Letting Go of Expectations

From hectic life in the USA to island life as a stay-at-home-wife, this blog follows the musings of an anxious Type-A as she learns to slow down and tune in to the important things in life

 

Category: Relationships

If You Can’t Handle Me at My Worst

You’ve probably heard the saying before. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote (whose actual author is unknown but which is commonly misattributed to Marilyn Monroe) seems to resonate with a lot of people.

It does with me as well, but a lightbulb moment changed the message of that quote for me. Now, those words speak to me in a much different way.

The Aha! Moment

It started when I was mad at Husband about something or other. We had just uprooted our lives in the States and moved to Grenada. He had just started medical school. We were both maybe a little stressed out. Ok, maybe a lot stressed out.

As I was sitting there, being mad, the quote popped into my head. If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.

Things were hard. And different. And he was really, really busy. Our lives had suddenly changed completely and he wasn’t able to support me as much as I needed or wanted during that major life transition.

I felt like I was at my worst, or close to it. I was at my worst, and in that moment, he wasn’t able to deal with me the way I wanted to be dealt with.

My mind went back to those words. If you can’t handle me at my worst-

But then it occurred to me. What if you turned the phrase around?

If I can’t handle him at his worst, I don’t deserve him at his best.

That changed everything.

How it Affected My Relationship

I realized that, though he is quite a bit more unflappable than I am, he had just gone through the same move that I did. On top of that, he was starting med school. We were both probably at our worst, or close to it.

Suddenly I began thinking about how I could be more supportive in our relationship, instead of just ruminating over what I needed out of it. I thought about how I could help him so that I deserved him at his best.

It seems really easy, in relationships, to think about what you want out of the other person. We spend time, even as we’re growing up, thinking about what qualities we want our partner to have and how we want them to treat us.

But how often do we think about what the other person wants or needs from us?

That is not to say that one person should bear the brunt of the work in a relationship. It is important that both people contribute equally. But maybe, if you give a little more, you’ll get back at least as much as you gave.

When I started thinking about what I could do for Husband to “handle him at his worst”, we both became happier.

The small steps that I took to help him become less stressed out also reduced my stress level because it gave me actionable things that I could do to improve our relationship. On top of that, when he was less stressed out, tension in our relationship dropped, and he was more able to provide the support that I was looking for from him.

Does the World Really Need More Relationship Advice?

The original quote is all about loving and accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and all, and making sure that the important people in your life do the same. While being treated right is incredibly important, it is also important to step back and make sure that we’re giving what we want to get.

I tend to be very stuck in my own head (hello, Anxiety), so maybe this reminder to step back and think about what you can give to your relationship is more obvious to some people.

But in a world where celebrity marriages end as soon as they begin, where the divorce rate seems to keep climbing, where people are always moving on to the next newer, better thing, maybe I’m not the only one who could use a reminder to think, not just about what you want to get out of a relationship, but what you are willing to put into it.

How to Improve Your Relationships

If you can’t handle them at their worst, you don’t deserve them at their best.

Try it on for size. Think about it. The next time you encounter a situation where you feel like someone isn’t able to “handle you at your worst”, try flipping the tables. When they were at their worst, what did you do for them?

Maybe the answer is that you did a lot for them. In that case, that might be a person who is using up a lot of your energy and maybe that’s not the kind of person you need in your life.

But maybe the answer is that you could have done more. Maybe you could have been more understanding, or taken a little more time out of your day for them, or sent that text message, or checked up on them, or brought them coffee. If that’s the case, and you value that person, maybe you decide to do a little more the next time.

That may just be the best bit of relationship advice that I’ve ever had the good fortune of stumbling upon-

If you value someone, think about what you’re doing for them to deserve them at their best.

Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

From Breadwinner to Housewife

First thinking about it, it sounded great. I get to quit my job and become a housewife?! Sign me up! Sure, I figured I would do a little more cooking and cleaning than before, but then I would have most of my time to myself.

I had this image in my mind of a housewife living a luxurious lifestyle including coffee dates with friends in the middle of the day and regular manicures. I knew that would not be me, though – and not just because it is too hot in Grenada to drink coffee. Being the wife of a medical student means lots of debt, a tight budget, little time with Husband, and lots of time spent doing the housework of two.

Let me back up a little bit, though.

From a time well before marriage and medical school, I always thought of myself as a strong person who wouldn’t ever change my life path just for “some boy”. I was an independent horse girl, and Husband (Boyfriend, at the time) knew that he would always be second to my horse. I had been riding for far longer than I had known him and he respected my commitment to riding, my passion.

While we were dating, we were essentially financially independent from one another. We had our own vehicles and were able to move about as we pleased. Looking back on it now, I see that we were moving through life on two parallel paths.

Then, on a glorious summer day, surrounded by our family and friends, we were married. It was a joyous next step in our relationship, but I really didn’t think that marriage would change things that much. We were already living together. We had been dating for three years. I figured we would continue on exactly as we had, but with new titles and joint tax returns.

One short month after we were married, Husband started medical school in Grenada. We were both well aware of the fact that if I didn’t want to give up my life in the US, I wouldn’t have. Truth be told, though, I was feeling burned out and thought a change of scenery would be a great way to re-connect with where I wanted to go in life.

After a brief period of time exploring the island together, classes started and Husband hit the ground running. That was when I became responsible for every aspect of our lives outside of his studies, and at first, I misunderstood what that meant.

