Advice: Tiny Home, Big Problem

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I think I am in over my head and I am not sure what to do.  I have been married for 8 years and have two children, ages 6 and 2.  My husband and I have always been environmentally and socially conscious, and recently decided to try “simple living”.  Against the cautions of some of our family members, we decided to downsize from a 2500 sq ft suburban home to a 650 sq ft “tiny house” that we had custom built for our family.   It is super cute and we were pretty mindful in our planning, carefully considering what we thought we could live with. But now that we have been living in it for a month, I hate it!  There is no room to do anything!  I feel like I am constantly tripping over stuff, there is NO privacy, and I feel terribly confined.  I am often grumpy and find myself snapping at my husband and kids over the smallest things.  I feel this way now, in the summer, when we have been able to spend lots of time outside…how am I ever going to get through a winter like this?    I had NO idea that I would find this so difficult.  While I am struggling with our new home, my husband seems to think it’s all great.  He is constantly sharing the “joys of simple living” with everyone we meet.  We have invested a lot of time and money in this “new way of life”, and I feel like a schmuck for wanting to bail on it so soon.  I don’t want to let my husband down, nor do I really want to hear “I told you so’s” from our families.   But really….I feel like I am going to go insane if we don’t do something different soon. I don’t know what to do.

-Missing My Space

Dear Missing Your Space,

P: Ah, my dear, I’m sure you thought the honeymoon would last a little longer… This is/was a huge undertaking, and however carefully you plan about the space, I’m not sure there’s any way you can plan about the realities of so much less space. This is something you need to learn to live with, something that will take discipline to make work for you.

I suspect that anyone can learn to thrive in a smaller space although not everyone will choose to. But it’s only in the last couple generations that most people had large spaces to live in. We’ve developed notions of privacy and privilege that go along with that space.

B: Americans like space. We’ve been culturally ingrained with romantic ideals of wide open spaces and big skies. Large cars. Ample personal space. Certainly, most of us don’t even consider what it would be like to live in the stackable apartments they have in Japan. I have a friend who is planning a move into a tiny house with her husband, this very spring. She said, “Space is difficult. I think it is both the most overrated and underrated commodity we have.”

I get that you’re environmentally conscious and want to reduce your carbon footprint. And I’m glad that you care enough about the state of our planet to want to pass that caring on to your children. But you  made a tremendous leap into a new extreme, and now, it seems like you’ve found yourself stuck. We presume you can’t move back to your old home, or that moving at all isn’t really an option you’ll willingly entertain. Now what?

P: The tiny house movement is new, so I looked around the interwebs for discussion boards concerning the transition to a small home, and couldn’t really find anything. As I looked I realized, oh, right, people live in apartments with their families that are this small and manage not to ruin their lives or their children. I suspect you need to change the rules — and it make take some time to figure out what the new normal for simple living is. It may take some iterations before you finally settle on what works for everyone. Because of course it doesn’t work if everyone else is happy and you aren’t.

B: My initial instinct is to remind you to take a breath, take a walk outside for five minutes–alone, of course!–and calm down. You’ve only been in that house for a month, and you may be going through growing…shrinking?…pangs. You’ve lost roughly 75% of your former living space, so you need to allow for an adjustment period. It’s a different way to live. Energy gathers in a home differently in a space that small, especially when there are four people contributing to it. One toy left in the middle of the living room floor creates a sense of clutter, one heap of socks looks like a mountain of laundry. It’s entirely possible that once you adapt–once your vision adjusts to your new surroundings, once you learn how to manage your family’s presences, once you create house rules that reflect where you live now–you’ll breathe a little easier.

But the important thing to remember in all this is that you aren’t managing that household alone. You have a husband with you, a life partner, who should ostensibly help you with how your home flows. He may be telling everyone how much he loves tiny-house living. Have you ever told him how YOU feel?

P: Your discomfort is the whole family’s problem. And they need to recognize that. ‘Cause as the T-shirt says, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

How do you blend privacy, play, work, studies and remember, romance!

B: It’s all well and good that your husband is busily extolling the virtues of tiny living, and I understand that his apparent enthusiasm would dampen your desire to tell him how unhappy you are in your new home. How can you tell him you’re unhappy with something in which he’s clearly delighted? What you need to bear in mind is, this is your life. This isn’t some temporary inconvenience, like getting a new roof put on or having every window in the house replaced. Tiny house living may have been an idealized projection of your vis a vis green-living, Little House on the Prairie-esque romantic notion, but the functional part of you that dislikes your living situation is your real self. It’s uncomfortable to realize your ideal and your real selves are in conflict, but you need to honor who you are and what you want. It’s time for you to take what you have and make the best of it.

P: Idealism is amazing. But reality takes getting used to. You are not practiced at this. Some of the family living skills you had from living in your house that was 4x your beautiful, new, little one will not transfer to living in a much smaller space.

So do some good research and then some thinking. Plan as carefully for your day-to-day family life as you did for space. Could you have done this before? Sure! Did you? No. So what? Now’s the time to look at things. Talk about it. Start a blog about it. 

B: Talk to your husband about how you feel, and tell him you want to institute some changes as to  how you all operate in your new space. You may want to institute new clutter rules, which could make a difference as to how you perceive the open space you have. You may want to try and institute a quiet time, to mellow out the collective energy in your smaller space.

P: In small space you have to work as a unit. Individualism takes a back seat to the family, although everyone needs to be acknowledged. The balance of privilege and family priorities needs to be built to fit the home you have. Teach your kids to be productive members of the family. Make them responsible for chores and living skills. They’ll still be kids, but we need to learn to be aware of others; it’s not inborn.

I remember that growing up, we all used to sit in the living room and read quietly. TV was a communal activity. Pretty much everyone watched. If we didn’t have TV we wanted to see, we played games. We had a big house, but we did things together in the evenings. And we learned to like quiet activities. Turn off the noise; if there’s music on, consider sitting and listening to it. Or make it a treat that gets turned up to dance music when there are chores to be done.

Remember, you are creative, you figured out what to do with stuff, now you have to build a family that fits in your little home.

We forget that we can go out in the winter as well. It’s not as easy if we’re in the country as it might be in the city, but kids used to spend hours playing outside in all kinds of weather. Time outside in fresh air makes you lots less rammy. Build a play house, hang a swing. Learn to snow shoe or ice skate or cross country ski. Do it with the kids. You’ll feel better too.

B: I’d advise that you and your husband set a deadline for you to see how you feel after new house rules and activities and spatial negotiations are implemented. If, at the end of it, you still think you need more space, then give yourself the respect you deserve and act on that. Build on an extension to the house. Or put up a she-shed. If you end up expanding your living space yet again, remember, there are ways to be environmentally mindful without confining your living space to 650 square feet. Create a personal food garden. Keep bees. Create a protected wildlife space on your property; there are ways to do that even if you live in town. Look into solar paneling and ease your burden on the national power grid. You don’t have to upheave your life–again–in order to change it. You just need to be respectful and honest toward everything you already have.

