Saturday, March 28, 2020

Being Indispensable Versus Being Taken For Granted... from an SMC Perspective.

I'm not sure I'm really "supposed" to be sharing a conflicts here but since I'm pretty sure no one is reading -- my own fault for never posting -- so I'm breaking the rules.

Sergio, bless his tender heart, has offered that he wants to be "indispensable" to me.

But last week we had a big conflict, and one of the issues he raised is that he felt taken for granted.

And I don't want to place all the blame on him, because I can totally see where he was coming from.

But... I find this concept super confusing as an SMC.

In one of the examples he listed, he came over -- earlier than I expected, though he didn't remember that -- and I had just started working out. In the moment, I thought, "wow, how great is it that I am able to keep doing my workout and know that he understands how critical my workouts are to my sanity? And that I hadn't worked out earlier because I was trying to work while Amelie napped."

But it turns out that he was upset. Partly because he was already upset. And my not stopping my workout really bothered him because it was our last evening together for while. So he felt like he was being taken for granted.

And the reason he was upset before that? He had been planning to stay with us for two weeks when his mother arrived from Mexico City so that she didn't expose us to germs, and vice versa. But then I talked to Calliope about it that morning and she was not at all a fan of that plan. And I worried that her being against the idea, plus him being with us full time for two weeks -- plus the stress of, you know, a global pandemic -- was an awfully big storm for a new relationship to weather. And so I talked to a friend and then decided he shouldn't stay with us. Without consulting him.

He says he was fine with my reasoning but not fine with my deciding without consulting him. And, I think, his feelings were hurt. Although I tried my best to explain, I think what he heard was that I didn't want him with us. Some of that is due to cultural differences -- a Mexican would never imply that a guest should leave, no matter how long they stay -- and part of it is his own sensitivities.

So that sucked. And led to a giant, painful, ugly mess.

Luckily, we eventually recovered but it took a few days and it was painful. We have been talking a lot about the misunderstandings that are inevitable, and how to deal with them. It's not easy. Especially when both people are well established in life middle-aged (am I middle-aged if I'm 45 but have little kids? I feel like middle-aged people are empty-nesters and clearly I am far from that... but my chronological age suggests middle-agedness) and have our routines well established.

How much help are we supposed to accept? How much are we allowed to ask for? Is it taking someone for granted if we say please and thank you while accepting or asking for a lot of help?

This morning I (nervously) asked him if he could watch the kids outside in "our" abandoned parking lot so they could play while I started some laundry. Later, I asked him if that was taking him for granted. And he said no, actually, he felt honored and included to be trusted with them.

I'm so confused!

Later I asked him if he could explain the difference. How can I know when it is okay to ask for help and when is it taking him for granted?

And then he confused me even more by saying he thinks he was wrong to have accused me of that in the first place!

Being an SMC in a new partnership is very confusing. I'm very grateful for the experience but it feels scarily easy to make a misstep.


  1. I’m so happy to hear you’re in a relationship! They can be confusing for sure, I relate. I think we do all day things when upset that are said stronger than we really feel or even say things we don’t mean. I’m sorry for conflict. Sounds like you guys are working through it, though. Sending care and good thoughts. I’m still reading! :-)

  2. Thank you Kristina!!! So nice to hear that you are still reading!

  3. This sounds exactly like the beginning of my now five year long relationship. It’s extremely difficult to navigate bringing a new man into a family that was meant to be just mom and kids, and was, for years. Early on for us there were a lot of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, missteps, and feelings of not being needed (him) and feeling invaded (me). Needless to say we’ve always managed to overcome, and I’m so glad we did! It sounds like you have a really good person there. I wish you the best of luck!