I have had two radical belief changes in the last few years. One: I now believe our long term relationships shape our personality and temperament more than introverted or extroverted innate traits. Two: I used to believe I needed alone time to recharge and be at my best. I have recently seen and felt myself most energized and content when with others. It seems community gives me the most joy and fulfillment.
In this post, I want to talk about the second radical belief change. It recently occurred to me that when I was the most unhappy in my marriage and family life, interactions with others outside the house were the most limited.
When we moved from Ohio to Minnesota in 2005, we moved up socioeconomically but not socially. I left behind a weekly mom group and my then husband’s parents. My husband invested deeply in his new job. My world minimized to our home, the grocery store and the gym.
Perhaps a spiritual community?
We tried out one of the local synagogues. My ex-husband was raised Jewish. I was not. It just never felt like home to me. It felt like a place I had to constantly try to fit in.
Our son really wanted to learn more about Judaism. He wanted to attend Hebrew School. At the time, it mostly seemed like more driving back and forth for me. Three kids in after school activities, already meant a lot of driving. Driving kids around all the time without any real connecting, honestly made me feel very low, like a robot worker. I see now that our son may have been looking for a community too, and I feel bad I did not give it a try.
Partner can’t be everything
Author and psychotherapist, Esther Perel says we cannot expect our spouse or partner to be everything to us. They can’t be our best friend, lover, co-worker, co-parent, mentor and soul mate. It really takes a village.
When my children were in elementary school, I needed my husband to be everything. I did not have others to turn to. I remember thoroughly enjoying talking with our part-time nanny. She became a trusted friend. They say proximity is a big part of friendship. She was in our house half of the days of the week.
I thoroughly believe every caregiver needs a support system. Caring for kids, parents, friends, family, whomever, is not sustainable without an influx of help and companionship. We are meant to live in groups where each member serves a purpose.
I was so lonely in my home and marriage but felt like I was cheating my family when I ventured out into the community.
Thought I needed space
I misread my feelings. At the time, it seemed like I needed time alone, away from the house and everyone. I learned about introversion and assumed it was my introverted nature that did not align with my lifestyle. Too many people at home in my space.
Solitude at least allowed me a break from being ‘on’ for the family. It was never enough though. Something else was missing.
I need people!
I looked for outside endeavors. I took guitar lessons. I volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem and helped children and their families navigate child protective services. Using social media, I began writing and reaching out to others through my first blog, space2live. Writing classes came next.
I worked out five days a week, to go to the gym where I felt like I was part of a community. I felt guilty for doing that, but I realize now I needed those familiar faces and friendships. I needed to hear others’ stories so I did not feel so alone.
Social needs aligned?
I desired a group. The disconnection and frustration grew at home. It seemed like I could either be a good wife and mother or I could engage with others. The two were incompatible.
My husband did not seem to care much about socializing, except with his co-workers or his family. We had one couple we saw regularly. I enjoyed visits from his parents, but the vdisits were only every few months.
Don’t know what you’re missing until you find it
It is interesting that my first instinct was to pull back and find alone time. I assumed I needed space. Now, it looks like I needed friendship and support more.
I only realized my true need when I found it. I now have access to many communities: the school where I work, my church, my friend groups, my husband’s family, etc. This puts less pressure on Mark to be my everything. He enjoys socializing too. We often spend time together with others, but we both like our quiet nights at home just the two of us too. It’s perfect.
I look forward to nights with the kids. I even encourage them to have their friends over. I want them to have communities too. They are all involved in rowing, which gives them a fulfilling community of their own.
The balance between family time and community participation is more proportional. I have more energy because of it.
Have you had any complete reversals in your beliefs? If so, which ones and why? Are you introverted or just drained from a lack of community support and engagement?