing shoes and the team logo painted faces are gone…the courtship is really over.

Why do we do certain things when we are courting, and then stop once we’ve landed the prize?

I know courtship is an old fashioned word. And I know it’s not politically correct to say that some one might have landed a mate…but semantics aside, isn’t that what we do? Don’t we sometimes act one way before marriage, and a different way after?

I really don’t like skiing. Before I was married I would accompany my not yet husband on ski weekends, but I think it was pretty evident by my cursing and huffing that I didn’t really like skiing. And after we had our daughter, I stopped skiing. Entirely.

Was that bait and switch? Did my husband think he was marrying a skier?

I think deep down he knew that with a lack of time and disposable income my skiing career would come to a close. But deep down I think he was annoyed that I didn’t want to ski anymore…

Did he have a right to be annoyed?

Or did I have the right to say- OK- too expensive, too time consuming for something I get little pleasure out of?

Let’s flip the coin: I love culture- my husband likes it, but doesn’t have the same passion for it that I do.  Before we were married, he went to everything with me. Now, I pick and choose what I ask him to do. Main stream movies a yes, exhibits curated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a go, as is classical music. Anything cutting edge, avant garde or experimental is a no. A big fat no- because he just doesn’t enjoy these things quite as much as I do.

Was this bait and switch?

No. Just because we are a couple doesn’t mean that we have to like the exact same things. This is why we have friends. We have friends who share our interests and we spend time with them doing the things our partner may not like as much as we do.

So why do people present themselves as one thing before marriage and then stop entirely after?

Now my ex husband is a prime example of bait and switch. Before we were married he did everything with me. After we were married he stopped doing just about anything with me. it was a chore to get him to go to dinner or a movie or actually move out of his office. He was perfectly content doing 100% his own thing and not spend time with me at all…on anything. He presented as someone who did things, when in reality he was a hermit… On our honeymoon he wanted to sit in the hotel room and watch TV…that’s how quick the switch happened….He was ten years older than me and wanted to have kids, and on paper I was a good candidate to bear them… he had an agenda…

The problem with courtship is that we are living in an alternate universe- we have stars in our eyes and we might not see what is actually in front of us. Deep down we probably know that something is ‘off’ but we refuse to acknowledge what it is, because at some point we have our eye on the ‘prize’. Societal expectations are that we be paired up- many people still look at singles and say- ‘wow- what is wrong with them that they can’t find a partner?’ That’s when we let our better judgement slide away, because we so want to be part of a couple…we will do anything to let the world know that we are not weird, that we are worthy of love, because look…here’s my partner… I need this person in my life because I want to accomplish something that I can’t do by myself…

We often exchange our authentic self for a chance at the gold ring…

But then, once the deal is sealed, the papers are signed- we revert back to who we are because it is too hard to keep up the charade…

And does it matter if we change after the ceremony?

Didn’t we get what we ‘want’?

Expectations. In the end, it all comes down to what we truly want. Do we want to be in a relationship, or do we want a true partner? Do we want a biological parent for our offspring? Do we just want to be married?

Your end goal helps determine your actions beforehand- you may not think you’re planning…but you really are. If your goal is to be married- what lengths are you going to in order to get there? Are you willing to pretend to be someone else? Are you doing exactly what your potential partner wants just to snare them?

Maybe we don’t use the words courtship and trap anymore…but are we still performing the actions?

 

Toss Hair, Check Nails…

Last week I wrote about bait and switch, about how we sometimes don’t present ourselves accurately when we meet someone new or are in the beginnings of a relationship. G Sandwich remarked:

Don’t we all spruce ourselves up when we meet someone new?

That’s a fair question: I know I’ve agonized what to wear on a first date, or what to wear to a party when I knew the aim was to meet a guy. I’ve dressed more sexy, highlighted my assets, worn make up…done what I could to look my best… I mean, it’s sort of like the peacock fanning his feathers, we often do certain things so that we can be noticed by someone who we find attractive.

Fair point.

But how different is your “normal” look from the one you portray when you go out?

There’s a scene in the first episode of “Mrs. Maisel” where the title character gets up an hour before her husband, does her hair and her makeup and all, and gets back into bed so that he never sees her not looking her best. Of course- that was supposed to be the fifties, and I don’t advocate that behavior ( the lack of sleep would get to you after awhile), but I want you to think about this:

If you spend a lot of time and effort to look a certain way when you meet someone, to lure them in, why don’t you spend an equal amount of time once they are hooked?

In a relationship, how quickly do you go from full makeup and nice clothing to ponytail, lip balm and sweats?

I wear make up every day. I wear perfume every day. I do my hair (well- I’m not great with hair but I do what can be interpreted as working on it every day). I’m always clean. I do grooming every day. Every day.

I don’t do this so that my husband will find me attractive. I don’t do this so others will find me attractive.

I do this because it is who I am. I like make up and products and all these things. It is part of what makes me me…

If I am spending the day writing, I admit I am in sweats and a t shirt because that’s my comfy outfit for sitting in a chair for hours.

But…

If I am going out, even just running errands, I am dressed. I get dressed in an outfit with jewelry and accessories no matter what I am doing. I do this because I like all these things and it makes me feel good about myself. I dress for me…

Yesterday I posted a picture of a dress. I wear this dress multiple times a week. I might wear it with a short tweed jacket for going out to a nice dinner. I might wear it with a moto jacket if I’m doing something trendy, or a cardigan for book club, or a long flannel dress for a museum outing. I switch up the shoes or the accessories, but I look a certain way whether I’m out with my husband, my friends, or just by myself. (full disclosure: I have stopped wearing heels- it’s change/evolution/growth/whatever, but I try to wear “nice” flats or low heels)

What are you saying to someone if you really go all out to look good in the beginning of a relationship, but then stop once the relationship is going on?

Are you saying that someone is only worth the effort if you are trying to lure them in?

Why would you represent yourself differently?

I get that love is supposed to be about the inner qualities- appearances shouldn’t matter…

But…

Aren’t you sending a mixed message?

I must be attractive to get you to pay attention to me…

But then I can stop being attractive because now you are only supposed to love what’s inside?

Fall in love with the outer…

but then only love my inner…

If there are vast differences in how you present yourself to others when you meet them, there are eventually going to be issues. A woman might wonder why her spouse no longer shaves or gets regular haircuts. A man might wonder why his spouse no longer dresses sexy. They might love the inside, but the outer you was what was attractive in the first place…do they have a right to feel duped because you just don’t make an effort any more?

What’s the difference between sprucing up, and wearing a mask to hide who you really are?

 

 

Highlights of the week that was 2/16/20