Friday, November 07, 2008

Battles Lost, Battles Won

So he always thought I should be more reserved. A long-standing complaint is that I am too approachable, too much of a party-animal, not selective enough about who I mix with etc...

When I would argue, he would listen. At least he would appear to. He would appear to put up with it.

Now he says he tried and tried but he just can't put up with it anymore, that I have to change, that he is out of patience. He even plays the motherhood card now, tells me I have to change certain things because am going to be a mother.

The true extent of what I am being asked to do is becoming clear. It's not just a question of not going to clubs without him or not getting photographed while I do it. It's deeper than that. It's teaching myself to think of his feelings as I interact with people when we're not together. Something I still struggle with. He may always be on my mind. I may think of him and talk about him a lot when he is not with me. But I behave pretty much the way I always have. When I am out in the world, I have this different persona. The extrovert, the life and soul of the party, the girl who is ready to be with anyone as long as she doesn't have to be alone for a moment.

That's what it's about. It's not having people in my life whose presence there I cannot explain to him. That's what he really hates. Not that I go to clubs but that he has no idea who I'm with when we're not together, because a lot of the time I don't know myself ahead of time who I'll end up spending an evening or an afternoon with. He hates that I am in pictures with guys whose names I don't know. He hates that we can go out in public and I can be greeted by guys and then when he asks, I can't remember how or when I might have met them. He hates that there are still people who know me but don't know I'm even married and don't know he's my husband. Not because I mean to hide it. Simply because I might have ever met them only once - for one outing - years and years ago. All leftovers from a lifetime of just hanging out with anybody and talking to anybody to avoid being alone.

It's always been a point of contention that he likes to surround himself with a small group of people he trusts while I just like to surround myself with people. Stability, familiarity matter to him. Even his wild friends - much as I dislike them - he's known them forever. He likes to get to know people one at a time so he can take his time and seize them up and figure out if he trusts them before they're allowed to become part of his life. And now I am part of his life and he can't keep track of the people around me.

In response to the latest clash, I can't find the usual sense of rebellion. I can't hear the voices inside me that used to tell me that I have to be myself, that I can't allow him to mold me into his image of the perfect wife, that he should accept me as I am. Or the other voices that say well he can never be there for me all the time. There will be times when he chooses to withdraw from my life - either physically or emotionally - because he has other priorities or because he is punishing me for something. And what do I do then? Am so used to not being alone. I have no idea what to do with myself when am alone. None of that is resonating this time. Not really.

And - because he knows me so well, he can sense that this time I am not up to much of a fight, so he won't stop pushing until he gets his own way, once and for all. He won't execute a tactical retreat like he used to do in the past when he could sense I wasn't ready to back down.

Another reason why he wants this resolved now is that we are about to start a new life. This is my city. The city where I grew up. The life I have had since before I even met him. But when we leave here, I will be on his turf instead of mine. And he wants to make sure that our new social life is established on premises he is more comfortable with.

I guess he wants what he wants more than I want the opposite. I don't want to be a social butterfly badly enough to withstand all the hassle. I don't want my freedom enough to pay for it by putting up with his disapproval, his lack of attention - especially not now.

And he clearly wants me to change enough to put us both through whatever it takes, for as long as it takes for me to back down.

So he wins.

I think I've already changed. Probably not in the healthiest way possible, which would have been out of true conviction that it is right thing to do. I've changed because the look on his face when he saw that picture - and some of the more memorable things he said to me over this and similar things in the past - are haunting me in a manner that is affecting the way I behave. I've changed because after the long separation, I need him to be with me 100% and he's shown that he's perfectly capable of being physically here and yet being so distant that I am as deprived as when he was away. I've changed because I am having his baby and it is an experience I don't want anything to keep us from sharing as much as we can. It is so sad that we were not talking the first time I felt the baby move, that the state of affairs between us forced me to use our baby as an emotional bribe to get his love and attention. The same way I've had to use my doctor's appointments, my scans etc.....

Our baby is worth more than that. My baby deserves more than to be a bargaining chip for anyone - especially me.

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Blogger Um Naief said...

i'm very similar to your husband in choosing friends... it's important to be cautious.

i'll have to say that i also agree w/ your husband and of his expectations. i think life changes when you get married, and especially when you're bringing another life into the mix. that child's life will be a shining example of what your life is like... and you want to set a good example... but that doesn't mean being perfect.

no one can be perfect... and, believe me, if you try to be, it will exhaust you. no wife is perfect, no mother is perfect, no family is perfect.

i think your husband wants a wife that will be a good mother to her son/daughter. not someone going out to clubs, mtg tons of ppl all the time and not remembering who they are or where she met them, but a mother. not someone that your son might ask, "who was that man that said hi to momma today" or your daughter seeing men acting certain ways... like the guy in that picture.

trying to win isn't the key. i'm not judging you... just giving my 5 pecos... ;)

11/09/2008 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Just Jane said...

