I need to write this out. For some, it may sound ridiculous but this kind of thing I struggle with greatly, especially in sobriety, and for me it has everything to do with drinking and my recovery program. The conflict between “being of service” to others, and setting my boundaries. The difficulty of examining my motives and digging out whether I am letting others experience consequences or trying to punish them. The struggle of “detaching with love”.
Some background: I have always gone to great lengths to help out at home, more than most other working husbands I would say. I am not sure the motivations were always clean. Looking for appreciation, feeling superior others, protecting my drinking, avoidance of guilt for not pulling my weight, and still some genuine goodness of wanting to help out and do my part. But I am a scorekeeper, I expect equal retribution, respect, and gratitude for my efforts. This almost always ended up taking my relationship at home to a bad place.
Last night my wife went to a book club at a restaurant and I went to a recovery meeting, we both said we would be home by 9. Older son was left in charge, 5 year old daughter was coming down with something and carpool rides to school etc. for today were in question. I was home at 9 and took care of business with the kids. I woke at 10:30 and called my wife, she was just on the way home and apologized for her inability to stop talking with her friends. At that time (still on the phone in her car) she wanted to start talking about todays plans, I told her I was sleeping. This is a sore spot with us, she often does this and I end up being the one bailing her out for not sticking to her plans, complete with tons of resentment. I did not beat her up about it, which is a positive change. Typically I would have made this an argument right there and then, which would have made me the bad guy and taken away any opportunity I had to set my boundaries.
This morning she woke and was all worried about her schedule because she works part time and my daughter was indeed sick. She said something like “…unless you want to work at home today”. I did not answer (but remained friendly) as I was thinking it over. I decided to go into the office, and I said to her “I won’t do the last minute, we could have discussed it last night had you stuck to your plans of getting home at 9” (I am thinking this is my boundary). She reacted peacefully and stated that she might need help tomorrow, I agreed that I could do that. We did not argue. In the past this situation would have almost always ended with me telling her how wrong she was, and probably me staying home with my daughter, and being resentful and self-righteously angry about the whole thing.
So what’s the problem? I feel guilty. Did I do the right thing? Should I just have been of service? Was I really setting my boundary or just being petty? I did not have to go into the office today. I would have found it easier to do this if I had a reason, a meeting in the office or something. My therapist told me a couple of weeks ago that I have a problem saying no if I don’t have a reason, and I think he is talking about this exact type of situation. I want to let it go, but I still need to be mindful of this situation. If I get home and she starts complaining about her rough day, my guilt and fear will surface and I would typically react in anger. That would wipe out any progress I might have made, either with myself or with her.
So here I am. I tried something different. I feel partly empowered, partly guilty, but NO resentment. Wondering if I did the right thing.
Very interested to hear any comments on this, good or bad.