I thought it was going to mean doing a little more laundry than I was used to, not changing the laundry schedule that I have always kept because that schedule doesn’t fit his needs. I thought it was going to mean making more of the decisions, not making the majority of them because it is more important for him to be studying.

I really grappled with this feeling of making changes to accommodate Husband. It sounds terrible, I know, but hear me out.

On the one hand, I knew that he is in school, he is incredibly busy, and him being in school now is something that is going to contribute to our future together. He is busy because he is driven to succeed in a difficult field and I am super proud of him for that.

On the other hand, I pride myself on being an independent person who wouldn’t change who I am for someone else. I also refuse to fall into gender roles and being the good wife who has a clean house and a hot dinner ready for her man when he gets home is not at all what I aspired to be.

I always had goals, and I attained them for myself. But when I was no longer sure what those goals were, or what direction I wanted my life to go in, and I seemed to be turning into the good little housewife without her own goals or aspirations, I began to resent doing the things that were my side of the bargain while Husband is in school.

It was only after a lot of reflection that I was able to understand the source of the resentment. I realized that instead of walking on two parallel paths, we needed to be walking on one path, together. His path was the one leading to a more stable future, and he had already made room for me on it, so I finally decided to leave my path and join him on his.

He is leading us down this path right now, but I know that will not always be the case. And now that we are on one path together, I am not doing things either for myself or for him, but everything we do from this point forward is for us.

Now, I feel like instead of doing things for him, I do them out of respect for him. And out of respect for me, he is giving me – as he always has – the time and space to try new things and have fun.

It was worth it, but it wasn’t easy. It was only when I ceded my expectations about what it meant to be a strong, independent person that I saw that I could be that person and help my husband through medical school at the same time.

Now, I am okay with being a housewife, because I finally understand that this is the best thing that I could be doing right now to help us achieve the future that we want.

And, someday, when I am leading us down the path chasing my dreams, I know that he will be right behind me.

Long Distance Friendship

This might come as a surprise, but I tend to form expectations about how things will turn out in the future. Shocker, I know. I especially do this with things that I haven’t experienced before, and then I cling to those expectations for security. I don’t like things that are surprising or unfamiliar, so having a clear picture in my mind of how things will unfold can be very reassuring.

Coming to Grenada with Husband, I had an expectation about how the relationships that I had with friends and family back home would change. So far I have been proven absolutely wrong. And I am really glad about that for a change.

Don’t get me wrong, coming to an island where everyone I’ve ever known is hundreds of miles away across a vast body of water certainly did change my relationships. It was just not in the way that I predicted.

What I’ve learned so far is that when you live near people, it can be hard to make time to spend with them. You tell yourself that you are too busy, or too tired, or that you will see them next week. Definitely. Probably.

You take interactions for granted because you will see the person again at work tomorrow. Maybe you don’t make the time to talk to someone as often as you should because, somehow, living in relative proximity makes you feel more connected to them than you really are.

When you live far away from your friends and family, though, there is no proximity, no chance to visit them easily, no thinking that you will probably see them soon. While this can put strain on relationships, it doesn’t have to.

Luckily, we live in a time when it is possible to communicate with people all over the globe almost instantaneously. Thanks in large part to this, my relationships with friends and family haven’t stagnated as I feared they would. Instead, they’ve just changed, and not for the worse.

Now, when I communicate with friends and family back home, those interactions seem more deliberate and meaningful. The scarcity of their company makes those emails and messages all the more important to me, and I don’t take for granted the words that we are able to exchange like I did before.

When you are able to spend a lot of time with someone, oftentimes the conversations become diluted with filler just to pass the time. However, when you are no longer able to interact with someone frequently, the conversations become distilled and you find yourself talking about the things that are truly important.

Distance can even open up fun avenues of communication that you probably didn’t use when you lived close to friends and family, such as writing letters. Maybe it’s because gifts are one of my love languages, but when I take the time to write a letter and put it in the mail, it makes me feel much closer to that person. It is also nice to receive something in the mail besides bills!

I’m not going to lie, staying in touch can be difficult. Sitting down to write to your friends is not nearly as fun as spending a Friday night out together. For those of us that are bad at answering texts or messages under normal circumstances, there can be an added layer of complexity when that becomes your only form of communication.

The effort that it takes to stay in contact with people will cause some relationships that were tenuous before to falter, but the effort required to maintain relationships, especially over distance, is not always a bad thing. On the contrary, if you put the effort into maintaining a relationship when you live far away from someone, it will only make that relationship stronger.
Another thing that I’ve come to realize is that living farther away from someone can even increase the amount you communicate with them. The person that I have experienced this the most with is my brother.

Growing up, we were always close enough. As we entered the bustle of college and adult life, we would see each other at dinner nights with our parents and all the extended family functions, but we rarely contacted each other just to talk.

Now that we’re in different countries, I’ve talked to him more on the phone in the last few months than I have in the past year, and our conversations are much more in depth than they used to be. I think that we used to feel closer to each other than we really were because we lived near one another and would see each other fairly regularly. Distance gave us the perspective we needed to see where we wanted our relationship to go.

I don’t think that you need to move to an island away from all the people you know and love to experience this change in communication and relationships. All the change in location did for me was give me a different perspective, and you can change your perspective wherever you are.

All it really takes is a bit of reflection about the relationships that you value, and making a commitment to not take them for granted. Make a commitment to see people more often, even if you just had to work late. Make a commitment to call you grandmother more often. Make a commitment to put even a little more time and effort into the relationships that mean the most to you.

It won’t be easy, but I think it will be worth it. After all, what fun would life be without the people who give it meaning?