It all came to a head this morning when I noticed Mark had put two more bottles of shampoo and facial cleanser on our bathroom shelf. Space on this shelf is limited. There really is not room for all of the bottles on there now.
I had an instant reaction of anger. I felt like my space was being taken over.
Not wanting to rail at Mark for seemingly such a small annoyance and knowing it is best to try to figure out the reason for the big reaction before yelling, I have been mulling this over all day.
Why did this set me off? It’s probably a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ situation. A lot of my and my children’s space has been taken over since Mark, his sons and their cat moved in. I’ve tried the ‘come from a place of abundance’ perspective. We have so much space in our house. It is great to finally make good use of all of it. I’ve rationalized that it is only for a few years. The kids are growing up and out of the house soon. Enjoy it now.
But, I’m still bothered by the presence of more people and stuff. There are days when I feel put upon and taken for granted. I feel bad saying that, but I strive to be totally honest here.
Fear of losing myself
Since Mark has lived with us, I’ve done a lot more cooking, cleaning, laundry and food shopping. Summers are notoriously difficult for me with everyone around and no real structure. I feel pulled from one task to the next by everyone. I have very little self-direction. This summer my kids were home and Mark’s two sons were in and out. Mark works from home occasionally too. The school year creates automatic breaks from everyone, usually. I will be working at the high school full-time this year as a paraprofessional.
It is not like anyone demands that I take care of them or even spend time with them, but I feel obligated to the former and desirous of the latter. At the very least, I want to keep the house in order. This requires picking up and cleaning or nudging others to do so. I feel like a maid or nag, rather than myself.
My bedtime and wake up time have changed as well. Mark goes to bed an hour earlier than my usual time and gets up an hour earlier. If I go to bed with him, I miss out on time with my kids and relax time. If I go to bed later, I miss out on sleep because his alarm goes off at 5 no matter what. The cat still wakes me up in the middle of the night most nights too. It should be noted, Mark leaves it up to me to choose what I want to do, but often there is no best choice.
I used to have whole days and even some nights to myself. Admittedly, this got lonely, but I had time to get resourced, which gave me energy and made it easier to tolerate and give.
The other day I tried to sneak in an afternoon nap, thinking I had 45 minutes before Mark got home. Surprise! He was coming home early. He would be home in 15 minutes. I still took my nap, but felt less relaxed because I knew he was in the other room trying not to wake me up.
Lack of creative expression
As usually happens, I received a timely newsletter in my email. This one was from Gay and Katie Hendricks, the couple’s therapist super duo. In it, Katie described how she used to live for her husband Gay’s smile. She could anticipate his and their children’s every need. She eventually felt resentful. She was living for them and their happiness or approval. She said she forgot to love herself. I’m still a little squeamish around that phrase — love yourself — but I ordered their book, Learning to Love Yourself. I’ll let you know if it changes my view.
In the newsletter, Katie Hendricks said she started feeling better when she stopped being jealous of all the creative work her husband got to do and got back to her own creative work.
That made me think. I haven’t done a lot of writing this summer. I’ve barely managed a post a week.
I have not enjoyed cooking as much because I have to do it every night, in larger quantities and in alignment with food allergies.
I have not even ran or exercised as I usually do because of a knee injury and fear of waking up people who sleep in the basement next to our home gym.
We’ve had a lot of additional expenses this year so we curtailed traveling indefinitely.
My reading time has dwindled to a few pages before bed. I often feel guilty for reading then. I have the light on and Mark is going to sleep. He says he prefers I read in bed rather than reading in my home office. That takes away some of the guilt. Reading inspires me and gives me ideas.
I have not volunteered at church or in the community. I did volunteer one day at my kids’ rowing regatta. It was so much fun for me. I got to talk with new people and help out the team.
I miss all of these outlets. I miss being able to full-out express myself. There is joy in that expression. I miss the wonder of learning and exploring.
I get a lot of satisfaction from close conversations with friends, family and even my clients. I think I come alive during those talks. I need to add more of those, including ones with Mark. We have more responsibilities together now, but we have to make space for joy and closeness too.
I plan to get back to reading, writing and traveling too. With more creativity, I feel energized and more patient. I feel like myself. I am a better partner too.
I plan to talk with Mark about all of this. I can’t blame him for all of the changes and my frustration. I will take ownership of my happiness and unhappiness. I’ll lead, instead of waiting for others to pull me in their direction. I will ‘love myself’ by investing in my space, creativity AND relationships.
I’ve had the happiest and most loving days amidst all of this space crunching. The challenges are worth the growth and love.
Do you ever get lost in other’s needs? Do you feel like your space has been taken over? How can you spearhead your own joy?
If you’d like help getting to the stable point in your relationship, contact me for personal coaching. If you’d rather learn on your own time, check out my online courses in connection and insecure attachment at brendaknowles.teachable.com or click on the image below.