For the longest time I thought that if I wasn’t contributing to the relationship at every moment, that I was somehow shortchanging my spouse. I would find myself always thinking about what I was doing, focused on the task at hand. While I might be having fun, it always turned out that I was the vacation planner, so to speak: the guy who has scheduled every event down to the last detail, and when it turns out we can’t fit everything on the schedule into the day, I find myself worrying about it, rather than just stopping to smell the roses.
This happened during my last vacation: I had checked all the times and details for going to specific places, but things didn’t quite work out the first day, and the second day we never even made it to the planned destination, but instead we meandered around the city and explored the area on a kind of self-propelled walking tour. We discovered this huge literal playground, and spent the better part of an hour climbing on the play structures, going down slides, talking through these whisper-tubes at random people on the other side, just having fun!
I had a great time, even though I hadn’t planned the event. I had to let go of being in control all of the time. Being in control all of the time isn’t a need I specifically feel, but what I find more often is that I feel the need to always be trying to make sure everyone else has a good time. When I’m in groups I always try to make sure that no one is left out, or excluded, or short-changed.
I suppose I have a hard time letting go of that and just enjoying myself: just being selfish. I have a hard time receiving complements, I suppose. I’m perfectly willing to engage in activities where everyone is having fun, but somehow I feel guilty if someone just does me a favor and I’m not helping them out at the same time.
Why is it so hard to accept help? I think it has something to do with society perpetuating this myth that relationships should just happen and be awesome: that 1 + 1 = magic. 1 + 1 doesn’t even equal 2 in relationships: people need to take care of themselves in order to be happy in their other relationships: if you’re unhappy with yourself, you’re not going to be helpful or happy around others either. Another person is never going to make you happy in your own soul: you have to do that on your own (and perhaps your favored deity, but my point is that another person isn’t involved).
I always remember a Dr. Phil quote: I’ll paraphrase: a marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100. I agree with that: it takes a lot of work to keep a relationship going. I think the fact that I believe that makes it harder to just sit back and relax sometimes. The buck stops with me in my marriage: I’m the reliable one, who gets done the things that need to get done no matter what. My wife does a lot of great work and keeps me going, but in a much more variable capacity. She has lived on her own successfully, and I daresay probably kept a cleaner house (albeit a smaller one), but there are things that I always make sure get done.
I suppose she would do them if they didn’t get done by me. Worst case scenario, if the dishes were all dirty, she would wash one when she needed to use it. We take turns doing the dishes these days. Perhaps that’s a milestone of how we’ve improved our relationship: now we’re both giving to each other, making sure that the other doesn’t have to do everything.
Perhaps thinking that ‘the buck stops with me’ is something that I need to let go of sometimes: to let her take care of the house sometimes, to accept her giving me the relaxation time I need. I always told myself I wasn’t going to be one of those planners that ruined the vacation because they tried to make everyone do something when all they really wanted was to relax, yet here I am doing that same thing. I’m spoiling others’ good time by trying to make sure they’re having a good time.
I don’t know how it all comes together, but it’s clear that letting someone else take over needs to be OK in a relationship: let them give you a gift of a nice time. Everybody needs time to recuperate. I set up that massage for her at the day spa, so it’s OK if I take some time, right?
Relationships are complicated: even happy ones. As long as you have open communication things seem to work out a lot better. Give-and-Take doesn’t quite make for a healthy romantic relationship, but it’s not all-Give, certainly. Give-and-let-Give is probably the best way to say it. As long as you’re in a relationship with an emotionally healthy person, just be giving and thoughtful, and then usually they will be very giving in return.
And as always: as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody, do what makes you happy.