Laura Doyle Relationship Coach
“Never Be Lonely Anymore”
Resentment. From the French word “sentir,” meaning to feel, as in feeling something over and over. Before surrendering, I was chronically resentful, which I lost no opportunity of telling my husband. I was overwhelmed, I was doing everything, I felt unsupported. My deepest fear had come to fruition: I was alone. Or at least it felt that way.
When I’d ask my literature students if, like me, they were feminists, they would recoil at the word. That always surprised me because, for me, “feminism” simply meant equality between the sexes. My definition of marriage was just as clear: a partnership. Everything would be 50/50: the bills, housework, childcare. But for some reason, again to my surprise, this was not working for me.
I already had one failed marriage and a failed rebound relationship behind me when I met Marco. I didn’t think people like him existed—I’d never known anyone so happy. He taught me to salsa, took me to the arcade, biked to the movies with me. Where the men in the past had been brooding and depressive, Marco said that the word “stress” was not in his vocabulary and that he was here to simplify my life.
But it wasn’t so simple. I was resistant to accept a peaceful romance and opted for drama. We were just too different. I’m vegan; he’s mostly carnivorous. I work days as a professor; he works nights as a waiter. I’m a reader; he’s a TV addict. I’m too serious; he’s too carefree. The naysayers in my ear said it would never work, and I feared they were right.
I don’t know why Marco stayed with me. I broke up with him on a regular basis. The security guards at my apartment must have laughed watching his TV go out the door with him, only to return within a day or two every time.
As I neared thirty-five, my biological clock was ticking louder than ever, but I needed to make sure he was “the one.” How could I have a baby with someone I couldn’t trust to take out the trash? I sought guidance daily but felt nothing but doubt. I was like the woman in the cartoon holding a sign saying “waiting for Mr. Perfect.” She was a skeleton.
Then, one day, he proposed. As we left the gourmet vegan restaurant (he loved me enough to eat raw swiss chard), I flipped on the radio, and the song “Going to the Chapel” was playing. Emotion overcame me, and I finally let go. My doubts and fears fell from me. I finally put both feet in and began to surrender. Today’s the day we’ll say “I do,” and we’ll never be lonely anymore.
The sky remained blue and the birds kept singing as we bought a house, adopted a puppy, had a baby. My fears of being a controlling parent subsided. My fears of being like those couples whose baby drove a wedge between them also turned out to be unfounded. I felt such gratitude for my dreams coming true that things remained blissful for most of that first year of motherhood.
That is, until Marco went back to work after a hiatus between jobs. Increasingly, I felt like I had to do everything, like I was the only grown up in the house. The happy-go-lucky demeanor that had attracted me became my bane. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to manage everything and failing miserably. I kept trying to come up with a system to make things run according to my standards, but my abundant chore charts and spreadsheets would have been more useful as toilet paper.
I sought out mentors in other self-help programs who listened to me patiently as I complained about—what else—Marco. I worked on myself, but even after I got some of my more glaring shortcomings in check, I continued complaining about Marco until one mentor suggested I read The Surrendered Wife. Now, it was my turn to recoil. “Me, surrender to Marco?” I thought. “I don’t think so!” But, I was desperate enough to check out the book.
Of course, it resonated with me. I was the control freak bemoaning her lazy husband watching TV all day rather than spending time with or supporting her. At the worst of times, he was incompetent; at the best of times, I was just smarter. By this time, he should have known there was one right way to do things: my way. Though he had barely cooked anything in his life, he would cook exotic vegan dishes for me. But I told him to wash the vegetables, which pan to use, how to heat the oil. For his inexhaustible honey-do list, I told him what to do and how to do it. I knew I had always been hypercritical (I am half French, after all), but I was better now. Or so I thought until Laura’s book showed me differently.
Respect? I used to quell the urge to throw something (preferably something heavy, large, and metal) at his head and settle for cursing at him instead, while crying that his cursing was unacceptable and traumatic for me. We would inevitably end up arguing about arguing, and I’d end up in tears, feeling lonelier than ever. With their chirpy lyrics, the Shirelles had lied.
My resentment took aim at his going out. If only he didn’t stay out so late, he would have time to spend with me, time to help me. I feared he was not one of the good guys and resolved to give him an ultimatum. Only, I knew I would not be prepared to carry it out if he did not comply with my demands. Not to mention, I wanted another baby and was soon pregnant again. I decided to keep both feet in and commit myself to Laura’s suggestions.
The first phrase I tried on was “Whatever you think.” It was freeing not to try to solve his problems or tell him what to do or say or wear. (Other family members happily fill in for me, and I sit back and smile, confident that my man has his own answers.) When I gave up micromanaging him, I found the silence to explore my own desires. Surrendering has been a powerful exercise in getting to know myself.
When resentment creeps back in, my favorite Intimacy Skill comes to the rescue: gratitude. Sometimes I force myself to find something to say thank you for, but it always shifts my perspective. We now have a culture of gratitude in our home. The other day, my three year old said, “Thank you for saying ‘you’re welcome.’” How do you respond to that?
My refrain used to be that I didn’t feel supported. Now, I feel so supported that it’s hard to accept sometimes. When I wanted to fly across the country for a retreat right after being laid off, Marco said to go for it. When I called two days later to say I wanted to blow my (soon to be our) savings to train as a coach, I was sure he’d say I was being naive. Instead, he said, “I think you’d be perfect for that. Go for it!” I long for the days of watching TV with that “lazy” husband of mine as he works multiple jobs to support me so I can stay at home with our two boys.
I’m still prey to the illusion that I’ll find the right system to Get Things Done. When I get the urge to dust off those chore charts and honey-do lists, I instead jot down my desires so they don’t run circles in my mind. Invariably, Marco snatches my list and sets to work to fulfill my desires. As he was leaving the house one day and I asked where to, he said, “To make your dream come true!”
Amid such gallantry, I feel like a kept woman. With a toddler and a newborn, the chaos gets to me sometimes. But even with baby vomit in my hair, it feels luxurious. When I feel overwhelmed or annoyed at Marco for not doing something “right,” I know what to do (start by washing my hair). I suppose I’ll have to cut the Shirelles some slack after all.
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