P: You’ve got this. You just need to reconsider what works. And if in a couple years, yep, keep trying, it doesn’t work, then find something that’ll make mama happy. But no sense leaving before you’ve really done your homework.

Et voila!

Et voila!

The “Home Sweet Home”:

  • 60 ml vodka
  • 140 ml lemonade
  • spearmint sprig
  • dash of orange bitters
  • lemon peel

Put sprig in glass. Fill with ice, top with vodka and lemonade. Stir. Top with bitters, garnish with lemon peel. Kick back and relax!

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

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Advice: Boyfriend vs. Woman-Brain

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My sister (who is 27) and her boyfriend (25) have been together for a little over six years now. They enjoy the same things, share a lot of the same views, and enjoy each other’s company. They have one major issue, though, that threatens their relationship. To sum him up, he is a chauvinist, and his attitude has caused an emotional block between them.

When they argue, and I mean really argue, it’s because of his inability to show affection in public and in private and his inability to even try to understand her feelings. He says her “woman emotions” are caused by her “woman brain”. I am not making those words up. He feels that when she comes to him about things that upset her about their relationship, he doesn’t have to acknowledge it or sympathize with her because she is a woman. Women are born to be over-emotional about little things, so he shrugs off her problems and chalks them up to the “woman brain”. They recently had a two-hour argument about how he has a man brain and she has a woman brain and how they are both “made to only care about what their brains tell them to care about”. She has mentioned going to therapy; he won’t entertain the idea even for a second.

When my sister got involved with him six years ago, she made the classic mistake and thought that he would change with time. Now they live together and are seriously considering buying a house together. My sister has, generally, chosen to ignore how she felt about his unresponsiveness to her feelings. But now that they are looking to do something huge, she’s thinking about their relationship more and more. She is envisioning their future in a more realistic way and asking herself: Am I ok with him not treating me as an equal? Am I ok with his lack of affection? Can I see myself marrying him regardless of all these issues we have? Her answer as of late is no. No I can’t. No I’m not ok with these feelings.

On the other hand, she thinks of how many wonderful times they’ve had together. She knows that aside from these issues, he truly does love her. He’s done things for her that he wouldn’t consider doing for anyone else. He goes out of his way to do things that he thinks will make her happy. They’ve been through a lot over their six-plus years together. She loves him just as much. In his mind, their relationship is rock solid. In her mind, he needs to take her feelings more seriously and better try to understand and try work through their issues instead of dismiss them.

At this point she feels like she’s ready to tap out of this relationship. She’s tried and failed so many times to try to get him to understand her point of view. She is afraid that his “always right” mentality is too deeply ingrained in him, and that change isn’t possible. She worries that if she leaves him, he will be alone because no one else will put up with him. She is scared to think of how her leaving will affect him emotionally. She’s been crying herself to sleep wondering what else she can do to salvage this relationship.

Signed,

Worried Sister

Dear Worried and your Sister,

B & P: What’s the first rule of Relationship Club? Don’t do anything permanent with a partner if you think you’re ready to tap out.

What’s the second rule of Relationship Club? Don’t do anything permanent with a partner if you think you’re ready to tap out.

No houses, no babies, no joint checking accounts. Got it? Please, tell me you’ve got it. Tell me your sister gets it. If she’s thinking about leaving, then having to extricate herself from a 30-year mortgage isn’t going to make anything easier.

B: There’s so much to talk about here. What I want to start with is: What your sister is responsible for, vs. what she is not responsible for.

What she is responsible for: Being true to herself and to her heart. Making sure her needs are met. Creating a home that is a safe haven.

What she is not responsible for: Whether or not her boyfriend will find anyone to put up with him if she leaves. This sounds like she’s trying to talk herself into staying.

P: Good one, Terri. Here’s the deal. In some ways the important question has been asked and answered. As is so often the case, we ask the first part of the question. And we don’t admit even to ourselves that there was a second part to the question. When the young woman asked her boyfriend, in the face of his hurtful denigration of her feelings, if he would see a counselor with her, there was an attached phrase that she had in her heart: if you want this relationship to survive. She may have been afraid to admit that’s what she were saying (she may not have known it was lurking below the surface), but it was there. He knew what the repercussions of saying no were, as well. So she’s asked, and he’s answered, the question she wasn’t quite willing to say out loud.

Does he want to be in relationship with her? With all of her, with all those lovely messy emotions that make her a joy and a delight (and ok, sure, since none of us is perfect, probably occasionally irritation) to be around? He has said he wants only a part of her. After this investment of time, it’s hard to hear. And they know each other so well; they grew up together. But let’s be clear… This will not be about her breaking up with him. He has already said he doesn’t want to be in relationship with her. Because she has emotions. This is a very important thing to remember.

B: Regarding the idea of a “woman brain”, I will say this: women are taught, early on, to be nurturers and caregivers, so it doesn’t surprise me that as your sister projects into her life she would also project into his, and worries about him as a result. This is the only allowance I will make. Caring about him is one thing. Making his asocial personal habits her own problem is entirely another.

Mostly, talk of a “woman brain” gives me an eye twitch. It’s dismissive. It’s hurtful. And as you’ve rightly pointed out, it puts up barriers in a relationship, where there ought to be free flowing communication.

P: Now it may be that this guy really doesn’t have relationship skills. There are people who don’t. And I’m very sorry for him. And I hope that there is a wonderful woman who has no expectations whatsoever from the man with whom she is in relationship. Sadly, there seem to be many women totally willing to accept whatever can be given — or who have the same way of relating.

Sister, if you stay with this man, you are going to have children together. (Let’s just skip the fact that you’d have a wedding he’d be totally uninterested in.) What would it feel like to have a young son look at you and dismiss you with “oh, that’s just Mom’s woman’s brain talking…”  That’s not what you want to hear from your children, nor is it a model to be celebrated in raising a male child.

And what happens when your blindingly bright and happy little girl gets shrunken into a shadow of herself because her father (and her brother) disrespects not only the mother but also the baby girl? You owe your future children a bigger chance than this.

