It has been suggested that sidling is an ineluctable trait of men. So, do I even need to change?
May will have to accept that I’ll never be amazingly empathic or good at understanding people and their emotions, but should she just take me as I am – infuriating (to her) habits and all? It would certainly be easier* to not make an effort and just try and get on.
This post attempts to set out my feelings as to why I don’t think this will really do – in doing so I’ll reveal a bit of my life story to explain the context of my behaviours and where I’ve come from to be in this situation.
May is already unhappy because of the craptitude the universe has thrown at her. My role, as a spouse, should not be add to her burdens by making her unhappy with me too, but to comfort and support where I can. I also feel this is an important part of my identity. It’s scary and difficult having the sort of person I think I am pointed out to be failing to live up to that, but it leaves me a clear choice: accept I’m not a supporting and caring person or become one.
I said in my last post that I have a problem with strong emotions and a reason why. However, I think I need to learn not to react with fear and self-stifling when they occur – just because they are strong doesn’t mean that they are extreme. This I’m hoping will be dealt with by some counselling, which I must confess I have still to arrange.
The other big issue is difficulty letting go and dealing with the other main ‘self identity’ I’ve had since childhood around what constitutes success in life. As a teen I planned by the time I was 35 to have a highly-paid job, own a house and sports car (impractical, I know), have a wife, family, etc. sort of ‘on way to be a millionaire’ type plans. While this is probably common in teenage boys, I think I took it probably a bit too seriously in my binary sort way. Careers advice centered around pay and not really what I would find interesting; luckily there were promising looking ones that I had the skills for – actuarial for example. This was re-affirmed when I got a very good A level exam results in stats – it wasn’t until well into my university course I realised how much I hated stats… bit of a blow. Second blow was not quite getting the degree mark I thought I ought to be able to (this also unfortunately meant that when May didn’t either I wasn’t as supportive and sympathetic as I should have been, probably still being slightly bitter). Third blow was not getting onto the bank graduate scheme – joining a bank on a guaranteed generous income and fast track to management (because of degree mark, I think).
So, I moped out of university into life. May was finishing her degree and actually getting to spend a year abroad**, while I had to pick up temp jobs and then enrolled onto a university sponsored ‘business course’, which I didn’t really enjoy. It was all very humiliating. I eventually found a proper job, very entry level – but at least in a tech industry I enjoyed. Fast forward a couple of years, just when all seemed to be going well (second job by now), a management change above me meant I was forced to apply for my own job – and obviously failed to get it because I was ‘tainted’ by previous management. This fourth and probably biggest blow (to me) meant that May and I had to give up the flat we had moved into together just a few months earlier (don’t miss the flat, but it was the principle of independence). May’s mum and dad extremely kindly offered accommodation within reach of the big city, but it took me six months to secure another job (I think stretching their generosity a little – there were a couple of comments towards the end of our stay – although May’s siblings have since made that look like the briefest of inconvenience). During this time I felt a complete and utter failure and once again humiliated. I was unable to support May in any way because I was stuck in my own misery – just at a crucial time for May, when with her PhD was going pear-shaped.
When I got a job we moved back in together into a flat in the big city. May’s PhD collapsed (through no fault of her own – I squarely blame the tutors) and left her bereft as I was enjoying the excitement of a new job – leaving her rather abandoned (again). We muddled on and I kept on reassuring May that I was happy to support her while she sorted her life out – however, that didn’t seem to happen. May got into to a very depressed state – to a worrying degree (which causes problems now – causing me to be scared of encouraging her giving up her job even though it is really annoying). We did, however, manage to get married during this time – so I carried on supporting May financially. We then started TTC, but in quite a casual way, I certainly wanted kids (and still do), but was in no rush as my plan meant we should really buy a house first. May did get a job (part-time initially), but unfortunately I think this just made my child-hood ambitions kick in again – perhaps we could get on the housing ladder after all, perhaps I could make this work out. So when another part-time opportunity came up at May’s work I persuaded her hard to take it too (me being controlling – a trait I have only just come to acknowledge recently). I supported her through her second post-grad degree and the miscarriage – but this was purely in a practical way, rather than emotional support (seeing the pattern yet?).
It wasn’t quite enough though – despite our joint incomes we were about five years too late to get something affordable in the big city… the housing market in the UK in the last ten year has just been crazy-stupid and I certainly can’t blame that on May, but I still have a feeling of what if/if only… for example, if May had got a job too rather than letting the ill-fated PhD peter out – would this have made a difference? This is not something I’ve consciously considered until now, but I wonder if subconsciously it’s been unfairly festering. I think it chimes with something May said the other day about me holding our relationship to ransom over this “ideal” (quite materialistic one, which May doesn’t really share) of how my (our?) lives should pan out. It really isn’t helpful and needs to change – as I said I need to let go, accept it didn’t happen like the unrealistic grand plan/pipe-dream and appreciate and enjoy what I do have.
So, this brings us up to the start of this Nutsinmay blog. The RPL has been tough, no doubt, but as we were talking about it last night – I have managed to let go. That is easier for me I’m sure, not going through the physical symptoms – but it did lead to May feeling abandoned (again) for a while as I barreled along with the rest of life. We have since come to a better mutual understanding of where we are on this issue, but I think for a time while I was happy to give May the space to grieve I had sort of gone through that very quickly and therefore wasn’t an emotionally supportive as I could have been.
Where does this leave us/me? Well, I don’t think all of this can be sorted by counselling, but there are definitely head issues that need sorting as well as certain behavioural things. The account above shows that where I have failed to live up to reasonable expectations of both May and myself over the years. I’m not proud of it.
Over the years May has suggested and encouraged me to read quite a few self-help books, which I have to a greater or lesser extent tried – a couple even resonated and helped a little – probably giving her false hope. One ‘error’ I feel May possibly made is thinking that she could somehow change me. You can never change someone else, however, you need to engage with them in a way they understand so they realise and accept they need to change themselves. I think this may have finally been achieved.
Change – whatever that ends up being, I don’t know yet – will be slow, I’m sure, (and as I said at the top there are probably some things that will never change) but it has to start somewhere. I think it should start here and now.
May, I’m sorry it’s taken over fifteen years.
*in some ways, at least until the marriage self-destructs.
**not as idyllic as that sounds really, but that’s not my story.