I really like my husband. A lot. I am a fan. I have a very happy marriage.
I feel like this should be an obvious thing. Of course I would like the person I married. Of course I am a fan of my partner. Isn’t that why we chose each other? Isn’t that why anyone chooses a partner?
It turns out that this is not an obvious truth for a lot of people.
This week my husband came home from work and said one of his crew members was being a jerk on the phone to his wife in front of everyone. Making faces to show his disdain for her to the other guys, while being rude and patronizing to her.
Somehow it came up that he asked my husband if he liked his wife. (Me!) And he said “I adore my wife.” (Well, that is what he told me, anyway. Swoon.) He said “We like and respect each other.” (Give me a sec. I’m going to have to swoon again.)
The reason I am bringing this up is being a recovering addict is the primary reason I have a happy marriage. I got the tools to be who I want to be in a relationship by getting my eating under control and then living in a way that I could keep my eating under control, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I grew up fat and sugar addicted. And in that time my relationship to love and romance was twisted and sad. I thought for all of that time that being fat made me unlovable. And I am not going to go into it today, but being fat really is a huge obstacle to dating in US culture. And it is not about attraction. Because I certainly had plenty of that kind of attention. It’s about what it says about you (especially as a man) when you date a fat person. The implication being that you must be somehow lacking, because if you were better, you could have a thin person. If you were better, you could do better than fat.
So needless to say, when I got my eating under control, and I lost a lot of weight, and was a total knockout by societal standards, I expected to find the man of my dreams right away. I thought the problem had been my fatness, and now that I was not fat anymore, it was inevitable that “The One” would be right there.
But “The One” didn’t show up! In fact he wouldn’t for over 6 years!
But in that time I got some advice from a woman who does what I do with food. She had been single for many years like myself and she had just recently found her wife. And she said to me, “Stop looking, and take this time to make *yourself* into the person you want to date.”
And I’ll be damned if that didn’t work!!! I don’t think I had really ever thought before about what someone would get by being with me. I was too wrapped up in what I would get from them.
But then I got “The One” and I had zero experience in being in a romantic relationship. And boy, was that a learning curve.
One of the most important things I learned in addiction recovery is that I am responsible for cleaning my side of the street. I am the one who has to right the wrongs I have done. I have to make amends for the ways I have done harm. I have to acknowledge my part and fix what I broke.
So much of my relationships for all of my pre-boundary-life was shifting blame. It was to never admit to anything bad. It was to manipulate all situations so that I looked like either the hero or the victim. Especially when I was actually the perpetrator.
Some things I learned through my recovery about being in a relationship include that my husband is a grown-ass man and he must be allowed to make his own choices without my nagging or unsolicited advice. That I don’t get a say in how he does things, and that if I think it’s important for a thing to get done a certain way, I better do it myself. That I must not take his emotions personally, and he is allowed to have feelings that I find difficult. That Ruth Bader Ginsburg was onto something when she said “Sometimes it helps to be a little deaf.” That not everything needs to be a conversation. Sometimes I need to work things out for myself, and often, something that irks or annoys me is really my own problem and has nothing to do with him. (Look, sometimes we have to have a conversation about something that has upset me. Obviously. But I don’t go in assuming it is all his fault.) But maybe most importantly, that I must give him the benefit of the doubt. My husband is a good man who loves to provide material things, but also, a happy home. So I spend a lot of my marriage energy making sure he feels comfortable and peaceful in the space we are creating together. It’s about the way I respond to a question with a generous spirit, or give him my attention when he asks for it, or anything else I can do to let him know that our marriage is the most important relationship in my life.
And in return I get the same. I get a man who likes and respects me as much as he loves me. I get days filled with laughter and affection. I get honest communication from a position of resolution rather than “winning.” I get appreciation and honor. I get a happy home and a happy home life.
I don’t think I would ever have been able to be the wife I am if I had not put boundaries around my eating. I don’t know if I would have been able to get out from under my own selfishness or victimization. I don’t know if I would have been able to see my own bad behaviors or cruel actions in the food fog and downward spiral of my sugar addiction. And I don’t know that I ever would have been in the vicinity of someone with the life changing advice that I should make myself into the person I wanted to date. But even if I had, I can’t imagine I would have been able to take it.