B: There are three components to a healthy relationship. There’s Partner 1, and Partner 2. And there’s a separate entity that is the relationship, which needs to be its own thing and should be a harmonious blend of Partners 1 and 2. This is also important to remember, because it means that each partner is a whole, distinct, functioning individual that exists independently of his or her relationship; what they are not is subsumed by it. If they start to diminish or lose themselves inside the relationship, it goes out of whack. Your sister can’t point out the lack of harmony any more plainly than by saying, “I think we need counseling”. By not “entertaining the idea” of counseling—or more plainly, by not responding when she asks for help—your sister’s boyfriend changes the dynamic of the “relationship” entity. By disregarding her request for harmony, by choosing his own status quo over her needs, he effectively makes the relationship all about him. That can happen on occasion; we are selfish creatures and can’t always respond nobly to every request put upon us. But always? Every time? And for something this big? So that she lives in a home where the votes are, basically, always, two against one? No. That’s not a partnership. That’s having a roommate with benefits. We’ve come a long way from the idea that “he doesn’t drink, and he doesn’t hit you” are parameters by which to judge a relationship. That doesn’t mean indifference is acceptable.

When your sister’s boyfriend says her feelings come from her “woman brain”, it’s…well, it’s probably technically true, as she is a woman, and she has a brain, and she’s using it to analyze her world and determine what is acceptable and what is lacking. It’s lazy, at best. It’s manipulative, in that it’s a statement engineered to make her think her concerns aren’t real but rather, childish ones generated from her gooey, emotional girly-center. As I am working on limited information I will refrain from saying that it’s emotionally abusive. But it’s uncomfortably close, in that it’s belittling. Would you remain friends with someone who belittles you? Why give someone who does that access to your heart?

(P: And body. Why let him in your body?)

B: Amen, Ann. As all evidence has pointed in this direction for the past six years, we can reasonably assume that the idea that he will change is little more than a fantasy. Imagine yourself with him in five years, or ten. Or twenty. Imagine the children Ann talked about before. Would you be willing to handle his dismissiveness if you had a problem regarding one of your children? Are you willing to carry all the emotional weight of the relationship alone? Because he’s not participating in it and he’s made it clear he’s not interested in learning how to do so. Her choices are: stay, and accept the status quo, and develop more fulfilling emotional relationships elsewhere. Stay, and continue to beat her head against the brick wall. Or go, and find someone new.

P: We all have this hazy, fluffy idea about “Love” and what it means to be in relationship. But real love is neither hazy nor fluffy, and requires work and communication between the participants. Even when we’re with our soul-mates—should there be such a thing, and that’s another question—we’re not just loving the other, we’re learning about the ways in which we are capable of loving. Your sister and this guy learned a lot together. She may have learned all she can learn from him. That’s not a horrible thing, that’s just a thing. Your sister deserves to be loved for who she is, by her partner. She also deserved to love herself, because right now she’s shoving herself into an awfully tiny box. And the current beau should be loved for who he is… since he’s not willing to change. She can love him for who he is — but she can’t have an intimate relationship with him, because he’s not interested in or capable of having one with her. She may think she’ll crush him if she leaves him. And I know it’s scary to be on one’s own. It takes a while to learn the joys of singledom. But she’s doing him no favors by living with him out of pity and fear. That’s soul crushing for both of them and not worthy of her gifts. She needs to honor herself. She needs to be honest, with herself and with him. She needs to keep growing. Twenty-seven is way too early for her to stop her growth process.

B: Your sister and her boyfriend have both grown up within the parameters of this relationship (it look like it started when they were 21 and 19, respectively). It can be exceedingly difficult to learn (or un-learn) behaviors when they’re mostly all you’ve known in your adult life. Difficult, maybe. But not impossible. And learning requires the desire to change and the willingness to listen, neither of which has been demonstrated by your sister’s boyfriend. I understand not wanting to start over, not wanting to “waste” six years, but that idea of wasted time is just an imaginary construct. Consider it a six-year-long educational process into how she does and does not want to be treated by a life partner. Since change is unlikely and the only reaction your sister can govern is her own, then she needs to start asking herself if she’s really ready to make big life decisions with this guy. Will she be more, “it’s OK, I have my friends and my life”, or will she be gritting her teeth internally and saying, “So…this is my life now. I can do this.” If she looks into her future and sees Option B, then she might want to consider an exit strategy.

P: The notion that you’ve wasted time here is silly. Our twenties are when we practice relationship. We try things on. We try things out. They fit. Or even after years of trying, they don’t. At a certain point in your life, you no longer want to wear the jeans that you have to lie on the bed to zip up. The relationships of our young adulthood are a lot like that. They’ve both learned a lot. They’ve loved each other as best they were able. That’s not nothing! But that’s not necessarily enough to build a life on. She now knows she knows how to love people. She even knows how to love people who are difficult to love. But no one needs to embrace an empty future and yoke very different lives together forever. Life’s about keeping growing and keeping going. He’s already told her he doesn’t want to be in THIS relationship with her. She has to hear that that’s what he said. Will he deny it? You betcha! Why take responsibility for his life when there’s her silly “woman’s brain” at work? Terri and I will probably both need to get new enamel for our teeth about that one. I think she needs to thank him for their time together and for all they’ve shared and let him know that she’s accepted his decree that he doesn’t want a future with her.

B & P: And for God’s sake, don’t buy that house!

bnp napkin sisters boyfriend

Seriously. Make no couples-only life-decisions (house, baby, etc) until all this is resolved.

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Advice: Life After Ashley Madison

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I don’t know what to do. I just discovered that my wife was registered with Ashley Madison.

Distraught Husband.

Dear Distraught,

B & P: Wow, we’re so sorry. This is a difficult moment for anyone to face.

B: But first things first: Go to the doctor. Get fully checked for STDs. Make sure your physical health is not compromised. This way, if you have anything, you’re catching it as early as you can, which can in turn make treatment easier.

P: As you’re spinning around, there are so many things you need to check into even before you start to deal with the emotional aspects of this. Hopefully, since sign up was free to women, you are unlikely to have been infected with STFD (Sexually Transmitted Financial Debacle). But I would want to check. You haven’t said whether or not you’ve confronted her, but even so, she has not been particularly trustworthy lately. I would want to know that my finances were not exposed. All of which is added insult to injury, I know. I’m sorry.

B: Weird, Ann, you’re the practical one, and I’m the feely one today. Back to you, dear letter writer, you also need to get yourself — with or without your wife — to a family counselor. STAT. Honestly? I would suggest you go alone first, to try and separate out the feelings you have in response to your discovery, vs. the feelings you have about your wife. There is so much you need to sort out. Do you still love her? Do you want to try and make this work? Are you ready to make a break? Because — let’s face it — this may be game over for the two of you. But I think you owe it to yourself to explore your own feelings without having the conflict and pressure of “couples” counseling. I think you need to understand what you need next from this relationship. The first set of feelings you need to be concerned with right now are your own.

P: You may not know yet what you really want from this marriage given that you’re probably still stunned by this revelation. But, since Terri’s handing the therapist part so well, I’d advise that you check with a divorce lawyer so you know what your rights are. We don’t know your family situation or your work situations, you may not know exactly what you want, but it’s good to at least have the information about what’s what.

