I am pondering over reader comments that stuck with me about my relationship with my partner being “abusive” from The Time I Considered Being a Single Mother.
I guess in some ways you could see it as his freak need to control everything and be a perfectionist as “abusive”, but I don’t actually think I am abused, objectively speaking because abuse is not something I take lightly.
Abuse is something that is truly damaging to someone.
I don’t like using the word lightly because it is not a lightweight word, so when someone says it to me, I do take it very seriously and consider the situation as objectively as I can before deciding if it is a label that applies to what I am feeling.
Even emotionally, there WERE times where I felt like he was very controlling (even if it came from a good place of wanting us to live healthy and happy to be together forever), but after I blew up at him and told him to back off because I was not a robot, nor was our son, and he needed to be more flexible and learn new attitudes, he took everything to heart and has done that.
I don’t think that is indicative at all of an abusive relationship at all. I would really challenge that word in this case.
He doesn’t play mind games, manipulate me, or anything. He just has set rules in his head of what is the “right way to live“, and cannot understand that there are grey areas.
He is very inflexible in that sense, rigid in his ways, and cannot see that things are not black and white. That, I knew even before we had Little Bun, and he has admitted it to me many times that it is something he finds very difficult to overcome because he cannot see the different facets of something or be flexible on the fly like I am (something he admires in me).
When something happens or I tell him something, he takes it seriously, absorbs it, considers the situation of what I am saying, and then puts in place a way for himself to follow what I am saying.
For instance — I said that we have to stop yelling so much, and soften our tone when we talk to Little Bun even if we aren’t angry. In every conversation, we try to keep calm, neutral voices, and when we ask him to do something, we try VERY VERY VERY hard not to scream and get angry at him.
In the past few weeks, I have seen a major change in the way he talks to Little Bun. He softens his tone, he asks instead of commands, and is bending the way he approaches Little Bun rather than the way he was brought up with his father (whom he hated).
That, is also not indicative of an unresponsive, abusive or controlling partner at all. He listened, we worked it out, and we are growing together as parents.
He just isn’t someone who is easy-going.
I cannot change that about him, but he is trying. He is a very serious person who takes things literally. I am a little squishy in that regard.
I read somewhere that the longest, strongest partnerships tended to be with two easy going people who were both flexible, but it isn’t impossible if we are both willing to change and learn. I’m adapting to what he needs and vice versa.
It was really, really rough during my pregnancy and during the first few years of Baby Bun’s life because as new, scared parents, and for him, as a man who wants everything to be perfect in life – the most efficient, most healthy, best way to live for everyone he cares about – he went into the extremes of wanting to make sure we would not put an ounce of anything bad in our bodies or be near anything that would harm us.
Now, if you don’t have children, this is not something that seems like a big deal to you, but I know mothers who are just like my partner and extremely, EXTREMELY controlling about what comes near their offspring.
Is it biological? A sense of need to protect to the end? An inability to let go of control and to accept that other people (and CHILDREN) have wills and minds of their own?
At any rate, if you don’t have kids, please keep that very significant variable in mind. I said many times as a childless person that I would never… and….When I have children… and all of that #$(*#%)@ went out the window pretty quickly once I had one.
Our other recent blow up that involved him wanting to control and take away any kind of minor responsibility Little Bun now has to put away laundry, help match plates and put away Tupperware lids, and when I very rationally pointed out that he needs chores and tasks to gain confidence and to grow into a boy, and later a man who would feel like he had any kind of agency over his life, he took me very seriously.
Out of that conversation….
He made a good point that I am making decisions that do not involve the both of us and in the end, he felt hurt & excluded.
I am choosing to buy toys or assign tasks to Little Bun for my own reasons (revealed now), that he was not consulted on and he felt left out.
Until he said it, I didn’t see it. I didn’t realize that I was acting “alone” in my decisions to teach Little Bun how to be an independent boy, and I never voiced or mentioned what I read because I had assumed he would just “see it”.
But how could he? Unless I tell him, he has no idea that this is what I have been reading and absorbing from all sorts of parenting articles and books.
I just assumed that he would see what I was doing, because I never consulted him on what to do with and how to raise OUR son.
So… again, I wonder if…. If it was a mother who was controlling like that, if we would call her “abusive”.
I am not knocking that the reader comments are not valid at all – they do have a very good point although it is very one-sided in my Week of Money posts – but I know plenty of mothers who are very controlling just like my partner.
Are they abusive too?
They yell at their husbands for things like innocently giving their 6 month old Honey Nut Cheerios because there is honey in there and you can’t give it to someone under the age of 1.
Or “how many times do I have to tell you…..” … and when they recount these stories, I have always felt like they were quite controlling and far too strict / perfectionist, but I never would have said “abusive”.
I wonder if it is also a sensitive trigger gender topic that is underlying it.
