I always thought this saying was a fuckin’ joke. I would see a man who, in my opinion, had been swindled of his balls and been given khaki shorts and white new balances to replace them. He would have that pathetic look on his face. The one that sadly pronounced “happy wife, happy life” as he followed her through consumerism hell while she put shit in the cart that he would be cutting/assembling/painting/planting/raking/digging when they got home. These ‘-ings’ replaced other ‘-ings’ like motorcycling/fucking/laughing/passion-ing/strip poker-ing.
“Fucking unacceptable” I would say to myself.
So here I am, I don’t wear khaki shorts per se’ and I don’t where white tennis shoes. However, my wardrobe is now a wife-drobe (trademark pending). Thankfully my wife has great style… but the affect is the same; A part of me is now put together by her.
When we met I owned MY house. It was barren for the most part except my daughter’s toys. When my ex-wife left I replaced the essential furniture and that was about it. I spent a lot of Saturdays cleaning and cooking. Music playing all MY favorites from indie to gangster rap. It was the most romantic picture of bachelorhood you can imagine: a 34 year old white male bumping Tupac while making guacamole in his freshly cleaned house.
Today, I live in a beautiful house with my wife. We have furniture, pictures, decorations, and I don’t need to smash avocados with a fork anymore, there’s a tool for that. I still use a fucking fork out of silent protest though. My daughter’s room has a desk and decorations. There are really great things on her walls about learning, emotions, and tools to help her be responsible. I wouldn’t trade this house for the old one but the affect is the same; a part of my identity is gone.
When I was on my own I used to go grocery shopping every other day or so. I would buy fresh stuff. Enough to make the smoothie I was craving or to try and recreate the ceviche I had in Mexico. I also had some frozen crap for the nights I didn’t want to do shit. Of course, there were days when I got home only realize I didn’t have anything to eat or nights when my ex would bring my daughter over out of the blue and I had to scramble to find food for her. Now, we budget our groceries and typically only go shopping once every week or two. We eat well and there is always food in this house. There’s always everything we need in this house. “Were out of paper towels!” …nope. “Hey, is there contact solution?” …Yep. “Remember that thing…” …hall closet on the 3rd shelf behind the baby powder… it’s amazing but the affect is the same; there is less of a need to take care of myself.
Am I resenting the loss of my former self, freedom, man-hood? I am scared to become a “happy wife, happy life” casualty?
Well, I was. I was mourning and afraid before I realized that there is a difference between being a good husband, good person, and good father. I was mourning that “loss of self” until I realized that a large part of my former self is still needed. I realized that my wife did not take these things from me, I gave them to her.
She bought me clothes because my wardrobe sucked and I needed to take care of it. Sure, I dressed like a mac for work. Nice shoes, cool ties with matching socks, pressed slacks, and nice fitting button ups. Mix in a nice sweater in the winter, bold polos in the summer, and 3 piece suits for special occasions. Get me outside of work and I had 1 pair of jeans, left-over t-shirts from events passed, and one pair of casual shoes. Everything else was purpose built for motorcycling (i.e. stained and/or ripped).
She took over the grocery shopping because the way I shopped couldn’t sustain a household. Yeah, I ate well when I was single and always had enough food BUT there was never enough food for multiple people for multiple days. What were her options? Live in a home that ran out of food every two and half days?
So she made the choices she needed to. She changed because I wasn’t going to. The consequence is that she resented me. Who wouldn’t? She moved in with and married a fully capable man only to find out that he wasn’t… or at least in the capacity required of him.
The resentment grew. I watered the resentment and gave it miracle grow. I resisted change. After-all, I didn’t ask or even want her to do those things. I’m fully capable of taking care of all of them. Except for I wasn’t. I wasn’t adapting my behavior to the new situation. This lack of adaption became a reoccurring theme. It manifested itself in numerous ways including, but not limited to, how I paid bills, in the way I disciplined my daughter, and in the way I showed her love.
The presence of resentment in a relationship looks very similar to a relationship that lacks of trust. In fact, one can bring about the other. Did I lie, no. Did I cheat? Fuck no. Could she trust me… sadly, no. Why? Because I wasn’t showing up the way I was supposed to.
Now the task is to remove the resentment. But like trust, resentments are not typically built or taken apart easily.
Of course, its not all on me but I accept my part of the challenge. I promised my wife that she would get my best self. I AM better than I was but I’m not as good I could be.