Your wife can’t say that she fell into a relationship with someone, which would have been painful enough. But she deliberately sought this out and kept it from you. She’s been saying one thing for a while and doing another.

Protect yourself.

B: Because it seems like you went fishing for information on the hacksite. Your letter is super-short, so there’s a lot we’re surmising due to lack of information. But you say you “discovered” her registry, which indicates to me that you went looking. Which indicates to me that you suspected her in the first place. Which indicates to me that you (at the very least) sense (but may not know) that something is terribly wrong with your marriage.  Like Ann said, protecting yourself in this situation is key, but you don’t mention any additional players in this game. Do you have children? If so, then they need protection, too. This situation is going to require a difficult mix of delicacy and honesty if you have kids you need to shelter from this fallout. Actually, just gird your loins for an onslaught of honesty. I’m afraid you can’t get away from it after this.

P: I’ve realized that this site, now revealed, is a lot like the Wednesday Afternoon Hotel in small towns. People would cruise by and see who was having sex with whom. You’re not alone, although this is a particularly personal assault on your heart and relationship. Apparently there are only 3 zip codes in the US where someone isn’t registered. With 32 million people involved, you’re probably not alone even among people you know.

One of the things you’ve probably done, since you’re human, is told someone; your mom, your brother, your friend. Word will get out and it will get back to her, so you need to decide what you want to do, how you want to work on this.

B & P: Despite all the other people you’ve spoken with — despite the therapist, and your mom, and a lawyer, and so on — you still need to have a conversation with your wife. It’s going to be hard, but you have to have that conversation. She needs to know that you know. And you need to not be preoccupied with checking up on your wife’s behavior by reading her texts when she’s out of the room, or going through her emails, or cruising her computer history to see what else turns up. That’s no way to have a relationship. That’s no way to live a life.

 Again, we are so, so sorry you have to handle this thing that’s been ingloriously thrust upon you. But you need to manage your family situation. And you need to remember, despite her actions, or any accusations she may hurl at you, her decision to register with Ashley Madison is not your fault. She may not have been happy. You might not have been communicating successfully. You may have both grown apart, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But her decision to pursue a (potential: we don’t know if anything came of her registry) affair is entirely on her. Adults discuss problems; they don’t deceive. I’m sure you’ll have to face hard questions as you address the fracture in your marriage, and you’ll probably have to face ownership of some of that. But don’t you dare take ownership of Ashley Madison. Good luck.

bnp ashley mad napkin

Cocktails come later, when you get your head on straight.

 

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Advice: Facebook-Unfriended in Real Life

 

Dear Bartender and Priestess:

I am a stay-at-home mom, who works from home too, and have generally considered myself friendly and able to maintain good friendships. I have a large group of mutual friends and we occasionally get together for celebrations or girls’ nights. But I have a pretty strong political streak, and I think that and Facebook are impacting my social life.

Because I am home all the time, I tend to hang out on Facebook and of course, everyone in my friends list sees everything I post, and I do post a lot of political things. Anyone I knew who might not have been familiar with my political views knows about them now. I lost some peripheral friends over some things I posted, but that didn’t bother me very much. I mean, you’re not “friends” with everyone you’re friends with on Facebook, right?

Now, it seems like even my close friends are cutting me out of their lives. This morning, a friend wrote a post to another friend, talking about how much fun they all had celebrating her birthday out on the town. I was never even invited. I feel like this is related to my political posting. Sometimes, I try to not post as much but I can’t stop myself from talking about these things. I don’t want my friends to only be the friends who share my political views, but I think that’s what starting to happen. Part of me wants to quit Facebook, but I don’t get to get out much and it gives me some human interaction. Help!

Facebookin’ Mama

Dear Mama,

B: There are two things we don’t discuss in my bar. Or polite company. Or any company, unless you’re determined to upset at least one person in the room. One of those topics is religion. The other is politics. The problem with making statements about things like politics, is that it excites strong feelings in people. You have them yourself, when you say things like, “I can’t help posting about things I care about.”

I have issues with “I can’t help”. I’ll get to that in a minute. 

P: Your question is a tangle with a bunch of threads to pull. Some of them are fairly straightforward. Terri has some great things to say here, so let’s start with some practical suggestions.

B: So, you can’t help posting things because they generate a strong enough passion in you that you need to declare it to the world. Consequently, your friends can’t help reacting with their own passion at what you post. There are a few things I want to make perfectly clear here.

  • No one can tell you that you have to stop posting anything to your Facebook page (unless, of course, you’re posting things that are illegal). Your first amendment rights protect you in that regard. You can declare your political affiliations to your heart’s content.
  • That is where your first amendment rights end. You can say what you want, but you cannot dictate your friends’ reactions to your statements. They are free to agree, or not, or think you’re over-the-top, or choose not to associate with you, based on what you say.
  • BECAUSE (and I think this is what trips people up), WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING ON FACEBOOK, YOU’RE ACTUALLY SAYING IT. There’s absolutely no reason why a friend should read a post of yours and think, “Huh, this post from Jane showed up in my newsfeed and it’s like the hundred others she posts, and it’s diametrically opposed to everything I believe in and that’s all she ever posts, but I’m sure she doesn’t mean all of it, or that I won’t take the constant barrage on my deeply help belief system personally.” You may be a deep thinking, multi-faceted, lovely young woman with a lot of love and loyalty to offer a friend, but you’re changing the public perception of you to relentless wonk who only ever talks politics. Do you want to be friends with that person? I don’t want to be friends with that person. Sometimes, friends just want to share cat videos.
  • And finally…you CAN help what you post. Because you can choose to not post things. You can put a filter on your posts. You can self-edit. If you’re talking to someone, do you feel compelled to say everything you think, even if you know it would be totally disagreeable? My bet is, you know well enough to use a filter in real life. If you want to maintain friendships, you need to start doing the same thing on Facebook. You can’t say something and then not expect to be held responsible for saying it. In fact, because you’re online and not in person, you can take the time to consider what you’re posting. Sometimes, in conversation, gaffes tumble out of one’s mouth before you can stop yourself. But you can consider, carefully, in your own time, if something you’re considering posting is a good idea, or not.

P: If you’re really involved with politics, make a separate Facebook page or group for your political posts and start growing some like-minded friends and people you can talk with about things that seem to matter to you. The world needs people who are informed and willing to do things to make a difference. If you’re looking to make a difference, a page might be your best choice. If you’re looking to vent, make a group. And when you’re tired of it, you can dissolve it.

Are you building something constructive with your platform? Are you offering people something to hold on to — a place they can begin to come together? There are certain people whom I follow who do good research and provide me with provocative and interesting posts to read that make my life richer. It’s good to be one of those people. Boredom is a great tool for going deeper into things that matter.

