When I first started dating my husband, I had been out of work. I had just left a job and was temping while I looked for a permanent position. We were in different cities and I moved to be with him since he already had a good job. I couldn’t really find anything decent where we lived but got offered a job better than his in another city. We had only been dating about six months at that point, but we had known each other for 8 years. We knew that we had a shelf life on being able to go back to friendship. I knew I had a shelf life on being out of work before being supported would get to me. We had a long talk about what I needed to maintain my peace of mind in this situation.
I’m just not the kind of girl who can be supported long term. It was driving me crazy, it was putting unnecessary insecurities in my mind. I needed a way out and I was going to take the job. He was understandably hurt. I dont think he had never considered going a non-traditional route in a relationship for the long haul, but I made it clear that I needed to take the job. I could tell that he wanted to be able to demand that I not take the job and that it would be the end of it. I could see the wheels turning as the conversation progressed. He was working out for himself how much he valued a traditional marriage type relationship that he envisioned versus one where my work would always be important to me. In the end, it was only the first time we had to negotiate each other’s peace of mind.
We’ve done it quite often since then. We don’t call it that, though. We call it “leaving room for crazy.” Whatever gives me peace of mind isn’t always the most sane or rational part of the situation. It could be as simple as checking the door one more time or running back in to grab an extra set of clothes for our son. If it makes us feel like all is right in the world, what’s the big deal? Of course, not everything is small. Taking the job mentioned above was a big deal for us. It’s had a great payoff though. We know how important fulfilling work is to both of us and that sometimes we need to throw ourselves into work. We choose to make room for these developments in our lives.
We also don’t keep a ledger. We take the hits as they come from both of our jobs and we don’t keep score on whose job is more demanding. We’re at different points in our careers, but when we plan for a lifetime, the score doesn’t matter much. He knows that there are times in the future where he’ll need much more support than I will and he doesn’t mind so much that I need more for now. We’ve also gone through periods where one or the other does feel slighted, as though it’s overwhelmingly obvious who is making out in this deal even without knowing the actual score. We negotiate our way back from that too. Neither of us wants for these demands to be overbearing to the other. The balance sounds hard to keep, but it really isn’t. We just have to be open with each other and open to each other’s perspective. The hardest part is really just suffocating that selfish little voice inside that wants you to negate their experience and make it all about you, but that’s not right and we know it. The negotiation part is easy, at least for us.
Do you leave room for the crazy in your relationship? Do you negotiate peace of mind? Do you keep a ledger?
Join me again for more on gender issues! You can follow me here, @createparity, Google+ or like me on Facebook! Each medium contains this site’s content but some of the articles that get shared will vary