My marriage is built on the assumption that we are full partners in life. That means each one of us does our best to help the other in the best ways we can. But we are not mind readers; we have to ask for what we need. The trouble with this straightforward understanding of our relationship is that it’s not always easy to know what you need.
Understanding My Self
To understand this story, there’s something important you need to know about me: I’m an introvert. And let’s get something straight – introvert does not mean hermit or painfully shy. Introvert simply means I gain energy from quiet personal time and feel exhausted from external stimuli (like mingling). I enjoy socializing, I just feel tired afterward.
I have been in many settings where I mention my introversion and get a response like, “No you’re not! Don’t say that!” The response comes at me as though I just called myself ugly or stupid. People feel compelled to correct me as though I was being self-deprecating. And while I appreciate that their intentions are very good, it is actually one of the most offensive things I hear on a regular basis.
We live in a society that values extroversion. After seeing Susan Cain’s TED talk and then reading her book Quiet, I have come to understand that my own personal shame around my need for quiet time is not a failure of mine – it’s a failure of our society that undervalues this personality type (which covers about half the population by the way).
Rallying Courage to Ask
I did not realize how deeply rooted my shame was around this very simple part of my personality until recently, when I rallied the courage to tell my husband I wanted to go away on a personal retreat. Let’s make sure you caught that. I had to rally courage to tell the person closest to me in the world I wanted to be alone for a day. It wasn’t until I explained this request that I realized I had been holding onto it for a year or more.
Why couldn’t I just ask for this? It just felt like one of those things that “just isn’t done.” My husband goes away multiple times a year for work and fun. He and his brother meet in Las Vegas about every other year to gamble for two straight days. Even the work trips are usually with his closest colleagues, so they are more or less pleasure trips.
At some point I had convinced myself that time away from my family meant I had to have a purpose that was related to someone else. I also go away for work a few times a year. And I travel to see friends and family. But that little idea in my head to go away by myself, that felt like something I couldn’t ask for.
Your Partner Wants You to be Happy
It seems logical and simple that if you’re in a good partnership and you care about your partner, that person is going to do their best to meet your needs. At least that’s how it’s been for us. In our 15-year marriage, there have only been two things I have wanted that Jamie didn’t bend over backwards to get me. The first was a baby when we were too young and had no financial security whatsoever. That was a hard and fast “not right now.” Someone had to be reasonable about this, right?
The second was a dog. Jamie will absolutely, under no circumstances, agree to a pet dog. I can’t explain this one. He just hates the idea of having a furry animal in the house. He caved somewhat for our daughter and got her a hamster, but it’s required to stay in her room.
Okay, so two things in our entire marriage so far that he said no to (and one was only a “not yet crazy lady.”) So why in the world couldn’t I just ask for the one thing my brain kept nagging at me to do?
You Have to Figure Out What You Need
And there it is. I couldn’t ask for what I wanted because I didn’t understand what it was. It sounded selfish to me – I wanted to spend money to stay in a hotel not that far from home and do mostly nothing. If I were travelling to see friends or family, or if we had to find childcare to make it work for a business trip – those, in my mind, were justifiable expenses. But alone sounded crazy indulgent.
It wasn’t until I heard the host of the Do It Scared podcast say that she goes on a personal retreat once a year that I realized this was a real thing. She goes away for a few days, books spa appointments, reads books, goes on long walks, and does her best to not talk to anyone. When I found myself thinking, “wow that sounds like heaven,” I started to understand what was happening within myself.
Of course I send Jamie off on his trips with as much love and grace as I can – these trips recharge him. They give him energy. He comes home happy, inspired, and bursting with manic energy. And that’s what I needed. I wasn’t looking to sleep in a hotel or waste money on room service. I needed to recharge.
When I asked myself why I was scared to ask this question, I knew that it wasn’t about permission, it was about shame. I felt ashamed that I needed to be alone to recharge. Because our society drills into us that introversion (recharging from quiet alone time) is shameful; something that we should tell people, “Oh no! Don’t say that about yourself!”
Find a Date and Let Me Know. Simple.
As soon as I uncovered that I was kowtowing to society’s stupid ideals, I let it go. And since I have the greatest partner on earth, you will not be surprised to hear that as soon as I asked for a full day to myself, Jamie’s response was, “Look at the calendar and let me know when.” That simple. (It was amazing, by the way.)
Figure out what you want. And ask for it. Marriage – simple, right?
Ordinary Days, Meaningful Life is a labor of love geared toward working moms ready to embrace the chaos and find meaning in it. If you found this post meaningful, please share it with someone you think would enjoy it too! I’d love to stay in touch with you! Leave a comment below, contact me, or sign up for the mailing list. I can’t wait to hear from you!