And That’s When I Snapped (Part IV)Posted: May 17, 2015
I spent the next day thinking.
I was distracted at work, and tired.
I felt anxious and sick.
I have learned from past experiences with my husband’s parents and my own parents, that you cannot dictate how people relate to each other. Even if a relationship is unhealthy or unbalanced, the only people who can fix it are the people who are in it. Additionally, people have to want to change. You can’t make those changes for them. If I wanted things to change, I was going to have to change me.
This didn’t mean that I had to accept whatever was given to me. It didn’t mean I had to put up with interruptions and drama. What it meant, was that I would have to set a hard line. No more trying to appease everyone else, at my own expense.
A detail I didn’t remember until I’d had a few days to cool off:
When The Wifey co-opted our date, and then sent me outside while demanding that Papa Bear stay in the kitchen with her, Papa Bear started to object.
She said “Really? You’re going to bail on me?”
And he winced, and said “Maybe.”
I was the one who tried to diffuse a fight by saying that he could stay inside. I took away his opportunity to set boundaries. To say “No, this is my date with Baby Bear, and I’m going to spend time with her.” I was angry and frustrated at him for spending his entire life trying not to make his wife upset, but I did the same thing. Because it was easier to let myself be disappointed, than to deal with her becoming hysterical.
That’s not to say I accept total responsibility for what happened. Just that I played a part in it, too. When he asked if she could make us dinner, I should have just said no. Or at the very least, “Only if we end up having time after we’re done with our plans.” I didn’t expect it to go the way it did–that we wouldn’t have time to be together, that she would expect his full attention while cooking, that he would have to spend even more of our precious time together shopping for and feeding her a snack. If I had said no, I would have felt like an asshole, and that’s why I said it was fine, even though its not really what I wanted.
At the very least? Lesson learned.
I thought long and hard about my boundaries. If I couldn’t expect Papa Bear to set boundaries with his wife, then I would have to enforce boundaries of my own to keep our time protected.
Here’s what I decided:
1) If he wants to pick her up from work, fine. I won’t be there. He can come get me afterwards. If he wants to be with me during the day, however (which he frequently does), then he would have to make sure she found her own way home. Whether that meant he and I taking a cab, whether that meant we just walked, whether it meant he told her that she needed to take a cab or walk. The “how” was up to him, but no matter what, there would be no more picking her up from work in the middle of our dates.
2) No more errands. No more stopping at the store to get her a pie crust. She can get her own pie crust, or he can do it on his own time.
3) No more texts in the middle of our dates. If the server at home is down, its not an emergency. If he forgot to fold the laundry, its not an emergency. Unless someone’s seriously injured or the house is on fire, there will be no interruptions. Period. He would have to set his phone to Do Not Disturb, so she could call if its a true emergency, but would not be able to text about nonsense.
4) No more chores. If we are hanging out at his place, and something around the house needs to be done? Oh-freaking-well. We will not put off, cancel or interrupt our plans so that he can clean the bathroom or fix her computer. If this happens, we will simply stop spending time there. Because it’s always something.
5) No more inviting her for part of our dates. No more “Well, we’re on a date, but Wifey needs me to pick her up from work, so can she join us for dinner?” Big fat NOPE. Because she ends up feeling slighted if he pays any attention to me, and they end up fighting.
That doesn’t mean I will never spend time with her. If there’s a group thing with everyone in our poly circle, fine. If we have a barbecue with all of our kids, fine. If its a double date? Fine. If she wants to have a girls’ night? Fine. But aside from that, nope. Nope, nope, NOPE.
6) I would be willing to stay out of their relationship if he wasn’t willing to assert himself. However, that would only extend to as far as their relationship didn’t affect me. If we were on a date and he asked me to abandon it in order to take care of something for his wife, I would tell him that he needs to tell her no. However, she is free to boss him as much as she wants when it doesn’t infringe on my time with him, if that is what he chooses to allow.
Additionally, he can talk to me about his relationship all he wants. If they have problems, if things are going well, whatever. Totally his call, and I’m fine with it. But if he did, I would reserve the right to give him my honest opinion. Even if that opinion isn’t complimentary.
I need to stop here and say that I was sad to have to do this. I’d wanted to be her friend. I’d wanted to be one big, happy family. The idea of that was one of the reasons I’d pursued poly in the first place–to give myself and my children some of the community we’d been missing. But it isn’t possible for me to be really close with someone who believes they should come first, 100% of the time.
That’s not to say that I would be ruling out having a friendship with her in the future–just that my relationship with Papa Bear needed to come first. I was afraid to have this conversation with him. After our fight the previous night (the first time he’d ever become angry with me), I wasn’t sure he’d agree to my terms.
Maybe he’d decide that it wasn’t worth it. Maybe he’d be so defensive of his wife that he’d decide he had no use for someone who wouldn’t put up with her bullshit. Regardless, I had to try. If it ended our relationship, I would have to live with that. Because as it was, we were being suffocated. I had to insist on room to breathe, or we were dead already.
(Stay Tuned for Part V)