(Again, I had given this a lot of deep thought, obviously, and DO NOT take the word “abuse” lightly.)
So.. what I think is definitely missing is what he does in any given week, which is a lot.
In a typical week my partner does all of this:
In the morning, he makes Little Bun’s lunch – peeling the apples, etc and cutting it up and checking the oranges for seeds before making his lunch box.
Before he leaves, he also makes a note if he has to pick up the goat milk for Little Bun and milk for myself to make sure it is at the freshest possible time (the day the milk truck comes). Sometimes I leave him notes to pick up things like “extra gauze pads”, and he does it.
He has errands to run for both of us before he comes home, sometimes it is things like looking for soccer gear for Little Bun this summer, making sure that he finds the soccer program and sends me the link to sign up for it — you know, research-y stuff.
Yes, to a reader’s point, at work I make my own breakfast but that’s because I tend to get hungrier than him, so I’ve just started doing mini breakfasts at work to supplement my diet. I mean he’s not my food slave. I can still do things on my own and make my own meals.
Just because he is the main cook in the family, doesn’t mean I’m helpless and can’t do jack for when I need to.
After work, he comes home and researches what to buy or replace – detergent, soap, anything even custom chairs and he searches through all of the websites for deals to see if he needs to stock up on sugar, pasta, etc this weekend because it is a good deal.
Last week he even searched through sites and went to all the grocery stores to find me the CHEAPEST deal on my Bio-K Plus supplements. This is something only I take, and it helps my health (I think) to lessen my cold and sickness to build my immune system.
He took it upon himself (I didn’t ask), and spent the last week visiting and finding the best price for me to save money. That, for me, IS love. It is the daily, little thoughtful things you do that are ordinary, not the grand gestures that happen twice a year on Valentine’s or on anniversaries, but then the rest of the year is crappy treatment of your significant other by treating HER like a house elf.
He makes dinner (once on a work week, twice on weekends).
I make dinner all other times for myself or Little Bun if I am still hungry after my breakfast at work, the lunch (which he makes for me ahead of time). Dinner is simple, just noodles. If I wanted to eat the same thing everyday, he would make extra soup for me, but I am not keen on that, so I leave that for him and Little Bun.
Again, he’s not my food slave.
He also works on the house – he researches new things to buy (our shower caddy won’t stay up, so he found a basket instead and asked me to buy it online), and he used to spend 3-5 hours a night when we first got our place, fixing the holes in the wall, painting, cleaning out the air vents, redoing the heating grates (vacuuming them out).
I was a construction widow during that time. I was in the other apartment we were renting with Baby Bun, and he was in the new one, desperately working nights and weekends to have it perfect for us to move into.
The other day, he spent the night taking the fridge out of the area (and the oven), and wiping / vacuuming the entire spot back there to remove all the dust and crap that accumulates after a year. He does this yearly, along with scrubbing down the oven and the stove.
When we go to sleep, he used to do Little Bun’s pyjamas but now I do them because Little Bun puts up such a fight with him that it is easier for me to do that, and his baths. Little Bun is still very resistant to change and non-Mommy tasks, so we are accepting it for now until he is older.
During the night, he gets up to check on Little Bun to make sure he is covered (I could not care less if Little Bun freezes, because he’ll wake up and find a blanket himself), and always makes sure our son is covered to stay warm at any given time during the night.
I’m in charge of potty and milk runs however because Little Bun refuses to have anyone else help him and it is not worth the fight for either of us, or Little Bun.
One or two days a week, he stays at home with Little Bun and cares for him the whole day instead of my bringing him to preschool.
They do Daddy-Baby stuff together and I go to work and come home alone in bliss. I even take longer to come home and go to yoga instead which gives me a break from Little Bun.
On the weekends, he leaves at 7 a.m. the morning and sometimes earlier if he has to take the car to the mechanic to get the tires or oil changed, and then does the grocery shopping for the week plus errands on his list.
Every single weekend, he has a list of 5 tasks to achieve for the home – various things I have no idea he even does or has on his list frankly, but it keeps the house clean and running smoothly.
He buys everything on his grocery list, goes to all the stores, on occasion, picks up all of the bottled water in huge boxes to store in our house (we don’t drink tap especially after the reports of the water quality here), and spends about 4-5 hours doing this, along with running errands like going to the home hardware store to buy things to fix the apartment, new things he needs for our cars to help optimize them or make our lives easier, and anything to do with Little Bun that I may not have covered.
When he comes home, he prepares lunch, and spends the afternoon working on the house.
Sometimes he cleans the oven, or does things on his To Do list that are not ordinary cleaning tasks (I handle that stuff), and/or last weekend for instance, he had me enter my tax slips and then he spent the day going through to make sure we could save the most amount of money possible by trying to transfer income to him as a spouse, etc.
