As Good As It’s Going to GetPosted: May 30, 2015
For months, something about my relationship with Papa Bear had been nagging at me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could trace it very specifically back to the weeks before The Wifey was going to be out of town, first with her (now ex) boyfriend, then at a design convention. Papa Bear was soooo excited about this. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to be able to just spend as much time as he wants with me. He acted like it was a vacation for us, even though we weren’t going anywhere.
That’s when something started feeling off. When we were together, I felt anxious, and needed to have a drink to be able to relax. I started to pull away emotionally, and felt a little resentful when I had to rush through my evening with my kids in order to see him. I was completely confused. Why this change, all of a sudden? What the hell was going on? It went on for months, this feeling. It’s like the feeling you get when you know you’re forgetting something but you can’t remember what. It felt like something about us just wasn’t right.
I puzzled over it. I thought about a lot, especially when we were having our painful fight a few weeks ago. I turned it over and over in my mind–explored different theories. And all that kept coming back to me, each time, was him saying he “couldn’t wait” for his wife to go away.
Little by little I started to figure it out. Part of it, the smaller part, is that I realized I am missing some key elements in my life. Papa Bear and The Wifey have mutual friends. He has his hobbies, and his friends he does those things with, and she has hers. They have their vacation they take every year. His life is full.
Him assuming that just because his wife was gone, meant that he’d be able to see me as much as he wanted and wouldn’t have to schedule any dates with me because I’d just be available, struck a nerve. Part of it was the presumptuousness of it, sure. But the other part was the realization that outside of work and my family and him, I have no life. No local friends. No hobbies or clubs. Nothing.
I thought back to November. The very morning that my personal crisis hit, I had told him that I needed to slow down. That I was serious about him and love spending time with him, but that I felt like I would become too dependent on him if I spent all of my free time with him. That I needed to see him a little less, so that I could cultivate friendships and work on my personal goals of writing, learning to dance, practicing guitar, etc. And then two hours later I got horrible news and fell completely apart. And he was there for me, every day. Every step of the way. From start to finish. I appreciate his support more than I can say. He literally saved my life, I’m certain. But I still need all those things–friends, interests, personal development, downtime, date nights with my husband. That hasn’t gone away.
The second part was more difficult to figure out, but eventually, it became clear to me: His wife going away should not be a vacation for us. In no way, shape, or form, should we be so excited about that. And the reason why it bothered me so much, isn’t because it was insulting to her. The reason it bothered me, is because it made me realize two things. The first, is that her going away should really have much less of an impact on our relationship, because the only thing stopping Papa Bear from seeing me a much as he wants should not be his wife. Yes, having more free time is great, since they wouldn’t be going on their dates and he wouldn’t have to keep the house up to her specifications, but really, those things should not be so much of a burden that it calls for celebration when she is gone. I thought about how I’d feel if my husband was going to be gone for almost two weeks, and even without the kids factoring in, I would not be happy. Because I like my husband–he doesn’t burden me. I would honestly miss him, regardless of whether or not it meant I could spend more time with Papa Bear.
The other thing–the more painful part–was the realization that this isn’t what I wanted when Papa Bear and I started dating. I wanted us to all get along. I wanted The Wifey and I to support one another, and value each other’s relationship with Papa Bear. In the beginning, it was great. I could spend the night and snuggle in bed with BOTH of them. I could wake up in the morning and we’d all hang out. Sundays weren’t sacred to them, and I wasn’t banned–if I was there, I was invited along for whatever they were doing. We got our families together (something that hasn’t happened since Christmas Eve). I didn’t resent Papa Bear’s time with her or the things he did for her, and she didn’t resent his time with me. But Papa Bear and I got more serious, and she started to feel threatened.
She says she’s jealous. That I’m ten years younger, I’m fun, I’m horny all the time, I’m closer to Papa Bear’s “physical ideal”, and I’m “shiny and new,” and she’s scared he’s going to trade her in. She says she has to make rules. She has to create boundaries around their time. She has to insist that as little changes as possible, or she is afraid she will be left with nothing.
And I look at her, and I think, he has been with her for over two decades. They have children together. They share a home. They have traditions. They have a whole life. If he is going to abandon one of us? Its going to be me–obviously. Its not even a question. I will never have any of those things with him. All I want, is to be able to keep our time sacred. To not have her push her way into it, or invade it, because it is literally all I have with him. I didn’t feel this way before she started to push me out. But now I have set boundaries, to save our relationship from her control, because I honestly had no choice.
I wanted to be a family. They said that’s what they wanted, too. It hurts that where we are now is so far from that vision. That’s what’s been nagging at me. That’s what “isn’t right.”
I talked to Papa Bear about this, once I figured it out. And we decided to make some changes. First, we are only going to see each other one day a week, barring special events or special occasions that fall on a weekday. Neither of us is getting any sleep because on weekdays he can only come over once my kids are in bed (or they’ll never actually fall asleep).With my husband working nights now, I have to be at home–we cant go out after work anymore. So by the time he gets there and we spend some time together? Well, we are both just too tired. We need to be in bed earlier.
“Our day”–as much as I have fought to avoid adding a schedule into our relationship–is Saturday. I spend the morning and early afternoon with my family, then around 4, he comes and gets me and we spend time together until late that night. The Wifey does not get a ride home from him, ever, if this is happening. She agreed to this and is not complaining, because Papa Bear will be home more so she can give up her ride one day a week.
This will give me more time to get a drink with friends on Friday night or Sunday, or to take dance lessons, or go to the gym, or any of the other very many things I have been neglecting in my own life because we are spending all of our free time together. Honestly? I’m relieved. I miss him. I miss him lots. But I am so much less stressed. And I’m going out with a work friend this weekend, so I’m very happy! Papa Bear is less stressed too, so its good all around.
As far as us being a family goes? This is a harder one. Papa Bear and I have talked about things between The Wifey and I. So far, she has talked with him, and I have talked with him, but we haven’t spoken with each other about this most recent disagreement. He spends his talks with her defending me, and spends his talks with me defending her. Then we are both upset with him, and what he wants ends up getting totally lost as he’s trying to get us both what we want. At one point I’d suggested the three of us sitting down together and hashing it out–me owning my feelings and needs, The Wifey owning hers, and Papa Bear owning his. This suggestion, however, scares Papa Bear to his very core. He does not like conflict, and he is pretty sure that the entire thing would turn into a big fight. He admits, though, that this may be the only way for us to actually move past all this. Right now, though? I simply don’t have the energy. I don’t have the will. I’m not feeling charitable towards his wife so I don’t think it would be productive at this time. I’d probably just end up telling her she’s selfish and that they’re co-dependent. Sigh.
Aside from that–from the problems between me and her–things are okay on the family front. I love Papa Bear’s kids and get along great with them. He loves my children, and they love him. They get SO excited when he comes over to spend time with us. My husband likes and respects him, and he likes and respects my husband, and they get along, and the three of us can all spend time together with zero tension or weirdness. Papa Bear has also been offering for the past several months, to baby sit for us once a week so we can have a date night. We’ve talked him down to once a month, because A) we think once a week would end up being too much for him, and B) we don’t have the money to go on a weekly date. So, we’ll stick with that for now. Maybe once the dust settles, Papa Bear and his wife and I can sit down and try to work through everything. For now, I think things are as good as they’re going to get, and I’m satisfied with that.