Thursday, May 06, 2010

Time or money?

It often comes to a decision between those two, doesn't it? We can't seem to get enough of this fight lately. As I revel in my only year-old freedom from the hours and hours of running a dance program, E is just starting to face the professional world. He's having to make choices about providing for his family. Furlough days and reduced pay don't help anything, just as his lack of job from August to December really knocked us out. Back before he had stable income, he took on a Friday and Saturday project so we could get by.

We needed that money when he started. We were so financially strapped this fall. I think I tried to underplay it, but it was scary. The money would no sooner come in and we'd be on our way to Winco to stretch it into cheap canned goods and box dinners. More income meant more freedom but the Friday/Saturday thing continued. I'll admit I resented it a bit since it was his decision to work and not a joint one. But of course I assumed it was temporary and not something we'd be dealing with down the road.

Well now we're facing a potential pay increase for E and he's still devoting two days every weekend to this side job. I resent it. I know this is because I didn't have a say in the decision to begin with, but I also resent his time away from the family. My not getting to have an opinion is a touchy issue for me. It makes me feel disrespected when I don’t have a say. But the time away thing weighs heavy on me too. I know that when I was teaching and spending every available minute at work because I thought it was the right thing to do for my family, I ended up actually hurting my family by taking myself away from them. I know that I've reshuffled my priorities this last year, and it's hard to imagine why he hasn't just followed suit. I know. I'm laughable. I always expect everyone to share my personal enlightenment. Ridiculous. I made it worse by letting this weekend work thing go for a long time--to the point that now I'm really upset about it but incapable of talking about it without devolving into an "ugly cry" display.

E sees this as a financial decision. Well, he sees this as a "feel trapped/compelled/forced to work because I don’t want to get to the last week of the month and have no food or gas and have to put off bill-paying" decision. (I just emailed him as I always do to have him read this before I posted it and make sure he's okay with it.) To me it's not purely about money or even providing, it's so much about time and how I feel about our family.  I'm more of the mindset that we could adjust to work with what we are already earning.  But I have a hard time sorting the issues.  Remember my post about men and women, waffles and spaghetti? Everything is always wrapped up in my mind: a big tangled mess. A decision about money isn't just a money decision, it's a time away decision, and it speaks about where his priorities lie. Of course he sees this as the ultimate display of priority--his ability to provide for his family after years of being home and not being the breadwinner. We're complicated. I understand this.

I just get scared. Many people have to wonder about what their marriage might look like if they let if "get to that place" where terrible things get shouted in the night and people pack up and go. I know. I've seen it, and I don't want to ever again. I'm so scared of going there if we don't protect our relationship, even though all signs point to this being an ordinary stumbling block on what is otherwise a very happy road. Our marriage is too important to let things fester and breed resentment. We've been there. Sometimes just that fear in me is enough to create the very kind of scenario I’m dreading.  And I know E would argue that not being able to eat is pretty high on the priority list too.  *sigh*

I think it's worth mentioning because one of the side effects of us not having as many arguments/fights/battles/disagreements now that things are pretty stable is that we don't necessarily remember how to deal with them. What we fall back on are the old patterns that we've had since we were sixteen--the same ones that almost led us to divorce. When we first went through Retrouvaille and learned the little baby steps that it would take to communicate and rebuild our broken marriage, we had plenty of opportunities to practice. Time passed, we got lazy about working the steps, and now they're unfamiliar. That doesn't mean they're gone, but we find ourselves saying "remember in Retrouvaille, how they said..." quite often. Unfortunately sometimes that takes the tone of "hey, you FORGOT that in Retrouvaille they said..." or "I know Retrouvaille said this, but here's why they're wrong." We can be so ugly when we fight.

Last night we finally got to a place with this discussion where we could at least allow the issue some breathing room and allow ourselves some peace. It's not fixed, but we agreed on a date in the future when we can take it up again and reevaluate. I feel good about that. I also feel good knowing that no matter how much we disagree about this, neither of us is going anywhere. But I really hope that we can do what we know how to do and use a healthy process to make a decision. I know we both still have feelings about how we spend our time and money, and we both deserve to feel heard and acknowledged. I know the skills are there, even though we haven't had to use them in a while. And what a blessing that is, right? We get along so well that we don't know how to fight right anymore. Ha. That was not our marriage a few years ago.

In the end this will always be one of our "issues." It's one of the ways we're different, and that difference is what makes our marriage worthwhile for me. I need to think things through and express my own opinion. I'm stubborn. So is E. So this is what we do. :)


  1. This reminds me of that man book every Christian guy seems to have read that I am totally blanking on (Eldridge is the authors name, I believe). Men don't feel like men unless they are a big source of the provisions for a family. And that sucks... because we (as women!) know that there is more than just providing the basic food/shelter/water. I guess maybe at some point there will be the realization that no kid ever looks back and thinks about all the times good food was placed on the table, but they do remember those day trips to the zoo every other weekend!

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