Why are you posting? What do you want to get out of this? Are you looking to become more informed and involved with politics? Do you want to start looking at local politics and see how you can help move things along? Because there are lots of things that stay at home moms can do to help campaigns both political and service. Working with other people can give you new and fun friends who are interested in what you’re interested in. And you’ll be doing something worthwhile. Oh, indeed, being a good citizen is very worthwhile! And not every friend needs to be all things to you, as you’ve said… but are you practicing that?

If, however, you’re turning off lots of people, I wonder a bit about the way you’re posting. Are you reflexively posting/reposting? Or are you building a foundation for your views? I’m always curious what people are interested in, but I have to say I have no time for the those “you people are stupid” posts so many seem to favor. I’m so over inflammatory posts. Yawn. Or Hide. Or Unfriend. People do that on FB and they do it in real time, which you’re sadly discovering. If this is you, is this who you want to be? Because you’re saying that people you care about are moving away.

The WHAT ARE YOU THINKING gesture transcends all questions.

The WHAT ARE YOU THINKING gesture transcends all questions.

B: What I’m really concerned with in all of this, though, is that you seem to be starving for adult human interaction. I know how it is. It’s so easy, when you work from home, to fall into dysfunction. It’s no problem to stay in your pajamas and not shower and live inside your computer screen. When I started working from home, the first thing I did was join a gym. I figured at least that would force me to shower, and I would see other people besides my beloved. Who is very nice, but not the only person I ever want to see.

Is there something that’s stopping you from getting out there and joining…something? A book club, a gym, an adult enrichment class? Since you claim to be passionate about politics, why don’t you volunteer one night a week with a local political organization? If you connect with an organization you believe in you can satisfy a passion while having an adult conversation—two birds, the same stone.

P People’s leaving or distancing means you’re doing something that’s putting people off. That’s hard to hear. When it’s one person you can kinda go, wow, what’s wrong with them? But when it’s a bunch of people, it may not be them — especially since it seems they’re getting together and having fun without you. And if it’s not them… (draw icky conclusions here.). My shrink used say, “No one needs to love you when you walk into a room throwing up.” Facebook is such a room. Is this what you’re doing.

It sounds as if you might want to call together one or two of your most trusted friends, and say, “huh. I saw that everyone got together and realized I wasn’t invited.” The temptation will be to be accusatory… but what you’re looking for is information so you can make things different/better for you. So you want to say, my friendships are important to me, and I seem to be pushing people away, I trust you guys to tell me the truth, what can I do differently?

And then be prepared for the owie stuff, but try to keep listening. These are friendships you value, so your friends will have good things to say. It’ll be awkward, they won’t always do it right, so you may have to say, ok, all I can feel is hurt, can you find another way to say that to me so I can hear you?

And then sit with the info for a while and figure out what you want to do about it. You may want to talk to a therapist, or you may just want to stop and think about how to invite people more deeply into your life (instead of pushing them away with inflammatory posts).

B: Now, as a friend, I want you to be aware of this: most people? Don’t want to have to defend their beliefs. They don’t want to have a political debate. And they particularly don’t want to have a debate on Facebook. You’re not going to engineer any political epiphanies (OH MY GOD! Now that you’ve posted that meme I see the world differently!) by laying down post after post of contrived political meme-ery. It’s irritating, and a really easy way to turn people against you. I know you don’t want to live in an echo chamber of people who only ever share your political view. But here’s the thing: most people? Do.

Most of my friends know where I stand in relation to them on the political spectrum. I don’t need to engage them over our differences. I have friends who hold very different opinions than I do, and of those friends I know which select few I can debate. Privately. In my home, and not on Facebook. And yes, it’s satisfying when it happens. It sharpens the teeth, stokes the passion in the belly, forces one to think, possibly alter our own perceptions. But you won’t have that kind of relationship with everyone. You need to honor the relationships you have and let them exist as they are. As a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, the dysfunction of isolation is never far away. We can forget what it’s like to have to interact with other people. Get back out into the world in some way, and connect with people. We form communities for a reason. When you satisfy a passion in real life, you won’t have to rely on your virtual life so much.

P: Good luck with this. I think you have a real opportunity to make a difference both in your life with your friendships and a deepening sense of yourself as a citizen on FB and in the real world. If in fact you want to. And hooray for you for looking at it. This uncomfortable journey may be a great springboard for a life full of more!

 

This sounds like one heck of a cocktail..! ;)

This sounds like one heck of a cocktail..! 😉

Political Partini 

2 parts pear flavored vodka
1/4 parts Amaretto liqueur
1/4 parts simple syrup
1/2 part lemon juice
Pear slice for garnish

Pour into cocktail shaker, strain into cocktail glass and garnish.

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos, and thanks to George for modeling.

Thanks to The Lewisburg Hotel for the generous use of their location.

If you want to find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and add appropriate punctuation. All correspondence will be kept confidential (unless you’re doing something illegal).

Thank you for reading! Now, go tell all your friends about us.

 

Advice: Everyday Struggles of my Mixed-Race Relationship

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have been with my boyfriend for two years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we love each other and are committed to our relationship. We have one major stumbling block, though.

We are a couple of mixed race. He is a white man in his late 30s, who has not had a ton of experience trying to understand a life outside of the one he was born into. I am a black woman in the city, and I feel like my identity is tightly wound around my culture, race, and politics. The fact that we hold such different views that stem from our racial backgrounds has caused a lot of fights between us. As a result, we don’t really talk about…well…me. My background. My experiences. He doesn’t give himself a chance to get to know this part of me and what I am about. And he’ll say things occasionally—generalizations in response to a news event, for example—that I think are problematic and even insulting. It’s ignorance on his part, not racism, mind you. He likes to say that race isn’t an issue because we’re all one race, which is nice but not how it is in reality.

Otherwise, he is a fine man. He’s smart, and thoughtful, and a positive force in my life. But I feel like I am at odds with my politics and my personal background. I understand that he doesn’t want to talk about it, particularly because we fight so much as a result. But I am torn. Can you please help me?

–Rock and a Hard Place

P: Oh, how hard. On the one hand you really have so much to celebrate and on the other hand, you’re not being recognized and supported. No wonder you’re confused and a bit, if not betrayed, at least let down. I wish the solutions were quick and easy, but you know in asking that they’re not. What’s great is that you have a clear idea what’s right and strong about your relationship… that’s going to help!

So what’s first? The dynamic may be the most fixable thing. You know a lot about how you feel, although I think you could know more about what you want and need. But there are ways to get to that. I hope you live in a large city where you can find a therapist who knows these issues. If you can say what you want and need without the drama, he’ll either have to listen, or you’ll have to realize that you are not getting everything you need in relationship and then explore your options.

B: My initial reaction—and I think I would have this reaction regardless of the other problems you’ve presented in this letter—is please please please, stop justifying your partner’s terrible behavior. He’s not a racist, he’s just… I can understand why he doesn’t want to talk about it, because… Remove the justifications. He is ignorant. He won’t talk about your life experiences with you. Period.

