Who’s the baby now?

There’s something about marriage that turns me into a big steaming puddle of helplessness.

When I was single I enjoyed doing things for myself.

Drain clogged? No problem, let me snake it.

Acquired a piece of do-it-yourself furniture? I did it myself.

My ’91 Saturn won’t start in the middle of winter? Okay, let me just take a wrench and bang on some stuff. Problem solved (sometimes that actually did work).

I didn’t have anyone else to rely on, so naturally, I did what I needed to do when I could do it. Of course there were some things that were beyond my capacity, for which I called the landlord or my dad or a girlfriend to come over and help me, but I always tried to do what I could before asking for help.

Fast forward to today …

“Baaaabe, I can’t open this water jug.” Then I proceed to never open a water jug again and claim that he knows I can’t open it (I can, I just don’t like to).

“Baaaabe, the bowl is too high. I’m too short. Can you get it for me?” Nevermind that when we first moved into our other house I bought a step specifically for that purpose. It was too far away, I guess.

On the phone while he’s in Bungoma and I’m home, “Baaaabe, the knob on the propane tank is stuck. I’m just not going to cook until you come back home, okay?”

I think a small part of my husband at one point enjoyed that Miss Independent was finally becoming a little dependent… in the beginning,  but nowadays even Ray is getting to the point where he asks, “How did you survive when you lived by yourself? I thought you were more independent than this.”

Apparently it’s some kind of phenomenon that happens with women that get used to being around their husbands 24/7. He’s always there to do stuff for you, so you become reliant on that fact… a little too reliant.

Time to make a change

Ray is one of the most accommodating people I know, sometimes to a fault. I used to claim that one reason I was so good for him was because I would jealously guard his time if I felt like people were taking advantage of him. He has such a good heart he’ll help anyone and then wonder why he’s so emotionally drained later. And now look who’s taking advantage. This is bad news bears.

So now I’m declaring independence, well a balance of dependence and independence. I know what happens when I try to be too independent (amoebiasis flashbacks, anyone?), so I’m not aiming for that, but dag. I really do need to find myself a pair of big girl pants and run my pacifier through a paper shredder, ‘cuz a Proverbs 31 woman I ain’t.

If any of you have some helpful tips/advice here, I’m all ears!

Can I just have a little space, please?

I may love quality time with my husband, but I’m also a fan of quality time with myself.

The me, myself, and I phase

Before Ray came along, myself and I used to have a good ol’ time together. If I wasn’t hungry, neither was myself, so there was no need to bother with cooking. We both hated washing dishes, so at times we would neglect doing that until the insurgence of gnats or appearance of mold forced one of us to cave (I wish I could insert a “jk” here, but sadly, I’m telling the truth). On Friday nights, myself would treat me to a movie, and we’d take our blanket and sit on the heater while we ate junk food and repeated humorous lines from the movie to each other.

Now that Ray has laid claim to the role of best friend, and I have been given wifey status, time with myself has become… strained. Instead of eating only when I notice my stomach growling, I have to make sure that I’m cooking meals regularly. Instead of using every utensil in the kitchen at least once before I wash the dishes, I have to clean them daily. I still get movie time, but whereas myself and I were always in agreement about what movie we were in the mood for, Ray and I always have to debate between action, comedy, and drama.

The livelihood of wivelihood

When I first came to Kenya, as Ray and I were initally discovering our feelings for each other, he asked me what I thought the hardest part of marriage would be. I didn’t have to think too long before I answered the loss of my independence. Through almost nine months of marriage, we’ve been dealing with the ups and downs of my transition from an independent woman who spent the majority of her adult life single to a married woman who lives in a culture that has high expectations for “wivelihood”.

Like most women, I came into the marriage with tons of ambition to be the best wife I could be. I was hand washing all of our laundry, cleaning and decorating the house, and actively learning how to make all the local dishes as well as experimenting with new recipes. When Ray would leave for work, I would feel a genuine ache of sadness and become really distraught when he would get home late.

Now I’ve taken to hiring our neighbor’s house girl to do the laundry for me, I don’t really enjoy being in the kitchen anymore, and I often hope Ray delays getting home so that I can scramble to clean and cook so it looks like I wasn’t on the computer all day, which of course I was (I do a lot of online transcription and freelance writing, so don’t be too quick to judge).

Trying to make it work

Ray and I have talked about this transition in my attitude towards house work, and he’s suggested things like making housework a priority before I focus on other work, but just like morning devotions have never worked for me, morning cleaning is just as big of a flop. Ray has always been great about taking the weekends to do the cooking, but now that he sees the coal in my furnace smoldering, he has been making more of an effort to help throughout the week as well. Some people might think that he is spoiling me and encouraging me to be lazy, but really, his giving me a break is motivating me to want to do more for him. It’s encouraging me to get out of my current slump.

In fact, yesterday was probably one of the best days we’ve had in our relationship. He decided to stay home from work because there were some rallies in town that were likely to become riotous (thankfully they didn’t). At first I was kind of upset because I had queries to write for freelance jobs, I had a transcription to do, I needed to finish writing a guitar lesson, and I just wanted to be alone.

Then he brought me breakfast in bed.

While he was in the kitchen I just stared at the food and thought, “Okay, he’s making a sacrifice. Let me not turn this day into another fight.” So when he came back to the room, I had made up my mind to serve him. Back and forth throughout the day, we did what the other person wanted even if it meant we lost out on some things. Yes, those writing and transcription projects are still waiting for me today, but I caught a glimpse yesterday of why an attitude of humility and servitude is so important in marriage, and that outweighed the urgency of my to-do list and alone time.

The principle of giving in marriage

When you place the desire of your spouse above your own, you’re ultimately satisfying your own desires. Not only are you demonstrating the second greatest commandment, which should be our ultimate aim, but you’re filling your husband’s love tank, which ultimately leads to the filling of yours. That last part may sound a little selfish, but just as we’re told to give in order to receive in monetary terms (Luke 6:38) and even in terms of forgiveness (Matt. 6:14), I believe the same principle applies here. Give, and it will come back to you.

Give your time, and you’ll get it back.

Give your service, and you’ll get some back.

Give up that last piece of cake that you were saving for a midnight snack, and you’ll get something better.

Of course it can be dangerous to focus too much on the expectation of a return on your investment, so be careful of the onset of offense if you don’t yield profits as soon as you expect. Maybe it will take longer than you expect, but as you serve, remember Galatians 6:9:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Maybe the time I thought I was going to spend at home pampering myself or getting work done will be temporarily denied by my husband’s presence, but if I seek to serve him instead of complaining, it won’t be long before he’s pampering me or helping to relieve the burden of work. In that respect, I’m finding that time spent with Ray trumps time with myself any day.