Welcome to the journey of self improvement, where you do everything you can to find your self worth in the mirror rather than what is around you.
Yep, thanks. That's the challenge, and I totally get it. Hence the initial question of how to find what I need in the mirror instead of looking for something from others.
You do this by finding things you love to do, that lead you to feel better about yourself, and pursue them.
Yeah, that is the conventional wisdom.
My problem is, since having a kid and losing my career, 'finding what I love to do' isn't a particularly good option. The old adage, 'Don't do what you love - love what you do' comes to mind.
Money is tight, energy is exhausted, just trying to keep everyone fed and clothed and under a roof seems the daunting challenge. I have a 'to-do' list as long as my arm, and it grows every single day. My goal is just to get myself, my wife, and my son through each day, while finding whatever opportunities I can to ensure my son is getting what he needs to thrive.
Doing something 'I love' is so far removed from my daily experience - I'm just looking to make things not suck. Hell, I've burned pretty much all the free time I have for the week just posting here trying to make sense of my life.
Once you find the pursuit, you balance that with family time.
My problem with that is two-fold.
First, 'family time' is pretty much all I can focus on. The needs are great, and my abilities often seem inadequate to the task (see above).
Secondly, my wife has a high-powered, stressful job. Between working long hours and trying to be a good mother (god bless her), she feels she has no time for anything *she* wants. She has referred to my time at home (working my ass off) as 'free time', mostly 'cause she would love to be able to spend more time at home. How I spend my time is always under scrutiny as to how productive it is for the family. I don't have a lot of leeway for 'personal pursuits.'
I spent the better part of two years reading self improvement books, to include No More Mister Nice Guy, Hold On To Your N.U.T.'s (this is an absolute must read), Awareness, and others.
The first has been on my reading list (listening list, actually - I don't really have time to read, so I listen to books while I work) for a long time. The others are new to me; I will check them out. Thanks!
I got in the best shape of my life (at the time).
Funny enough, my downward spiral and dead bedroom started when I was in the best shape of my life. I've never been so strong and ripped as I was when the sex and intimacy departed my marriage.
I am pursuing my mission in life, which is to constantly improve me as opposed to trying to improve my marriage, and helping those around me. Funny that, as improving myself has dramatically improved my marriage.
Yeah, I get that.
One of the reasons I've focused on my marriage is that I feel I need at least a little breathing room in order to broaden my horizons. Sometime within the last year, I realized that my anxiety levels when I'm at home are ridiculously high. It's like I'm living under a dark cloud. My anxiety actually goes *up* when I know my wife is coming home (it's gotten a little better recently, but I don't really trust how long that small respite will last), because things are even more tense, at least for me, when she is around. Living in that kind of constant stress is really inhibiting my ability to be proactive in life.
Which is why I'm trying to learn to tune out the outside world and just live self-sufficiently.
That said, the key is to spread it around a little bit. Meet friend A for one particular thing, friend B for another, spouse for sex, etc. Your wife should not be your sole source of companionship, hobbies, etc.
And that has been one of the big problems. When I had a kid, most of my 'former life' friends dropped off the map. I could no longer focus as much on creating opportunities to hang out with everyone (I was always the driving force in my social circle). I became a 'boring' parent, and a lot of my friends became 'boring' parents around the same time, which meant that coordinating activities was a huge ordeal for all of us. I just couldn't put as much energy into my friendships, so they went inactive.
Now, I fortunately do have a close friend in my kid's best friend's dad (thank god my kid picked a best friend with a cool single dad). So he and I get together with the kids for several hours at least once every week or two, but that still is a far cry from the kind of 'adult' interactions I used to enjoy. We hang out and talk, but our attention is always split.
If I didn't have that one outlet, compromised as it may be, I wouldn't have any regular social life whatsoever. Which is, again, why I'm trying to learn to get by without needing anyone else for my happiness or sense of fulfillment.
She wants more from me? I give her a gentle reminder that if she wants more from me, she can start by doing more for me.
She already feels she does more than her fair share for me by working hard and making money. I work part-time to try to help make ends meet, but being old and having been out of the work force for so many years, it's not like I'm going to be able to take over being the primary breadwinner any time soon.
Additionally, as much as working part-time sucks, my part-time work pays extraordinarily well for being part-time, and it gives me the flexibility to help out with our son. Someone has to bring a sick kid home from school (which happens ridiculously often with little kids)? No problem, I've got it covered. I can cover the parenting duties so she can keep working.
I know she wants me to start bringing in more money, but I'm not sure who is going to step up on the domestic front to cover for me if I can't make it a priority any more. It certainly isn't going to be her.