These are problems.

P: Now, Terri and I, loud women ourselves, don’t ever expect to be limited to a genteel “Oh, my” when egregious and outrageous events happen in the world. Nor should your anger be limited—or worse, squelched—as truths are finally being exposed regarding race and American society, truths that you live every day, and are callous and painful.

It pushes your face, your heart, your very being into realities you may otherwise be able to look away from. Anger, Rage and Fear seem like fairly straightforward responses…

B: One of the things we tend to forget in the day-to-day of a relationship is that we need to be able to talk. Safely. I don’t mean without threat of physical violence (well, of course I do, but I always mean that. If there’s threat of physical violence get out now, because that’s an entirely different letter) but rather, with the intent to be heard and recognized. You and your partner don’t always have to agree on the topic of conversation and you don’t always have to end up with consensus at the end. But you need to be able to feel safe enough, with your partner, in your home, to make yourself heard, particularly about difficult topics that form and inform you as a person. Unfortunately, difficult talks are often overlooked in favor of general companionship (if you don’t talk about THESE THINGS, you get along just fine) or the sense of security a (generally) stable home life provides. And—we’re being honest here, so I’ll say it—dating suuuuuucks. Sometimes it seems easier to stay with the (mostly) nice person in order to not have to start all over again in the squicky waters of the dating pool.

However.

P: I think you need to make sure you have a good support network. Get some clarity about your needs, and remember, you and he are breaking ground. You deserve for him to understand that you carry an unfair and un-asked-for burden as a result of your color and our institutionalized racism. He needs to hear you, that’s true, but you deserve to process this with someone who understands only too well.

B: It doesn’t sound to me like he is allowing you the latitude to speak safely to him in your own home. This is infuriating for several reasons, not the least of which is it’s invalidating. If he shouts you down over your statement that the black community faces different challenges than the white community, and that there’s a systemic problem, he’s part of the problem. The argument CAN be made that for him, his culture and background is important, too, so you need to make sure you celebrate that. Which is great. But he’s not allowing you to incorporate your life into his. Which is not great at all.

He can’t remove the reality of your life because he doesn’t like it, and putting his hands over his ears to “La la la I can’t hear you” into silence doesn’t change your history and experiences. And “We are all one color”, while groovy-sounding on its face, often strikes me as an irresponsible approach to the social problems that affect our communities of color. There IS  a difference that people see, and react to, and make assumptions over, and kill people because of, and that hasn’t gone away. If only we were a post-racial society, then he could say that all he wants and he’d be right. And on a cosmic level, he is right. But on a practical, when-you-take-social-attitudes-and-demographics-into-consideration level, “we’re all the same” is myopic, dismissive, and not terribly helpful, at best.

P: How’s that old chant go? If you’re not outraged, you’re part of the problem. To be joined to that other old chant: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

It’s great that people are increasingly willing to engage in mixed race relationships. It’s a sign that things are changing. Life is different. Love does matter. And/but/however, if your beloved is not going to be part of the outrage and the solution, he’s part of the problem that oppresses and outrages you.

You can’t expect mixed race relationships to thrive without acknowledging the realities of this society/country/world. Just because you’re with him doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work harder at work to prove yourself or that you’ll automatically get a cab when you’re alone in the city. It’s no news to you that, as a black woman, you’re endangered.

B: I don’t want you to think we think he’s a bad person, or that he doesn’t love you. I’m sure he’s (generally) very good to you. But he may only ever think in terms of individuals and not be capable of looking at the big picture. It may be all he’s got. What are you prepared to do, if that’s the case?

P: He needs to start reading. And I think you should be able to ask him to go to a workshop like The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s “Undoing Racism.” He needs to go, not with you, but on his own, as a man who wants to understand and support your life and your struggles, personal and political. As a man who wants to make the world better. He’ll hear things differently there.

And I think you deserve a partner that recognizes both how threatened you are and how wonderfully, ragingly powerful — and who works to change the threat and support your power.

In fact, you get to make demands not just of your partner but also of your friends.  And here’s the deal, if you have kids, your kids are going to be mixed race and that means they’re going to have a rougher road than white kids. He needs to do it for any future kids as well. A quick check of stats makes that only too clear.

B: Try and imagine yourself another two years down the line. Two years of not speaking with your partner about what’s in your heart, or of hearing him make statements that are “worrying and insulting”, and swallowing the rebuttal. And another five years, and another ten. Can this status quo continue? Or will something have to give?

You’re writing a letter in search of advice, so my bet is, something’s gotta give. Not speaking to one’s truth, and swallowing responses, causes people to wither. Ann is right; you deserve to thrive. As do we all. The best relationships give us space to grow and express ourselves, not stifle who we are as we justify our partner’s inflexibility.

P: Dominant society’s not excited about shaking white privilege loose. But love demands more. I’d say I think decency demands more, but at the moment we’re looking at your relationship. Love demands your asking. Love demands his going to work.

You say he’s a wonderful man. That ought to help him let go his fears about recognizing his own racism and start dealing with it. It’s a lot to ask you to understand he’s probably afraid of confronting this, but he probably is. But if your relationship is going to thrive, if you’re going to have a chance to thrive in this relationship, if he’s going to love the powerful, angry woman that you are, he has work to do. And you are well within your bounds to ask for that work.

B: I need to say this, because it’s something that we’ve danced around during the course of this letter but haven’t said out loud yet. One of the most difficult things about love and relationships is, sometimes, love isn’t enough. Sometimes, you may love someone, and she or he may be a wonderful person in all these ways, but for whatever reasons, you can’t make it work. That may happen here. He may not be capable of meeting you where you emotionally live, you may not be capable of always having to live according to his rules. It’s heartbreaking and too bad but ultimately, that’s OK. Someone being worthy of love, and someone being worthy of your love (when taking all of you into account) can be two very different things.

P: He fell in love with you. That means he gets all of you, and doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts of you he wants to know about, or not. This is a time of turmoil and change and, hopefully, progress. I hope he wants to be part of the change. You have great faith in him. I hope he can trust that enough to do the work.

Good luck. And may the upheaval you’re experiencing in your relationship lead to something better, safer, saner, and infinitely more satisfying.

bnp 13 napkin

Home is no place to feel like you have to walk on eggshells or be anything less than yourself.

If you want to learn more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

If you have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and insert proper punctuation.

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us!

The ’80s Pin Project: U2-The Unforgettable Fire

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

I get it, sorta. A significant number of music fans do not love U2, and kind of I get why. Bono is a pompous ass, they say (the bastard, talking all “humanitarian issues and social justice” and asking people to get all thinky-like), and the music doesn’t “go” anywhere. It’s exhausting trying to make one’s way through their meaningful yet jangly lyrics, they say. Now they’re all just a bunch of fat-cat rockers in mansions, so playing the “angry young man” anthems that made their careers is a bit facetious at best. They are the Disney of rock. They are The System. They say.

