Transitioning from single to partnered; fear losing my identity - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 08-10-2007, 02:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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X-posting this from PAPs because I know a lot of the formerly single mamas from this forum still post here:

I've been a single (and sole) parent to my dd for 7+ years. I have a wonderful partner now. He is truly a partner in every sense of the word and the absolute equivalent of everything I've wanted in a partner and more. He is kind, thoughtful, crunchy, gentle, respectful, generous, attentive, stable, healthy, positive, intelligent... I could go on and on.

Now that we've left the dating stage of our relationship and have transitioned naturally and beautifully to the partner stage, I am really grappling with my sense of identity.

My identity has been wrapped up in being single, self-sufficient, self-reliant, capable and fiercely independent. I'm not indicating in any way, shape or form that I need or would give up any of those things in order to be partnered. But, I have this person in my life who really gets what it means to share a household and a family, in terms of chores, errands, childcare, etc.. he also is someone who just intrinsically loves being productive. So he does a lot of stuff. And I love it. I love that after all of these years of having every single solitary aspect of running a household and raising a child, I get to share it with someone. It's really special. At other times, I wind up feeling really out of sorts about it. I've had total two year old like moments of literally saying, "NO! I can do it myself!" when DP has tried to help me with something.

One night he was at his parents and was going to do some work for them and I had had a rough day and a rough evening and was on the phone venting to him. He said so kindly and lovingly, "If it would be helpful, I can reschedule with my folks and come help you." I somewhat harshly stated, "No! Do not come. Do NOT come! I'm handiling it! I can handle everything myself!" We wound up having a really long and wonderful conversation about how I fear accepting too much help from him in any given area, that I fear losing sight of how capable I am if I always have someone I can lean on and that I fear becomming accustomed to having a partner around who shares so much of the load because of how much harder everything I've always done without knowing any differently will seem if it stops for some reason (we break-up or something). We talked about the concept of partners relying on each other while still being self sufficient and autonomous beings. It was a great talk and even before that conversation he was sensitive about not overstepping any bounds and not infringing on my independence, etc..

But I continue to feel this combination of gratitude and joy at his contributions to our lives and our household mixed with some fear and sometimes something like anger.

For example, I have brought up the fact that I'd really like to make our bedroom nice. I've neglected it for years and years. It's pretty much had a bed, a dresser and various clutter that needed to be gone through and mostly thrown out/donated/recycled. I expressed that I just feels like a day's long project and I never feel like I have an entire day and the corresponding energy needed to get it done. He essentially asked if it would be okay if he made that a project for himself. He's had some time off this week and he's done some really great things with the bedroom. I love it. It was a lot of work and it's starting to really feel like a bedroom. I'm really thankful and he put a lot of effort (and some money) forth. But part of me feels like it is some how a negative reflection on me that I didn't do something about it sooner on my own. Part of me felt really strange that such a major change happened completely without my participation. I mean, when you are the only adult in the household for seven years, that NEVER happens. It's a really weird feeling.

Another thing is that lately, a few people, namely a good friend, my sister and my dd's teacher (she just went back to school last week) have remarked that my dd has totally "blossomed". They've all pretty much said that while she's always been a great and overall pretty easy kid, she's got a whole new level of positivity, politeness, helpfulness and cooperativeness.

I always thought that I was a great mom and I know I was. I always absolutely scoffed when I read articles or heard people make comments about what a disadvantage children of single family homes were at because I felt like I did it all and did it ten times better than a lot of the two parent families I know.... but man, I AM a much better parent with a partner. I more patient, I have more energy and, in general, I'm happier. But I somehow find this disconcerting.. it totally messes with my self-identity.

Plus, I somehow never realized what a HUGE impact it would make on my dd seeing two people modeling politeness, kindness and gratitude. I've always modeled those behaviours on my own... but it's a whole different ball of wax when she is witnessing two people saying thank you to one another all day long (Thank you for making dinner! Thank you for running to the store! Thank you for helping dd with that!) and two people asking each other of things all day long.

In general, there's just more love to go around. And everyone is right: dd is blossoming under it. But it is really disrupting my image of how good of a job I thought I was doing on my own.

The thing that is really bringing all of this to light is that DP is going away this weekend and will be gone for about 5-6 days. I feel sad and I'm going to miss him. And I have this really uncomfortable quiet voice saying "What am I gonna do without him?" To which a very loud voice immediately replies, "Oh hell no! You did not just think that thought! You are going to do exactly like you've always done and are still perfectly capable of doing!"