She gets to choose our level of mutual engagement. Either way, I fill my life with other things besides her, and she can pursue me if she wants me.
Been like that for a while between us, though I don't really fill my life with *my* things, per se, just with taking care of the household and the kid (whom she does a lot of work for as well) while also doing my best to make money part-time.
That is not to say I don't do things for her, or that I don't consistently meet her needs. I just simply give her less of myself when she withdraws.
Yeah, she doesn't get a lot of *me*, but she doesn't really seem to need a lot from me, either (other than to take care of the household so she can work). She has been pretty clear that I am not her priority anymore, so she isn't that concerned. I know she would *like* to feel closer to me, but she is fine with not being closer at this point. I'm trying to get to the same place.
That said, if I ever felt that my wife was beginning to become overly critical again, I would simply tell her that all she has to do is say the word, and I will free her to find a better, more successful, more mature partner, at any time. But here is the rub: I am not easily replaceable, and she knows it.
I honestly think her calculus isn't 'could I find someone better' (she's probably realistic enough at this point to know that her options are way more limited than they were), but 'could I do better on my own.' I don't think she necessarily could do better on her own, but I don't want to make the mistake of being seen as dead weight, either.
Regardless, the priority is our son, and we both agree that having both parents in his life every day is far preferable to not. She wants me around for *him*, even if not for her. Which is why I'm trying to adapt myself as best I can to the new reality. I have no idea how he would fare, both emotionally and (not at all insignificantly) materially, if we split, and I don't want to find out. I'm trying my damnedest to make his life *better*, not worse.
I love big, laugh often, show tears and other emotions, make fun of everything in life, listen to my music loud and sing with it loud, have a twisted sense of humor, am incredibly driven in pursuit of what I want, and any number of other things that people may consider negative.
Apart from the possible over-emotionalism, I can't see how anyone would see those as negatives. Most people find those traits attractive.
The one thing that has proven difficult for me is adapting the 'driven in pursuit of what I want' to life as a parent (and a guy who is no longer in a good position to provide). I had some pretty eclectic pursuits that I was driven towards, but many of those no longer seem to fit with my responsibilities as a parent. Being a creative free-spirit is cool and all (and boy was I ever), but it doesn't provide for a family or meet responsibilities. It's sad, but I know have little patience for all the 'free spirits' in the world. Life just seems too hard for that anymore.
I stopped being ashamed of those aspects of my personality that I hid due to fear of rejection or criticism, combined with applying discipline to when I opened my mouth, as some situations are truly poor in which to inject something sophomoric, which I still likely do too often.
Kudos to you on that. I'm trying to get some of that back for myself, but I still have this overwhelming concern that everything I do is now seen through the filter of being a little boy's dad. **** that I used to be able to brush off with a brusque 'F-em' now hits me hard.
Bottom line: the more you love the person in the mirror, the less you need everyone in life to love you.
Yep, very true. That's my goal.
My wife used to make comments like, "I feel like I am raising two children" (my son and me) and I would feel shame.
My wife has said that often, too, but not because of my personality, but because of my 'neediness' and general lack of perceived value. It's hard to play with that kind of criticism.
She literally left you when you needed her the most, which was when you needed help finding your way.
As you ascertained, we're still together, but we both feel like we were abandoned by the other when we needed the other the most. She can meet my resentment punch for punch, unfortunately, even as we both feel the other is being unfair and that the hurts received are worse than those inflicted. It sucks.
Then, find your mission in life, and invite your partner to pursue it with you. If she won't, you continue to pursue it. This will likely lead to either your partner being left behind, or joining you.
This is always how I lived, so I whole-heartedly endorse this mindset. Unfortunately for me, all the rules seemed to change once I became a parent and my whole life fell apart. I haven't figured out how to recover, which is why I'm just focused doing what I can without needing anyone else.
Lastly, and possibly most important, is to mitigate your fear. All of us experience fear. How you deal with that fear will determine how well those around you respond. I am not saying to bury it, but rather embrace it, and understand that your greatest fears may be realized, but likely not. Learn to let go of the outcome. Learn outcome independence. Then, no matter what happens, you will be okay.
Very wise words, words that I myself often tell others.
What I am trying to learn now is how to maintain that critical outcome independence when the possible outcomes seem narrowly confined. It's like the reaction to getting turned down for sex I mentioned earlier - the rejection doesn't even bother me anymore. But taking any sexual expression as an outcome off the table entirely? That has been harder for me to stay independent around.
I feel like the key to being outcome independent at this point is to learn to embrace the available outcomes, if that makes sense.