Saturday, September 06, 2008

Thinking About Process's questions

In response to my post, Confessions of an Irratible Wife, Process asks: "Remembering that we all replay our formative relationships, does this dynamic or the feelings you are having remind you of any other, earlier dynamic or feelings you had in a relationship? Once I answer this question for myself or otherwise figure out what's going on, I can usually change what I'm doing."

That is the sort of question my therapist asked me all the time. If my emotions right now seem even to me to be out of proportion with the issue, what am I re-feeling? If I can identify it, then I can deal with it. I can understand that these feelings are the feelings of my seven-year-old self (or whatever). They are important and they need to be respected and felt, but they are not my feelings now. I'm an adult and all that.

So...where does all this intolerance come from? Why is it that every way that I just can't seem to tolerate anything he does wrong?

Certainly it has to do with the debt, and yet when I think about the debt itself, I don't feel furious, especially now that we are working a plan and I know we will be okay. Okay, sometimes I get angry, but I am also angry (and mystified) by my own ability to "know and not know." When the financial planner asked us how it was that I didn't know Roland said, "Well, she never asked about more than one account at a time." And that was true. I resisted knowing what the total was -- and I never asked him how much he owed on his personal credit card.

Anyway, that is certainly part of it, but I don't think my reactions to him right now are as simple as saying that I am really angry about the debt itself.

I think that I am relieved and PISSED that he is so willing to turn the finances over to me.

On one hand, I think this is necessary. I think that he needs the cash allowance system we have in place. I think I do need to be the one who is keeping track of where we spend money and deciding if we can afford to go out to dinner or how much we can spend on presents.

And I think that is the problem...that is the childhood thing that is coming back. And I am pretty sure about it because I feel like crying while I type this. In so many ways, with my father and sometimes with my mother, I had to take on adult responsibilities when I was a kid. I was proud of what I had to do, protective of my turf (who would I be if I wasn't the responsible one who took care of things?), and at the same time resentful of having to do it. At my father's house I was in charge of things like making sure my sister and I got fed, and to school on time. When I left and Sis kept visiting, she stopped getting fed adequately. She hadn't learned to insist on being taken to dinner, to pretend she was really hungry at 4:00 so that we would eat before it was too late. I don't know if she took over setting the alarm clock and waking dad up over and over.

****Just had an "aha moment." I think it is the whole ritual of having to wake up my father over and over that is behind the RAGE I feel when Brian keeps falling back to sleep and I need to wake him back up. What I keep thinking is "THIS SHOULDN'T BE MY JOB!!!"****

So back to Roland. It is not the debt itself, it is that I am the one that has to be the grown up and fix everything. He cheerfully has turned everything over to me. When I want to ask him to help me make decisions like, "How much should we budget for birthday presents?" he has no response. He will limit himself however I decide. He is happy to be the irresponsible teenager and let me be the responsible adult.

And it is that that I am angry about.

And it is not an easy problem to solve, because I agree that he isn't good at budgeting, that learning to budget is going to be difficult for him, and that the best plan for our financial future is for me to deal with it.

So here I am again, being the adult while someone who should be sharing in the adult responsibilities gets to act like a teenager. So there are all these little ways in which I have always felt like I was "being the grown-up."

Like dealing with his emotions. Now, let me admit that I get upset too. I can be moody and unreasonable. I need to run away sometimes. In fact, it could be that I am more emotional than he is. The point though, is that there are times when we are having conversations and failing to communicate well. Typically I take deep breaths, speak in a controlled and calm voice, while he gets more agitated. He is not necessarily getting agitated at ME, just agitated. I feel like the adult helping a teenager de-escalate. Intellectually I know there are situations in which it is reversed, but that isn't the point right now.

The point is that whenever I am having that feeling that he is not being an emotional adult, my response is not to accept that he needs me to be the adult. My current response is either to behave in ways that feel teenager-y to me or to just shut down. I tune him out. I try to talk to him about my sister and he shows no more concern about it than I would expect from a teenager, and I decide I am not going to talk to him. He has trouble making a decision and I sarcastically tell me that if he tries reeeeally hard I bet he can figure it out all by himself.

And I do want to move past this. The things he is doing that are annoying me are not different than the things he has always done and, in sum, no worse than the things I do. Last night I came home from my second day of classes feeling emotionally wore out. Andrew has been cooking almost every night for a month and last night he came and told me that we didn't have the ingredients for the meal we had put on the calendar. Andrew and Roland both looked at me to figure out what we should do. I felt like crying and said in a irritable, childish voice, "I don't care what we eat. Can't the two of you just figure it out?" Just to be clear: I was the first person to behave poorly. Their turning to me and asking, "What should we do?" was not unreasonable. I am normally in charge of planning meals. Roland responded to my whining voice by saying gently, "Sure. Can we afford ... never mind. We'll figure it out." They bought pre-cooked chicken, bread and salad-in-a-bag at the grocery store.

The night before he was telling me a story and I realized that I had totally tuned out and hadn't heard a thing. I told him I was sorry and would he repeat it. A look of frustration went over his face, quickly, and he retold the story. I had to struggle to figure out exactly how I was supposed to respond to this story about his student. I really wasn't sure what he wanted and I said something lame like, "wow, that's interesting."

So...I think that is it. The recuring pattern for me is that I feel like I am forced to be the adult while someone else who should be at least also an adult is getting out of the responsibilities.

Sigh. There are all sorts of responsibilities we have divided up. I tend to talk about my jobs, but you should know that he does all the lawn care (just the basics, neither of us is a gardener), the laundry, and the vacuuming and tidying.

But the money stuff. I have all these conflicting feelings about it. I am relieved that I am in charge. To enjoy seeing the amount of money owed going down and the amount in savings go up. I both want Roland to take responsibility and to stay out of it because I want it to be my way. I wish that he could be adult and responsible about money so that I didn't have to worry about it. I would like to be the care-free one here.


We will get through it. Maybe seeing the patterns will help. I don't know.

Yesterday he came and told me that (10 days after getting his monthly "allowance") he had pretty much spent it all. I just said, "uh huh." He went on to tell me that he really needed to be able to buy treats for his students and that he thought that if he was really careful he would be able to buy it with the money he had left, but he wouldn't be able to buy anything else. I said, "okay."

I still have almost all of my allowance money. I did buy myself lunch in the student union yesterday since we were out of lunch meat and I really didn't want to pack a peanut butter sandwich.


  1. Wow, you sound so enlightened! I'm jealous. Sometimes I gain insight into my own issues, but I'm always shocked when I make the connection. However the times that I do, things get better quickly because the adult can deal with it rationally; notice the small child response, acknowledge it, and move on in an adult fashion.

    It's cool that you made TWO connections in one day!

  2. That is so cool. Wish we could agree on an allowance system. Mike refuses, He wont give up that debit card or credit card. He doesn't spend alot but sometimes he 'needs' stuff for his classroom too. I question whether it is really a need. He was supposed to work a job this summer at a learning center (he is a teacher too) and that money was to buy him a projector for his classroom and $$ to go see the Gators. Well he didn't work and still got the projector. The Gators are playing their 2nd home game right now and Mike didn't even approach the idea of going to the game. But I know he probably will as the season progresses. So I am praying not to get that resentment building up. Sorry this is so long but you are already hitting a sore spot in me. I can relate so much... (and couldnt ever talk about this on my blog!)


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