Yeah, yeah. As much as, at this point, Bruce Springsteen is still a blue collar working man. Don’t get me wrong; from everything I’ve heard, Bruce Springsteen is as salt-of-the-earth as they come, and he’s not forgotten his working-class roots. But he’s rich as balls. “Baby, this town rips the bones from your back” doesn’t really apply to him any longer, unless that’s some odd payment option that’s been made available for him so he can fund his daughter’s show-jumping equestrian habit. And yet, no one seems to point sold-out fingers at The Boss. And I digress.

So. The Unforgettable Fire.

I probably wore this thing everywhere.

I probably wore this thing everywhere.

The Unforgettable Fire was their pre-juggernaut-of-spectacle, their big-but-not-quite-ginormous full-length album, the one right before they launched into the upper stratosphere with The Joshua Tree. (Musical timeline sticklers: I know there was an EP in between these two albums, but that didn’t launch their careers noticeably higher, it just maintained their Fire momentum until they hit Joshua.) This is the album that gave us the song “Pride (In The Name of Love)”, and who doesn’t want to pump a righteous fist at that tune? The tour that supported The Unforgettable Fire was the tour that saw them moving into 15,000 seat arenas instead of 5,000 seat mid-size venues. It was also the first U2 tour I had the opportunity to see.

AND IT WAS FANTASTIC. I’m pretty sure I never sat down, and that includes from the moment Lone Justice came out to open the show. My friend Bryan still reminisces in almost reverential tones about the glory of that double-bill. And about my rage at the people sitting near us who complained that the opening band sucked. There was no violence from me, mind you. Only hatred. Moving on.

The place: The Brendan Byrne Arena (a/k/a the Continental Arena and now, the defunct Izod Center), located in the sports complex in the swamps of East Rutherford, New Jersey. The date: April 14, 1985. How do I know the date?

I found the set list.

04/14/1985 Brendan Byrne Arena – East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA
Gloria, I Threw A Brick Through A Window, A Day Without Me / Dear Prudence (snippet), MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Two Hearts Beat As One, Seconds, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Cry, The Electric Co., A Sort Of Homecoming, Bad, October, New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love),
encores: 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, 40

For the record, that tiny snippet of “Dear Prudence” nearly drove me insane. This concert nearly drove me insane. I had bruises up and down my legs from dancing so wildly I kept banging into the back of the seat in front of me–happily, an unoccupied seat, as its owner was up and dancing too. I was hoarse for two days.

Fast forward to five or six years ago. George and I went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (with which I had an enormous number of issues, but that’s an entirely different post) and–surprise, surprise!–one of the exhibits they featured was a film of U2, performing in 3D.  I was ready to see it alone because George is no U2 fan, and it was only 85 minutes long. Surely, I thought, he’d be more interested in eyeballing Les Paul’s guitars, or Iggy Pop‘s duct tape shorts, in that time, but no! I was wrong, and he joined me for the U2 movie. When we left, George was smiling, nodding his head. “OK,” he said. “I see it, I understand their phenomenon more now. I’m not willing to say I’m a fan, but I understand.”

Is there anything more I can ask for from him? I think not. Through the years, I have remained a U2 fan. I didn’t care that they dropped Songs of Innocence into my iTunes account. Yay, free music! I don’t care if Bono has lunch with the Pope. Yay, positive use of his incredibly public platform! I don’t care if they all have big houses now; isn’t that why people become rock stars, anyway? At the end of the day, I just want to dance, and if you can keep in your seat to “I Will Follow” then we need to have a talk.

That being said…the video of Edge walking off the edge of their stage still cracks me up.

If only someone could come up with some highly visible marking system that would delineate the edge of the stage in the dimly-lit concert arena…if only…

As an added bonus, here’s a video of Lone Justice singing “I Found Love”. Because U2 gets enough attention already, dammit. Sing it, Ms. McKee!

Advice: He Yells, I Cry

Dear Bartender and Priestess: I married a man who was raised completely differently than I was. I grew up in a very quiet home. His was loud. We never raised our voices to one another. When my husband gets worked up about something—it can be anything he feels emotionally engaged in—he uses a very strong voice. My emotions are close to the surface, so if we argue and he starts to get loud, I retreat, which usually results in me crying.

We didn’t have a lot of arguments while we were newlyweds, but in the last couple of years they’ve been on the increase. I’m hopeful that this means he’s more willing to tell me about things that make him unhappy, but then my emotional reactions kick in and I start to cry, which makes him feel like the bad guy. And it’s just how I am, that’s what I would do if anyone spoke strongly to me.

I’m prone to creating distance, so I will leave the room when he starts getting loud and try and re-engage him later, but he says this makes him bottle up his feelings. And he never tries to do anything about the way he speaks to me. I know we have wildly different ways of communicating and we need to get better at it. Am I too sensitive? Is that the main thing I should work on?

–Tired of Crying

B: I’m so torn about this. Part of me thinks, abso-fricking-lutely, you need to grow a thicker skin, if you ever want to be a functional member of the world around you. And part of me says no, you don’t need to work on being less sensitive. I don’t know if I would ever advise anyone that it would be better to numb themselves down. Where these parts of me merge is in the belief that you need to work on being more of an adult, and less manipulative about how you manage an argument.

Because make no mistake about it, crying in response to a raised voice is both immature and manipulative. You want the noise to end. You lack the skills to say how it should end, so you pull a reactionary sucker-punch which you hope will shut your husband up. And if that doesn’t work, you walk away.

P: I’ve been on all sides of this argument, even sometimes, I hope, the rational, reasoning one we all want to head toward.

I also grew up in a household that was very quiet and rarely confrontational. Lovely quiet, seemingly calm status quo. We avoided dealing with our own problems AND we never learned to deal with anyone who does it differently.

I have an awful memory from my first job. A VP was telling me about something someone said I was doing (which I wasn’t!). I started to cry. The VP was about to push me out the door until I stopped him with, “Dammit, I have something to say. You’ll have to wait until I’m done crying.”

So I sat and snuffled and then rebutted. Right after that I found a shrink to work with. OK, maybe not right after. But PRETTY SOON, after only a couple more humiliating crying experiences, I found a shrink — because if my response to a surprising situation in the office is to burst into tears, I’m not going to be very effective. Plus, humiliating, and not very grown up. I had to work on my own tendency to leak… which is a not always effective tool in the workplace. Or anywhere.