During the time he is working on things, cleaning the pipes, organizing the locker to make sure things are labeled, not rotting from a water pipe, etc, I am out for a good 6 hours doing whatever I want. This is when I run “errands” of my own, like returning his online purchases, or my own, or just sitting in a café blogging.
This is MY ALONE time.
He also does all of his own laundry, AND ironing, bathroom cleaning (he has his own bathroom where he stores things too and it is more a linen closet than a ‘bathroom’). I handle the clothes for Little Bun and my own.
On Sundays, he is up a little bit after me, and starts cooking for the week for all of us.
And yes. HE MAKES CROISSANTS for breakfast:
He usually spends 4-5 hours cooking depending on if he needs to make more soup for Little Bun to eat for dinners, and he also prepares all of our lunches for the week.
The dinner is usually a light meal because we are both tired from the day.
Just before we sleep, he dresses, goes downstairs, and details our cars. Every week. Now that I have that nice car, and he does use it, his contribution is to not only take care of it, but to detail it and make sure that it is in good condition for us.
Then, the week starts again.
On top of all of that, we also do big things like jaunts to the farm where we will together as a family during peak tomato season, drive an hour, and hand pick up to 50 pounds of organic field tomatoes from local farms.
Then after that, he spends about 12 hours in total over 2 weeks, to blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins, de-seed them, then spend time over the stove boiling it down to his own organic, homemade tomato paste which he then freezes into little pots to make pasta or pizza with during the rest of the year.
The end result?
This as-homemade-as-you-can-get-without-becoming-a-farmer pizza:
I mentioned that he also takes care of everything to do with the car (mechanic wise), but also all equipment-related items like cleaning of barbecues (he does that every year), cleaning of the equipment like our bikes, all of the garbage, recycling, and anything “house-related” he knows I won’t / cannot do, even deep cleaning the bathroom shower stall (I just do daily vacuuming and some wiping).
For all events (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays) — he cooks and bakes.
This means he makes the entire meal from scratch, and does the cake as well for all three of us. On my birthday especially, or if I am very sick, he will do all the cleaning of the kitchen and dishes as well.
It is important to note here that I have never ever cooked a meal for him in return and let him “relax”. He’d rather cook his own meal, so I have offered but he has refused.
So recently, he has started baking bread twice a week with Little Bun to save us money, so he makes the dough ahead of time, bakes it the next day, and avoids buying bread from the bakery.
During the summer, he is planning on doing summer activities ALONE outside with Little Bun like going to play soccer as a team, but also going to the park alone with him to bond.
I am insistent on this because he cannot repeat what his father did to him (no bond or love there). He knows this, and I am holding him to this when the weather warms up.
So. If he wrote about his typical week, you would not see any wasted time in:
- Beer drinking and watching TV, lounging around – partly because we don’t have a TV but also that he is not that type of guy
- Sports / activities with friends on the regular – he goes out maybe 4 times a year alone with friends and I am happy when he does so that he gets a break too
I only “lose” him during these times:
- The World Cup – every 4 years
- Biking during the summer on weeknights – he gets so little time during the year here in Canada to do his favourite hobby (biking) and summer weeknights are his favourite times to go out and be alone on the trails as the weekends are too busy and annoying; this can also be a Little Bun + Daddy Activity when they get older, because he likes to do long jaunts for 2-4 hours and Little Bun is too small for that right now
So you can see, his point of view from what I can see that he does, is very extensive.
He does a lot more than most, and it is about equal to the time I spend with Little Bun and on the home.
He does far more than that too, because sometimes I email him during the day to give him more tasks to do on the weekend, or notes about things, or ask him about advice, or he helps me do things like fix my necklaces or laundry that I have forgotten about.
I don’t write about his day because they are MY Week of Money posts , but he does a lot in the background. Stuff doesn’t get deep-cleaned in our house if he doesn’t do it.
Then, he does really thoughtful things like build a necklace rack for me:
Or, research, install, and arrange / clean all of my bathroom products to surprise me like this bathroom cabinet that greeted me one day when I came home:
He had wiped down every bottle, organized everything into where he thought it would fit best, arranged the shelves, and made sure that I had what I wanted.
I mean… REALLY. That, not for nothing, is love. It is a far greater expression of love than any typical grand gesture.
He does far more than most husbands I daresay because when I tell the women at work what he does, they all want to kill me because they’re envious of the load he takes on without my nagging or asking him.
I do not give him any “Honey To Do Lists“, he does them himself and adds extra things if he sees they are missing. He VERY RARELY asks me to do things, because I also take on things like Little Bun care to give HIM a break.
All I know is that while it might seem very unbalanced as I am very Little-Bun-focused, he helps out the best he can on the other side making sure the household runs smoothly.