Congratulations! You have reached THE BOSS LEVEL You do have a backbone, you chose to face your wife and ask for what you need.
If you just jumped in. You die, start over with a new life here.
Natalie was stationed at the table, a pile of graded papers on one side upside down, and a scattering of papers she was currently working on. Being an engineer, I like everything nice and neat. I’m lucky, my job can all be done on the computer, so my workspace is only messy in the way of windows I have open. It takes a few clicks to clean up. I don’t get having my space in upheaval, but it seems to work for her, so I just try to stay out of her way when she gets like this. Usually, that’s easy because I just game, but I made sure to schedule an early appointment with my therapist today so I could be home by 5. I had committed to leaving the office by 5 a couple weeks ago, and I haven’t really stuck to that commitment. Not really sure what to do with myself while I waited for her to finish, but fighting the urge to go check on my games really quick, I decided to make a snack. I was cutting the cheese, the tasty kind, and felt the hairs on my neck stand up. I looked up to see her staring at me. I couldn’t quite tell what she was thinking, but I was hoping it was a loving look. I splayed out the cheese, salami, and crackers in a half-moon display. Whoever said I couldn’t be romantic? It worked, she’s beaming at me as I bring the plate to the table. She moves a stack of papers just in time to clear a space for the plate.
“How was your day?”
I bet I surprised you just as much as I surprised her when I asked. It’s ok. It surprised me, too.
“Day was good. I really got a lot done. I feel productive. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were going to be home so soon, I would have had this cleaned up.”
“I wanted to show you that even though I kinda fell off the wagon there with my game releasing, I’m still dedicated to making this work and making changes.”
“Thanks, babe. It has definitely been a thought, I can’t lie. You talking to me about it really helps with my patience. What’s the plan to get back on the wagon?”
“I was talking to the counselor about that today. I was hoping we could talk more about compromises. Going through this with you, I’ve started to feel like in making sure your needs were taken care of, I was kinda set to the side. While I totally get why we got here, I’ve ignored your needs for a long time, but instead of transferring who feels resentful in the relationship, I’m hoping we can come together and both have our needs met.”
“What do you have in mind?” She actually looked curious. It was a miracle. I was convinced she would just up and leave me for asking for something. The therapist reassured me that she would be as open as she looks. I didn’t believe her.
“Well, I really do use games to decompress, and feeling like I can’t game regularly without losing you is hard to handle. You are so important to me, and I really do want to make this work.”
“So you want to go back to the way it was?”
“No, I want to compromise.”
“Gaming is so unhealthy. It’s an addiction, just like anything else. If you start again, I’m fearful you won’t stop.”
“I have had that worry too, which is why I am proposing a compromise. I have thought this out pretty heavily, if you’re open to hearing what I was thinking.”
“Well, I researched, and the average American spends 4 hours a night watching TV. I wouldn’t say that’s true for you, you probably spend about 2 hours watching rom-coms, and maybe 2 hours reading. Would you say that sounds about right?”
“I think I know where you’re going with this.”
“It makes sense to do things in tandem, right? So, while you’re reading and watching TV, I can be free to game. I was also thinking we could find a few things we could do together, because I miss us.” She blinked at me. No readable expression on her face.
“What kinds of things?”
Nervously, I ramble on, this was part of why I was so scared. I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted. I had already asked for so much every time I asked her to stay, and then didn’t do anything to change. I felt like all my favors were used up. I had no room in the relationship for asking for anything. But, that’s not what the counselor said. She reassured me that 50% of anything is not whole. Which made sense to my mathematical brain. Which meant, that being 50% of this relationship, I mattered too. I didn’t matter more, but I also didn’t matter less. Knowledge didn’t make this request any easier. This was a topic that hadn’t ever been discussed, and had just fallen off the table and rolled under the fridge, never to be seen again.
“I was thinking we could go on a date to an arcade. We can go to an old school one with racing games and pinball, or one that’s a little more modern with flat screens and RPGs, just to see if there’s anything you might take an interest in without pressure. I was also thinking as another date night idea, we could go thrift store or estate shopping and pick out a buffet to redo together. You always talk about how you want the perfect one for the kitchen, and what better way to find the perfect one than to make one perfect?”
“Wow, those are great ideas. I can really tell you put a lot of thought into this.”
“...........I was also thinking we could have sex more?”
“I would actually really like that. I haven’t felt close to you in a long time. I could see after one of your date ideas getting dinner, and coming home to fall into each other’s arms. I appreciate the effort you’re putting in to show that you actually do want this to take care of both of our needs. How do I know this won’t just go by the wayside like all your promises before?”
We had planned for this question. That is, the therapist and I, haha. She really has come in clutch. I had sat in her shoes, and really thought about how I would feel if I were her. I had decided I wouldn’t trust these promises, and would feel manipulated into intimacy. So, with help planning ahead, I blocked out my work schedule to not allow any messages to come through to my laptop or phone after 5. I also set up automated emails to set expectations with people so I didn’t feel behind or like I was dropping the ball at work. Which is a joke because at 5, I have already put in a minimum of 8 hours. We talked about how habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. The brain will make almost any routine into a habit because it allows our minds to ramp down more often. I set up a family calendar and scheduled date nights weekly with two nights a week blocked out to make sure there were two options in case there were fluctuations in plans. We are interrupted by the doorbell. I had Chinese delivered so we could talk about our compromises and what we were both willing to do and what we were willing to compromise on.
Continue to see how this all plays out.
Level 4: Action Transtheoretical Model of Change
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