As noted previously, I am the breadwinner in our household. I presently have one full-time and two steady part-time gigs, which pays the mortgage and the bills, funds the retirement, funds the fun, and the long-term goals and plans. For us, this works. My jobs are typically pretty well balanced across the daily spectrum, and M does a lot of the domestic/home chores and maintenance.
Mostly it works. Mostly.
I would be lying if I said everything worked perfectly 100% of the time and there is never any resentment from me for having to shoulder the financial responsibility for our household. Hey, I’m human. I allow myself to feel frustrated and jealous of M’s ability to sleep late and pursue his fitness and health goals while I’m at the office funding his more leisurely days. THAT is the voice of resentment, when I come home and the laundry basket is still full, the pool has leaves in it when I want to take a swim, and the dishwasher has not been unloaded and there are dirty dishes in the sink. To my credit when I feel that I don’t blurt out “what the hell have you been doing all day?” Because really, it’s pointless. I’m in a pissy mood from things outside our home and to take it out on M only means a provoking a fight that will make him feel bad and me feel worse.
What I do instead is start the laundry, unload the dishwasher of clean dishes and reload it with dirty dishes, and then start dinner. I calmly ask him if he can skim the pool so I can swim in it, which M is no fool and immediate goes out to fulfill my request. Later, when I’m much more relaxed and the edge of my resent has dulled, I will tell him about my long day at work and how coming home to more chores he did not perform makes me upset and feeling as if I am carrying the entire load for both of us. Sometimes he gets defensive, but usually he will tell me about his day and all the things I am either blissfully unaware of or apologizes for falling down on the domestic front.
But sometimes it blows up into a full-fledged marital screaming match. Or me screaming and him yelling. And he feels bad and I feel worse. However, the air is cleared and going forward there are weeks and even months where the household chores get done without the anger building to boilling.
I’m thinking about this today because I have this feeling of self-loathing because of my daily diet and exercise battles. Exercise is not fun for me; it is one of those things I do because I have to, a prescription that is supposed to make me healthier and make my life better. I keep wondering when it becomes something other than a dreaded chore.
M, on the other hand, loves to run and hike and camp. We would be blazing new trails across teh forest floor if I were an outdoorsy sort, but I’m not, so he either does that with other friends or by himself. The best he gets from me is hiking along prepared, well-marked trails traveled by hundreds of other hikers. He enjoys it, but not at much as he would rather be somewhere more remote. With lots and lots of hills.
This weekend some friends are in town and wanting to go hiking to a remote location, where it’s going to be hot and unpleasant. I love these friends, but no way am I enthusiastic about hiking up and down hills in 100+ degree heat. I told M that they should go and I’ll stay home and work. There was a disappointed comment about “always working” when we have friends in town, which of course was like lighting off a firework. My reaction was not pretty.
Perhaps if they chose an activity for which I felt more prepared physically, I would be willing to defer my work and go on a hike with them. However, he knows I am far from as fit as he and these friends, and 15 miles up and back significant grade in the heat is not my idea of fun. And when I am doing something like that because I feel coerced into doing it, my attitude toward it is not all sunny and bright and put on the happy face. No, my attitude is I am pissed and miserable and not going to bother hiding it. M replies that I have been working out and will probably be surprised at how much I can handle. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but the raw truth is I do not want to test it in this way, period, and the 3 of them should go forth and have fun pursuing this without me. M is hurt by my rejection of this, and I feel sorrow that he is hurt by my feeling, but I do not want to go out with buff bunnies, even buff bunnies I love, and slow them down because I am not in as good of shape and will feel badly about it.
In my defense, I know this couple and my husband very well. They have all been elite athletes in their chosen sport and have spoken openly about their desire to be challenged in training and not “babysitting” someone slower, less gifted, less skilled. While all of them are retired from competition and stay fit because it is their lifestyle, they have never completely shed their elitist attitudes. M would never state that he resents my lesser ability, nor does he give off that vibe, but we are honest with each other that I am always the weaker link where athleticism is concerned. I am not the granola girl who loves the idea of wilderness camping or backpacking. I am the city girl who loves nice hotels and smooth, paved pathways.
Our friends dear friends began as M’s friends and running compatriots. We have grown closer and bonded through the years as well, so much that they want to spend time with me as well as with M. When they are in town, they want to be running with M or hiking with both of us, yet the brisk pace they set is something I cannot keep up with and very quickly become miserable trying. So how could we be spending quality time together when they want to go fast and I, and therefore M, cannot keep up with them? Typically other local runner people friends come along as well, and those are not as diplomatic about my amature pace.
I am presently perplexed why M wants to put me into such a predicament. Had he and I gone out and tested this hike by ourselves I would feel more confident or sure about my ability, but we have not had an opportunity. He is enormously proud of my progress and consistency with the gym and our hiking this summer, and yes, I have made improvements. I am still socially awkward enough to not be able to handle the pressures that come from this particular group.
Part of it is my own insecurity flaring badly, which makes me dig in even harder about not going somewhere I am not comfortable. As much as I hate conflict with M, I would hate being out with friends and turning into a sullen woman resenting being pushed into doing something I really did not want to do in the first place.
There is no solution where everyone is satisfied and happy. So I am going to be selfish and put myself and my own comfort first.