This morning, Carlos and I both had dates with our long-time other significant others. He took the train to see to his, and I’m taking care of mine on the living room floor. As I write this, RJ is napping, but he’ll be part of my date once he wakes up.
In general, I don’t love talking about stuff I’m working on. This is an old habit of mine – my mom describes catching me practicing faces in the mirror as a baby, testing them out before trying them on other people. I want to have a finished product before I share with people, but the truth about life is that sometimes there just isn’t a product at the end of the process. Sometimes we just do a thing every day, because it’s what we do, and we have to talk about it while it’s in process, because there is no end to it.
What does that have to do with my Monday morning date?
In my process of growing more comfortable in my own life, I have this lesson that I keep learning: everything in my life needs some care, and what that means is different for everything. Dita Lily needs food and exercise, adventures outdoors, cuddles on the couch, and to be reminded that she’s part of our pack. The kiddo needs the same things, but the way I deliver them to him is totally different (well, mostly). Carlos has needs, my relationship with him has needs, I have needs. And critically, I need to recognize what those needs are and how to address them.
One of the needs that I have struggled with mightily over the last, well, forever, is taking care of our home. Before I shared a home with Carlos, I struggled with taking care of my own home, my parents’ home, The House of Doom, all of the homes I have had. I like having a calm, clean house, but I have a hard time with the work that goes into it. That was a major motivation for me in going to Shaping Home. And it has been important in the conversations that Carlos and I have around relationships. Even in the most traditional, monogamous marriage, there are things outside of the primary dyad that require attention and energy, which are acknowledged as important by all parties. The most obvious one is children, and other family. Your love of your children doesn’t come between you and your spouse, it’s just a fact of family life.
And the same is true of the significant relationship I am tending to this morning. It doesn’t take away from my love of Carlos, though it can be a point of difficulty (just like kids!). Neglecting it makes our life harder; giving it a little time and attention makes things easier all around. As much as I struggle with it, I know that I need it, so I make the time. Sometimes it can be hard to do that, but it’s worth it.
So, what’s all this about, then? Who is this mystery that matters so much!? It’s laundry. In today’s case, three loads of clean laundry, sitting on my living room floor, waiting to be folded and put away. And Carlos, you ask? What’s his date about? Work, out of the house, in someone else’s quiet office.
I kind of hate that laundry is my boyfriend (yes, we do refer to it that way all the time). But I have power over this relationship, if I’m willing to exercise it. I don’t think Carlos feels as grumpy about work as I do about laundry, even though he describes it as his frenemy. We get different kinds of things back from the energy we put into these relationships, and that’s just a fact of life. Every relationship you have is different, has different needs, pays out different dividends. We don’t always get to pick our other significant others, but we always have to choice to make our relationships with them the best they can be.