I feel like I'm pretty aware of my good qualities and my challenges, but now it's confusing, because the very things that I feel like have been my admirable qualities, the things that make me a good partner, are perhaps detrimental. I know that there's a balance to be found, but right now, it's hard to imagine how to paint with shades of gray. I've thought that I was a good partner because I am flexible and accommodating and patient. I'm not in any way spineless and I certainly have no shortage of opinions, but I'm also those other qualities when I believe things to fall under the "small stuff one shouldn't fuss about" category. And yet, by being constantly accommodating and flexible I allowed myself to be walked all over too. How would it have been different if I had been less so? I don't think it would have been any more positive. I don't think the end result would have been different. Except that perhaps it would have ended a lot sooner and I wouldn't have my three boys.
Two examples come to mind. I'm still caring for his feral cat in the basement. I've asked multiple times for him to get the cat out of the basement. Actually, it was two cats, but he finally after three months took the pet one. There's always some reason why he hasn't been able to take the feral one yet. So, I brought it up in mediation yesterday. Get the cat out of the basement. I don't want to care for it anymore. He agreed to do it yesterday. He got the trap from work and was going to set the trap when he brought our eldest home from rehearsal at 9:00 last night. He came, and he had the trap, but he had a understandable reason why it wasn't a good time, why the weekend would be better. "Ok," I said. "I understand. That's fine, as long as it's this weekend." And afterwards I realized the pattern. That's what I always do. Let it go. Don't sweat the small stuff. Isn't that a good quality in a partner? Would it have been better to have thrown a fit and said, "You said you were going to set the trap tonight, so do it. I don't care why that's a challenge for you tomorrow"? How stressful to live that way, being so inflexible and confrontational. It's not like I really care, three, four more days doesn't really make a difference in the end, right? And yet, how does that accommodating behavior create problems in the end? I don't know the answer.
And then there was the dog on the bed. We never thought we needed a king size bed. We were such snugglers. Until the end really. Spooning at night even through all of it. Or most of it. Or more than most would have. God, who knows. But we learned that while the queen size bed was plenty big enough for us, it was awfully scrunched when you add a child or two (or three) and a dog. Often one or even two boys would join us for the last hour or two of sleep in the early morning hours. And for the last few years, the dog was always on the bed. I never liked having him on the bed. He didn't start out there for the first 5 years, but he ended up there because my STBEX wouldn't train him. If he wasn't allowed on the bed, the dog would wake him up in the middle of the night to be let out to pee. If he was allowed to sleep on the bed, he could sleep through the night. It doesn't take an animal behaviorist to understand that the dog was manipulating him to get what he wanted. Sure enough, when my STBEX was out of town, the dog would sleep nicely on the floor by my side of the bed all through the night, never needing to go out to pee or asking to get up on the bed (despite extra room). But even though for two years I complained almost daily that I didn't like having Murph on the bed, that it cramped up my legs and I wasn't able to sleep as well and I wasn't able to spoon as easily, he just made one excuse after another and continued to allow him on the bed. Again, I was accommodating and flexible and understanding and I didn't get cared for in return. I was less important to him than his dog. Did I cause this by constantly letting go of things that weren't important? Or would it not have mattered? Would he have treated me the same and eventually left me the same regardless? It's not like he was abusive or cruel. There was affection. There was good sex. There was shared laughter. There were kindnesses. There were presents. It's not like he was a monster. I wouldn't have put up with a monster. I felt like I was putting up with a human being. Recognizing that we all have our strengths and challenges and limits and that no one's perfect and loving him for all that was wonderful in him. So, ok, I don't get my way about everything. That's life. I'm not going to stop loving him. But then he stopped loving me. How are these things related? Or are they not. Is this just where I have to step back and say for the thousandth time, this is not about me. IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. He was a ticking time bomb of emotional problems that was bound to implode or explode one way or another regardless of what I did or didn't do. RIGHT?
So in the future, how do I keep hold on to qualities like being flexible and accommodating (which I have to believe are desirable in a partner), and yet, still make sure that someone cares for me in return? And is it really a matter of me having to rework who I am or did/do I just need a better partner, someone who put me first now and then? (Ironically, he felt like he was "dying in the marriage" because he was just "facilitating my life.") Is the only way to get that kind of partner to be inflexible? I don't want to believe that.