But it feels like it's going to be really rough without him. He does so much everyday... cooks, cleans, launders, makes me tea, loves me, loves dd, grocery shops... where I stand back and am like "How in a hell did I do ALL of this for so many years by myself?" But that feeling is so uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable that I feel like it's going to feel hard to manage without him, where before I didn't know any different; I just did what I had to do.

I tell myself that it's okay to share the load with your partner. It's okay to rely on your partner and the members of your household for certain things. I tell myself that I know and he knows how capable I am. I tell myself that of course life runs smoother with another contributing adult around... it's totally logical that it would and that it's not a reflection of my own capabilities. But I how do I really internalize all that and avoid feeling disempowered? How does one do that?

I have no doubt that we have and will continue to have an equal partnership... but even an equal partnership feels threatening to my sense of independence, which is what has defined who I am for so many years.

One of the main reasons I want to sort this out is because we have every intention of TTC after we get married in about a year and I want to SAH. But I wonder if I can handle becomming reliant on someone else financially.

Does this make sense to anyone? Anyone else go from a long period of being a single parent to being partnered or anyone else just always been fiercely independent and struggle a bit with your identity once partnered?
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#2 of 5 Old 08-10-2007, 06:25 PM
 
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Mama, I can relate to so much of what you just posted and can see myself struggling with the same things in the future when I remarry. I'm already struggling with this uncomfortable feeling that I'm going to run my truly fantastic bf off by accepting his help so much. That's my fear - not that I'll lose myself like you but I'll lose him! Although I haven't been single for as long as you, my last relationship was one in which I did everything around the house and took care of DS every minute we were together while holding down a full time job. It was all I knew for 10 years before DC was born and then for another 3 after. I had no help before so now it feels strange to have someone else that wants to help. I have guilt over it at times. I'm learning to that its OK to accept help and its not a sign of weakness that I sometimes need help. I have no advice but hope we find some here.
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#3 of 5 Old 08-13-2007, 11:19 PM
 
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OMG! I could have written your whole post almost ver batim a year ago! YES, I totally know what you mean & YES, it was a hard-core soul-searching identity-thrashing time for me when DP and I got together. Truthfully, it almost broke us because I was so afraid of losing my autonomy that I really mentally sabatoged our relationship in the beginning.

Luckily, DP is one of the most patient and loving people I've ever met and really just stood by me & waited... and waited and waited . We also talked A LOT about what I was feeling. It took about a year for me to really be comfortable being partnered. I still remember one night, after we'd been living together for over a year, and he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said "thank you for saving this relationship. I've missed you and I've seen how hard it's been for you to trust me and I'm so greatful that you decided to stay". It just cut right through to my heart. This is the guy I want to be with for the rest of my life. This is the guy I want to be my kids' dad, this is the guy I'll trust to take care of me & this is the guy I want to care for in return.

We're getting married next July & I honestly can't wait. I never thought I'd feel this way, but I do. I recently started working PT & I'm OK with trusting DP to cover the majority of the bills. Someday, when we're better off I'd love to sahm & we're talking about adopting a child DS2's age (actually seriously trying to adopt, but I feel like I'll jinx it if I talk about it right now )

It sounds like you've got a great guy. It may just take some time before you're totally comfortable with having a partner. I think the reason I'm so sure about this relationship is because I *liked* being single. It was a hard life to walk away from, but my life has more joy and more love with DP in it. That's a GOOD thing
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#4 of 5 Old 08-17-2007, 12:55 AM
 
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I can totally relate to the OP, I've been single from the get go (oldest is 7) and had #2 as an SMC. Being able to let go was a serious problem for me in my last relationship, I finally started letting him take over a few things and we ended up breaking up a few weeks later. Guess he couldn't handle being with superwoman once he started getting a taste of my real life

Seriously?
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#5 of 5 Old 08-17-2007, 10:50 PM
 
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Thank you for starting this thread. I can't help yet, but all your posts are going to help me! My ex moved out about 16 months ago. I am seeing a guy who treats me like a princess. Spends money on me. Drove my MOM from out of state. Plays with my kids. Brings me food. Drives back and forth to pick me up so I won't have to drive. Offered to help with my son's birthday party tomorrow--and I need help--but I rudely said it was "too soon".

You know, it was tough, not just after ex moved out, but for YEARS BEFORE, when he never did anything with the kids and I felt alone and single. Now, I am so, so afraid of getting all comfortable with this new guy when I am not yet sure he is "the one". (We have only known each other for the summer.)

He says I am giving him mixed messages, and won't even reassure him of my feelings. Well I want to wait. I am so confused! Don't know if I love him, or love the attention and being taken care of. What if I want to break up later? That would be devastating.

Sorry to hijack this thread, but I can identify with you 100%!!
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