I did my dad's laundry the other day. I patiently folded each article of clothing and piled them in a nice neat stack. I made a separate pile of socks. I hate sorting and matching socks and did not want to do it. As I stood there in the laundry room staring at all my father’s socks, I had a mini nervous breakdown as I thought to myself, I so don’t want this!”
Okay. At this point, you are probably thinking I am crazy. What’s the big deal about sorting socks?
Read on, dear friends. There is a method to my madness……..
I was married for twenty-one years to a very demanding man who strongly believed that women's work was for women but men's work was for both of us. Sorting socks was just one of my many responsibilities. He rarely lifted a finger to help me clean, cook, or take care of our son. I also worked in the yard: raking, gardening, sweeping the deck and shoveling the snow from our long, winding driveway. Whenever my ex-husband was involved in a home improvement project (he was always doing something) I was required to work by his side, painting, hammering, lifting, measuring, standing on ladders to clean out the gutters, repaving the driveway, pushing wheel barrows filled with freshly mixed cement-- sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I did it all, worked a full-time job AND went to school nights and weekends. I never had a free moment of peace or rest. I was owned and controlled; without a voice or an opinion of my own. When I began to rebel and tried to take a portion my life back, my marriage fell apart. I left my husband and my big house behind and moved to a tiny basement apartment with my son. I had peace for the first time in years. It was like being on vacation--and that vacation has lasted for years.
So what is it that I don't want?
I don't want to keep giving away little bits and pieces of ME until I no longer recognize who I am. I don't want to become someone else's property or be controlled. Something happens when I get involved in relationships--I lose myself. I keep making this same mistake over and over again. Eventually I explode and then I run – not walk-- away from relationships that could have been good, satisfying and rewarding.
I keep telling myself I am not meant to be in a relationship because I am too set in my ways and I love my freedom. I catered to my husband for so many years and I really don't want to do it again. EVER. Does this mean I am destined to remain single for the rest of my life? Perhaps. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be alone. I do have some serious commitment issues based on past experiences, but I long for companionship and the security of a commited partner. Not just any partner will do, however.
I need a very patient, evolved, self-sufficient, considerate man. I want the kind of guy who starts dinner if he gets home first and can do a load of wash, fold it, and put all away without asking a hundred times where the towels go. I would love to occasionally be served a cup of coffee in the morning. I want a guy who doesn't think candles are a fire hazard and wouldn't think of extinguishing them without asking if I mind. I would much prefer that he take notice of the romantic atmosphere, suggest we turn out all the lights and snuggle on the couch to watch a movie or a television program that we BOTH enjoy. If I serve butternut squash stuffed with quinoa and a big tossed salad for dinner, rather than sit there repeatedly whining, "Where's the meat?" he would remember I don't eat meat and don't like cooking it, either. So if he wants meat with his meal, he is perfectly willing and able to get up off his ass and cook it himself.
I am beginning to believe such a man does not exist. I have dated a few really great guys but I noticed that after spending a short time with them, they become helpless, dependent, needy and demanding. They completely forget how to make a pot of coffee, fold laundry, or take a girl out to dinner once in awhile. Suddenly everything becomes MY job. For this reason, among others, after my divorce, I kept men at a distance, insisting we keep things casual. It was just easier that way. I never stopped to think that part of the problem might be me.
I am in a relationship now but I will tell you, he is NOTHING like the perfect man I described earlier. He USED to be. That is what attracted me to him and caused me to break my 'NO RELATIONSHIP' rule for the first time in almost ten years. But everything has changed. Now I am expected to do things- like cooking, cleaning, and folding laundry. If he wants to stay in on a Friday night and I want to go out; guess what we do? We stay in. I work just as hard as he does during the week, perhaps harder. No one cooks or cleans for me or does my laundry. I take care of it all myself. I would like someone to cater to me once in awhile and do some things for me but that rarely ever happens. I don't say a word about it but I am secretly holding resentment and anger toward him. I can deal with it now because we only spend weekends together. I know that when Sunday evening comes, I will be back in my nice peaceful house and I can do whatever I want. I will not have to cater to a single soul for the rest of the week. This man says he loves me, and I love him, but I am absolutely terrified of taking our relationship to the next level. That's when I will reluctantly become his property and the official chief, cook and bottle washer. Sit and watch nothing but sports or the Discovery Channel. And never go anywhere or do anything I want to do ever again. I can't imagine going back to that kind of life, so I will have to say, “Adios, baby!” I will break his heart and mine in the process. You see, I have created a monster and with him or without him, I will end up being miserable.
How did this happen? Because I slowly began handing over pieces of myself to this man. I stopped expressing my needs, my desires, and my wants. I took over certain things like cooking and cleaning. At first it was cute and fun but now somehow my desire to make things a little easier for him every once in awhile became my responsibility. Now I am required to do these things and if I don't--I am accused of being a bad girlfriend. And God forbid I suggest that he stay in on Friday and I go out with the girls. It used to be ok but now, it's unacceptable. The really sad part of it is--I give in to him every single time.
I am such a strong person. I am very driven, confident and demanding in almost every area of my life. Except when it comes to relationships. This is why I run from them. If I want my current relationship to work, I need to change some things about myself. It's not too late to change things. If I don’t, this relationship is destined for failure. And the next one, and the next one, and so on and so on.
I know there are some really terrific guys out there and if you happen to be one-- more power to you. You are a rare find. I don't think most guys like you are born that way. I think you are made that way- by a very smart lady. Is my guy a horrible man? No. He is just not very sensitive and believes at this point in our relationship, if I want or need something I should take it, make it or demand it. And if I say nothing, then obviously there is nothing I really want or need. So he goes about his business as usual and rarely goes out of his way to consider my needs. He’s lazy. But it's all not his fault. Women made him this way. I made him this way. And now, I am starting to get a little nervous. The other day while agonizing over whether or not I should sort my father's socks, I realized that everything I have or don’t have in my relationship is my fault.
Moral of the story: People will treat you the way you expect to be treated. If you expect nothing, you will get nothing. If you want something more than what you’ve got, you have to ask for it. If we keep picking up the slack for other people and making it easy for them, they will keep taking and taking. People are selfish. They will always take the path of least resistance. They will run all over you if you let them. If you hand over the controls to your life, someone else will make all the decisions and plans for you. And they will have a whole list of jobs and responsibilities for you. Whether they love you or not. This is simply human nature and if you sit there and let it happen, you have no one to blame but yourself.
If you don’t want to sort socks, hand over the laundry basket and say “ Fold your own damn socks!” And then let them do it. Unless their fingers are broken, they are perfectly capable.
I didn't sort my father's socks. I brought them up to him and tearfully explained why I couldn't. He knows my story and he understood. My mom sat there listening and laughing.
" Your father can take care of his own socks", she said. "I told him years ago I hated that job and if he wants it done, to do it himself."
And this is my Daily Cyn.......