B: I grew up in a loud household. We were always shouting over one another, and I have carried that trait forward. If I get passionate about something—anything, a sports score, a run in my stocking, a poorly-written news article—I tend to get loud. George has asked me why I’m yelling at him about things he had no control over. I have actually said, “I’m not yelling AT you. I’m yelling NEAR you.”

The thing is, though, he’s still subject to the force of my emotional tirade, even if it’s not specifically directed at him. It makes him feel bad, and I have to take that into account, because my relationship with George is not all about me. We have figured out how to start addressing it, though it took us a while. He tells me, “You’re yelling,” and I try to dial it back. I tell him, “You’re internalizing,” and he works to let his bad feelings go. We’re not perfect at it yet—not by any means!—but we work towards a mutual understanding of how we express ourselves and the effects we have on each other. I think that’s the thing both you and your husband have to learn. You have so many feels you can’t handle passion. He has a streak of bombast that he won’t temper lest he “bottle it up”. And what you’re both doing is creating impenetrable borders between yourselves and the space where you can let your relationship happen.

P: Why are your feelings hurt every time your partner is outraged by what’s going on? His outburst at a baseball score has nothing to do with you.You can handle this — and not just for the marriage. You can manage this because you want to be as effective as you can. A good shrink or an assertiveness training workshop can help. Walking away is only ONE coping mechanism.

B: Yes, it’s a coping mechanism. But who wants to simply cope? What you should aim for is a management strategy. I would love you to try and open up space between you and your husband, mid-yell, and say, “Bill, you’re yelling. You know I don’t like it. Can you please say what you need to say, right now, in a more moderate tone of voice?” It gives him the opportunity to speak his mind without being able to accuse anyone of asking him to bottle things up, and it gives you the opportunity to see that all passionate voice-raising doesn’t have to end in tears.

If neither of you are willing to put the borders of your own selves aside, then I’m concerned for the fate of your marriage. “This is how I am, la la la, too bad, you have to deal with me” is no way to nurture a healthy lifelong partnership. And ultimately, your goal should be that you’re healthy and stable. You can’t be stable if you’re constantly on eggshells, wondering when the next outburst is going to send you into a tizzy.

You're making me tizzy, my head is spinning.

You’re making me tizzy, my head is spinning.

P: BTW, you won’t get it right immediately. And you won’t always have it in you to stand up for yourself. It’s all part of the learning curve.

B: You know, I used to cry, when I would have arguments with my ex. (Yes, really.) I just wanted the noise to stop. We never got anywhere in resolving our differences, because he would feel bad (or frustrated) for making me cry and I was too scared to confront anything. And our relationship became really unhealthy. By the time I grew up enough to start trying to talk to him our perceptions of each other were so damaged we didn’t have common ground. Or the willingness to be vulnerable. We’d built up these tremendous walls. I honestly believe we would have divorced earlier and moved on with our lives with much less damage, if we’d just figured out how to talk to one another.

P: If your partner is a loud guy… his vocal spew isn’t about you. He’s just loud. And a loud conversation or an argument can be, simply, loud. But he’s probably always been that way. So why did you marry a loud guy? And this is a serious question. Think back. Why did you marry this guy despite and because of his decibel issues?

If you married a loud guy thinking you were going to change him, you devalue an aspect of him. He’s a loud guy. He’s probably always going to have the loud opinion and the over-the top reaction. He could probably use a little lesson in cultural sensitivity. Does he do eyerolling, too? Side note: Why is there not an eye-rolling icon? Silicon Valley, get on this. Priestess needs an eyerolling icon, more than she needs many things.

B: Silicon Valley…she’s right, she does. But I digress.

P: But the important point is, darling, you’re not going to change him, because he’s a loud guy. Now, as for your increased fighting. I’m a lot better about this in the abstract than in reality. My husband and I are not talented at fighting. And let’s be clear. Not everything’s a discussion to be worked out. Some of it’s just fighting.

I yell, wanting to be heard. He yells too. And he’s also particularly sensitive.

Luckily we’re completely committed. But we both say stuuuuuuuuupid things. And we both need to learn to shut up and listen. We both need to walk away. And we, both of us alphas, need to learn that there are some things we just don’t care about. And we’re working on those things.

How are you working on it? Looking for someone to take sides doesn’t help. Ganging up on a loved one does NOT lead you forward in relationship.

B: Fighting ought to have an objective. Theoretically, you’re having an argument because there is dissonance in your relationship and you would like peace. I feel like I say this a lot, but you need to make space for the relationship to happen, and that means you need the space for an argument, too. It has to be about a specific thing outside your own selves (“We need to keep an eye on our finances so please make sure all ATM withdrawals are logged in the check register”), rather than an attack (“Why don’t you ever log your stupid ATM withdrawals? How irresponsible are you?”). A good argument should have mutual resolution in mind, not one-sided victory. It should never devolve into anything other than the original topic of discord (“And another thing: six months ago you said you would…!”). And it should, at the end of it all, give you both a better understand of who each other is and where you stand in regards to one another.

You can’t get there if he’s yelling and you’re crying. Or if he’s yelling and you’re walking away. All you’re doing is blocking each other out, putting up walls. No one ever looked at their partner’s walls and said, ooh, nice walls! I gotta get me some of those! And going back later to talk usually doesn’t work, because you’ve already hurt each other by not being there at a crisis point.

P: Put yourself and your well-being first, because you don’t want to be at the mercy of your sensitive feelings every time a disagreement erupts. At home, in friendships, and at the office, you lose the opportunity to provide your own input. You avoid setting things right. And you stop growth because everyone stops to take care of you. You are so much more powerful than that but it’s time to use your powers for the good. It’s time to start figuring out what you want from this relationship. His broad enthusiasm, and your emotional sensitivity, can be wonderful if you can make it work.

And then, when you have your goals settled a bit, find a workshop (there are a billion out there) that helps you work on communication with each other.

Workshops work because there’s often a blend of doing your own personal work that reminds you both how much you love each other (which leads to fun when you get home or even better in your hotel room in the middle of the workshop), helps you build skills, and reminds you that there are lots of people who are not innately skilled at talking things through.

B: My Priestess is right! You have to put your well-being first. You can’t be in a healthy relationship if you’re not healthy, yourself. Or, at the very least, working towards it. Love and attraction are great to have in any relationship, but the day-to-day mechanics of living together…talking to each other…respecting each other…honoring and tending to your partner’s vulnerabilities…managing all that requires compassionate effort, and can be so difficult when feelings and egos get in the way.

P: My dear, you are not the only couple with communications differences and problems. But you could be one of the couples that makes it work in your favor!

Relationships. Finding their own balance is key.

Relationships. Finding their own balance is key.

To find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for their generous use of location!

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos!

Thanks to models George and Marjorie for playing along!

If you have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com; human non-spambots, remove spaces and insert proper punctuation. 

Thanks for reading! Now go tell all your friends.

 

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