I used to be extremely social. The number of plans and friends I had regularly exhausted me. It exhausted my husband, too, back when he was still my boyfriend. He didn’t understand it, didn’t socialize much, didn’t care. That struck me as just plain terrible.
So I kept at it, a social addict. I argued and modeled my theories ad nauseum: the responsibility to keep up with people, the importance of planning, the joys of gift-giving, etc. I wanted him on my team, and I wanted to justify my manic-like behavior.
I should have kept my mouth shut.
Eight years later (one of marriage, all eight of therapy) I am kicking the habit. I am a less social person, learning to measure my decisions against my personal needs, my relationship needs, and what’s practical. I’ve learned to not make plans the minute an idea pops into my head and to say “no” more often. It’s an arduous process but it’s helped me be healthier and more focused on long-term goals. I have a writing schedule. I exercise (slightly) more often. I spend more time by myself.
But in the process, he has become more social. He – the horror! – actually listened to me all those years. He has now learned how to reach out, make plans, and be effusive. He’s learned that these efforts are welcomed by the people who like him. He’s learned that a lot of people like him.
I can’t begrudge him that. Of course people like him! He’s wonderful! How gratifying that so many people I care about enjoy each others’ company! Better yet, how fantastic for him to know he is liked. That’s a soaring feeling. He – everyone – deserves to have it in spades. If I was still in the same place I was for most of our relationship, we’d be the unstoppable social duo and I would be in heaven.
Instead, I feel like I’ve created a monster. He now sees our mutual friends regularly while I’m at home writing or having that much-needed me-time. He stays out having fun, I go to bed alone. He has so much on his calendar sometimes that it’s harder to schedule dates for just the two of us.
The role-reversal makes me crazy and jealous. It makes me feel like a pathetic, needy stereotype of a girl, and sometimes it makes me act like one. “Do you like our friends better than you like me?” I recently whined in a self-pitying funk. He, a good sport, assured me he does not. But this gets at the root of the problem: just as I wanted him on my team before, I want him on my team now. Only, my team is new, unformed, and untested.
I know from experience that socializing is fun, diverting, confidence-boosting, and often delicious. I know who I am when I’m around my friends, what I mean to them and where I fit in the social structure. I don’t, however, know who this other girl is, the one who prioritizes multiple things – day job, writing, cooking, yoga – over the multiple people in her life. I don’t know that spending more time by myself and more time writing is going to get me anywhere at all. Not from experience, anyway, and not yet. The payoff for yoga and cooking is exercise and healthy food. The payoff for that other stuff is a big, terrifying unknown.
My relationship with my husband is caught somewhere between old me and new me. He wishes I was going out with him and our friends more. I wish he would hang out in the apartment for hours while I attended to projects that have nothing to do with him, just to keep me company. I understand how unreasonable my desire is, he understands that my priorities have shifted. But it’s still hard.
And it’s tempting to think dramatically: will we never be on the same team!? What’s wrong with us/me?? But the metaphor of there being only one team is needlessly problematic. Yes, we’ve done a difficult 180 on Team Social. But Team Football is four years old and going strong and Team Cooking Together, new to the field, seems to be picking up speed. I wouldn’t have predicted the formation of either of those teams when we first started courting.
The other stuff will work itself out. We’ve moved from heated shouting matches about it to honest (if teary) conversations. We’re paying more attention to saving time to talk to each other each night and to take ourselves out for a date each week. We’re going on our first international trip together in a couple weeks, and then we’ll have something else in common, something entirely new.
Then we’ll have Paris.
Thank you kindly, Moyan_Brenn for the photo!
Georgia Lowe works in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn with her husband. She always pronounces "husband" with a southern accent because she hasn't gotten used to saying it yet. She is from Minnesota.
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