Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ask Chaviva Anything: Reunited, but How Did It Work?

So I've received two questions after re-opening one of my favorite features. The first question was "How often do you poo?" and the answer is, I'm pregnant. What do you think? Not enough!

Now for the serious question, and this is a really amazing question, so thank you to the asker!
Hi Chaviva, you never wrote how you worked things out with Mr T, after being apart for so long. You have a baby coming, so you've clearly (probably?) found each other again, but it couldn't have been easy. So did you just let it happen, or did you take some conscious steps? Couple's therapy? I'm really interested because I'm currently in a long-distance relationship and a bit apprehensive (though excited) about living finally together.
The interesting thing about this question is that I thought a lot more about this while Mr. T was gone than when he actually got back. We talked a lot about how hard it was going to be, and despite the fact that things were seamlessly easy the two times we saw each other in person during those nine months, they were just visits. 

When you don't live with someone for a month, or two months, or nine months, you get into a flow. Asher and I had a very firm schedule, our day ran like clockwork and I knew that I was responsible for all of the household chores, cooking, and I didn't have the misconception that someone else was going to show up so I could ask them to help. It was all on me, and I got good at taking care of a toddler and running the house and working full time. My home was a well-oiled machine. 

Being that my personality is very "I am a rock, I am an island," this was a very dangerous place for me to be. It took me a long time to warm up to asking for help, and meaning it, and accepting it, with Mr. T. So to fall out of that role and back into the "I'm doing it all myself, I don't need anyone" role created an environment that was not at all easy for Mr. T to walk back into. But when he got back, he needed to be needed, because he'd been gone so long, didn't have a job right away, and so on. 

Family photos over the weekend. They make it fun.
I don't think anyone can just let it happen. I tried really hard to think that letting it happen was the best way, but even though that worked for the first month, it got really hard after that. The conscious steps were necessary. He's been back a little over six months and we're still working on this. 

So I really had to force myself to ask for help, to stop doing everything myself, to need someone else. But it hasn't been easy. We've had a bit of counseling, and it was the good kind of "smack you in the face, you have to stop thinking he's a mind reader" kind of counseling.

Also, I had to really let go of the parenting side of things. It had been just me and Ash for nine months, and in those nine months he was eating like a normal person, growing teeth, learning to walk, starting to talk, the works. I was so overprotective of him when Mr. T got back that it was hard to step back and remember "Mr. T is his Tatty" (that's Yiddish for dad). I had to let him be a parent, too. I had to let him be alone with him, play with him, reunite with him, and grow with him, because he missed so many milestones that he can't replay or re-experience. I keep thinking, despite the (regrettable, frustrating) distance Mr. T experiences with iBoy these days, at least he got those moments with him. He'll never have those with Ash. So letting him be a Tatty was one of the major things I had to really give into. 

But the little things, surprisingly, take a long time to get used to. I find beard hair on the counter and I think, "Well, I went nine months without that driving me nuts." It can be frustrating, but it also makes me smile sometimes because the reality is that it's those little things that make it all worthwhile, cheesy as it sounds. You decide which things are worth fighting for, fighting about, and getting over. 

One of the best things I learned in counseling from a rabbi, actually, and this really changed my perspective on how to make things work after such a great divide. And, honestly, it works for just about any major relationship. 

You have three Ls in a relationship. You have no fourth L, so don't look for it, don't try and find it, it doesn't exist. 
  • Lobby 
  • Live with it 
  • Leave
You can lobby for change, lobby for things to be different. If they don't or can't change, you move on to the next steps. You can decide to live with it (like the beard hair on the counter or the fact that my husband doesn't always put dishes directly in the dishwasher), or you can leave. It's as simple as that.

I spent 12 of my 16 months of marriage the first time around looking for a fourth L. I was desperate for a fourth L. Had someone (like one of the two counselors I was seeing) given me this relationship map, I would have been able to make a better decision a lot earlier. It was only when I had lobbied and lobbied, lived with so much, and not found the fourth L, that I decided it was time to leave. 

This perspective has helped, a lot. It puts everything into perspective, and because I'm a planner, it allows me to look at every issue we have with a fresh perspective. It's not easy, in fact it's been really, really hard since Mr. T got back, but seeing Asher light up when his Tatty comes home from work or watching him shove me back in the house on Saturday mornings when he and Tatty go to synagogue is so worth it. 

Hope this helps!

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