I weeded half of the front flower beds today. It was beautiful and warm and the sun was behind the house and I told Baby Bee to put some damn clothes on and out we went. She immediately picked a thistle with her gardening gloves on the wrong way, so she left me to my own devices until the Princess and Littlebit came out to help.
The front beds haven’t been weeded since the Princess’s graduation party two years ago. I hate to weed and our front beds are huge and instead of going out and pulling a little every week during the summer, we let it go. The Princess came home this week and informed me that our yard was the worst looking yard on the street, so I was sort of guilted into moving weeding up my to-do list.
Why hadn’t I weeded the beds sooner? Why didn’t I do it last summer? That’s complicated, but part of the reason was because I was waiting. It was something I did a lot during marriage.
A few weeks ago, my therapist and I were talking about what made a good partner and a good partnership. I lamented how difficult it was to get Big Daddy to do the things that I thought were important and that I thought he should want to engage in. Hanging an expensive, beautiful portrait of the Princess or fixing the dryer hose or weeding the front flower beds or helping pick out Christmas or birthday gifts. I wanted him to want to do those things. I wanted those things to be important to him. I wanted him to be my partner and do those things with me.
But, those things were never important to Big Daddy and, more than that, I was wrong about how that equaled or didn’t equal partnership.
This isn’t an assassination of Big Daddy’s character. It isn’t so you ask “What kind of man wouldn’t hang a picture?”. Plenty of men don’t and, beyond that, plenty of women don’t either. I was always capable of hanging that damn picture myself and I did within days of Big Daddy leaving. It was a ten minute job.
I believed, incorrectly, that valuing of things important to me (and vice versa) made a partnership. That, to be partners, Big Daddy should leap from his office at dinner time, roll up his sleeves and ask where first. That didn’t feel unfair to me because I thought that the house being well maintained and the simple repair to the washing machine or the help in selecting the absolutely best present should have been high on his priority list. He loved me. He loved the girls. He loved the family. I would ask him to hang the picture. I would ask him to ask the handyman to hang the picture. I would be angry because he never made hanging the picture a priority. How could he care so little about the goddamn picture?
Hanging the picture wasn’t a reflection on how much Big Daddy loved me. It wasn’t a reflection on how much he loved the Princess or valued the picture or our home. It wasn’t a reflection of anything except we didn’t share the same priority and I didn’t know how to separate myself out of it. I always had the handyman’s number in the phone. I always had the ability to google equipment and tips to hang the picture myself and I know had I done any of those things, Big Daddy would have been proud of me for doing it and grateful it was done and relieved it was off the list.
Big Daddy and I waited for each other, throughout our marriage. I waited for him to hang the picture. He waited for me to get past this panic attack so I could reengage. I waited for him to return the email or IM or text I sent about what he thought we should get the girls for Christmas. He waited for me to do the laundry or the dishes or take out the trash. There was so much anger and displeasure and resentment tied up in that waiting, and he and I were always in control of it. I was always able to hang the picture, pick out the gifts, weed the beds.
I was always able to stop waiting.
I mostly don’t wait anymore.
I make the phone call right away because if I don’t, I’ll forget. I return the e-mail or the text right away, because I know myself. I get up and clear the table and do the dishes and take out the trash. I hang the picture and repair the broken things that I can and spend an hour weeding 1/2 of the front flower beds. I think about the fact that I always wanted to plant phlox to help keep the weeds down and because I like them and never did because I was waiting for Big Daddy to want to plant phlox t0o.
Big Daddy will never want to plant phlox, too.
Marriage is about a lot of things. Common shared goals. Complimentary senses of humor. Love. A shared vision for the future. Inside jokes. Favorite movies. Memories. A little bit of selflessness (but just a little bit! Not too much!) Splitting the work, of course, but it is never about expectation that you and your partner would have the same priorities and it is never about carrying anger when you don’t. My marriage had to fall around me in ashes for me to learn what partnership was. It may be too late for Big Daddy and me, but it may not be for you.
Just hang the picture. You probably know how.