I don't know...I don't see why you have to give up part of who you are. I realize that your outgoing personality could appear inappropriate somewhere so conservative but you (and your husband)should know by now that you can be trusted, that you aren't doing anything unseemly. You aren't having an affair, you aren't acting inappropriately. Personally I don't see anything wrong with enjoying parties and meeting new people. You seem to be very respectable about it. It's not like you are going off alone with strange men!

It seems to be that marriage is a lot of compromise and usually the woman is expected to give up more. My guess is once the baby arrives you won't really be in the mood for as much going out anyway. You probably won't feel like it once you get further along in the pregnancy. This change would have come about naturally. Him "laying down the law" seems a bit controlling to me. But that's just my opinion.

11/12/2008 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

When some guy mistakes me for an easy lay, those are not really things that I personally feel gutted over. I see it as a case of mistaken identity. I know who I am. I always figured that those who don't know will find out, given time. And if they're not around long enough to find out, it doesn't matter anyway.

But people in my family - particularly the men - would find things like that slighting and offensive on some deeply personal level that I still find hard to understand. They would never forgive something like that. That person would be their enemy for life. Over an incident I'd probably laugh over with my gf's. And my feelings on the matter - or lack thereof - would appear to be completely incidental to their reaction. Infact sometimes the fact that am not upset would make them angrier. They would feel am not taking the incident seriously enough and will therefore not take enough precautions to keep it from recurring in the future and so they get frustrated with me for being cavalier about something so unbearable to them.

I remember countless fights over things like that growing up and somehow I never found an answer to the simple question 'why are you so angry when it happened to me and am not?'

Recently they have changed their tone. They tell me I need to change because am in my 30's and being so outgoing is not age-appropriate. Or they say it's because am a married woman. Or the latest, because am going to be a mother.

Different justifications but the real issue is that we are a culture that makes it simply impossible for a man to accept being confronted with another man seeing his wife/sister/daughter/niece etc.. as easily available for sex even if it is only an anonymous stranger for 5 minutes.

And I was naive to think my husband can ever become completely immune to that culture.

So asking me to be more reserved, less approachable etc...that's where it's coming from. It's not really about the venue or the time of day. If I was out clubbing all night with him or with people we know and trust, he would have no problem with it because then I won't be approached in a certain manner. But if I go to the grocer's in broad daylight and strike up a conversation with a stranger who then gets the wrong idea and thinks he's entitled to come up and say hello or join me everytime he sees me out in public, that is a problem for my husband. He thinks I take too many unnecessary chances of that sort of thing happening. He says I probably get approached/harrassed more than the average woman because of my 'approachability'. I'd have to see actual statistics to comment on that last part but he could be right about the first bit.

It's not something that is uppermost in my mind. If am bored in the supermarket line I'll talk to whoever is standing next to me, male or female. I won't think but wait, this guy might think am coming on to him etc....If he does turn out to be sleazy then I put it down to the luck of the draw and forget about it and probably do exactly the same thing next time round.

Maybe that's where the problem is. That because I feel confident nothing I can't handle can come out of a particular impulse, I don't recognize that something HE can't handle may come out of it. It doesn't occur to me. And maybe being part of a couple means having to run your impulses through that kind of filter. That I still struggle with. Even to myself, I don't think of my husband when people are sleazy to me. Because of my personal values, I've always seen myself as above this type of approach. The fact that I am married is incidental here. Even as a single girl, a teenage girl, I would have turned my back. So in my mind, these things have no connection to my husband or my marriage. Clearly not the way he sees it.

I don't know. I am not worried so much about now because like you both said what with being pregnant, I alternate between wanting to sleep all the time and feeling violently sentimental about impending motherhood in a manner I wouldn't dream of foisting on unsuspecting strangers. If I can't be with him, I much prefer to be alone or with close friends who will at least make an effort to hide the boredom.:)

It's the future that worries me. I won't be pregnant forever. And old habits die hard. I don't want to make promises I might not manage to keep. Friends have been giving me advice, saying things like if you're bored waiting in line don't talk to a stranger, call me, anytime, I'll talk to you. Which is sweet if not terribly practical.

So I've promised him I'll try to develop that missing filter. And he's promised to bear with me if I have the occasional relapse as long as I'm trying. He's also promised to stop drinking - which is a big deal for me.

I think we're both happy to leave it at that for now.

11/14/2008 02:32:00 AM  

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