I tried something different…

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.


About A Beast Within

Trying to find myself, battling alcoholism, and other personal demons. Sharing the journey. View all posts by A Beast Within

7 responses to “I tried something different…

  • soberinoctober

    “No’ is a complete sentence. You did nothing to feel guilty about.

  • byebyebeer

    Yeah, it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. (how profound that we don’t even need a good reason to say no – my mind’s still reeling from that one.) It sounds like you both had a healthy reaction to life stuff…sick kid, the desire to stay a little later and catch up with friends, wanting to sleep instead of plan for the next days what ifs. If anything comes up tonight at home, maybe just tell her what you wrote here from the “I am feeling…” perspective. So hard to do in a marriage, but the few times I actually do it, I never regret.

    • A Beast Within

      Wow. You really uncovered something there and it really helped me. The “healthy reaction to life stuff”, that we both got to fulfill a desire. That’s what life should be, and I realize that although maybe I reacted ok – that I DID have some disturbance that things did not play out exactly as I might have wanted them to. Thanks so much.

  • themiracleisaroundthecorner

    I love reading your posts, because it is like hearing the flip side of my coin. Not only did you do nothing wrong, it sounds like you made great progress, in comparing self to self. So congrats on mindfully handling a problem differently, to what sound like positive results. The one thought that niggled at me as I read was the line… “I won’t do the last minute, had you been home as you promised, we might have been able to discuss this last night.” That sounds like there may have been some punishment doled out, unless I am reading it wrong. As in, if she had gotten home on time last night, you would have conceded to working from home today, but since she did not, you will not. Again, I could be reading incorrectly, but your child’s illness is not relevant to your wife staying out later than she promised. Having said that, I will reiterate, you handled a situation leaps and bounds better than you would have in the past, and you should be really proud of your choices!

    • A Beast Within

      Thanks for your honesty. You are hitting on exactly the point I am struggling with. My therapist tells me that it is acceptable to set a boundary that I will not be left with last minute situations because she chose to do her own thing and not be respectful of my planning. I have trouble setting this boundary without punishing, or feeling like I am being punishing. Maybe where I fall short is in having to “explain” because I have a fear that she wont “get it”. Given that, I could left that comment out and gone on faith that she would understand.

  • answerswillcome

    This sounds awesome to me. Nothing to feel guilty for. You know it makes me think of how my sponsor is always telling me to be right sized. That means I am equal to everyone around me. That my needs are just as important. It’s a fine balance, but you guys set out the rules, she didn’t adhere to them and you held her accountable. All good stuff.

  • fern

    I relate to so many of your thoughts and feelings. I need to do what you are doing! That is, express my resentments and anger so that it doesn’t eat me up and lead me to drink. I have this defect that when I am angry at my husband (even rightfully so) I think it’s not justifiable and I should keep giving all I can and continue to not complain. I have discovered that talking about A.A. with him (and him listening!) has taken a load of resentment away. It also helps that he’s helping out in the kitchen more and getting my boys to clean up their dishes when they are done.

    I wish for you that your wife could give back a little bit more so that you feel appreciated. You sound like a sensitive, perceptive, helpful and rare husband and dad. But since it is difficult to change others I will offer the advice my sponsor gave me: “pray for her.” Your wife most likely pushes your buttons in areas where she lacks strength. That must be hard on her, too. Pray for her.


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