Selfishness. Add it to the list of “dirty words” associated with marriage. In my opinion, there are two different kinds of selfishness, and the one I have learned to practice in our marriage is the good kind. I don’t think the importance of selfishness and self-care are talked about enough when two people are headed into this life-long commitment. Especially when you have partners coming together with their own career goals and laundry lists of things they are agreeing to support each other to achieve, somehow without sacrificing one’s career for the other.
It is no secret that my husband’s career consumes him. It’s why he has accomplished what he has before the age of 30. Now that I found myself again professionally, I strive to be as lost in my career as he is in his. However, as the other halves of these band directors in highly competitive programs throughout the country, we have to get used to running our households with our spouses never home, and it can be a slippery slope balancing showing support for them without harboring resentment. Even though I have always beamed with pride for my husband and all that he and his team (who is like family to us) accomplish together, it used to be impossible for me not to harbor resentment toward him, his career, and everything / everyone that comes with it. After talking about this openly with a lot of people, I know that I am not alone, and this dynamic probably exists in most marriages in which one or both spouses has a physically, mentally and emotionally consuming career.
In years past, I would give everything I had mentally and emotionally (and oftentimes physically) to be Dan’s cheerleader during competition season, thinking that forcing myself to ride the emotional rollercoaster of it all was making me a more dedicated girlfriend / fiancée / wife. The reality is, it was making me totally crazy, and each season ended in me temporarily hating everything and everyone associated with marching band…which wasn’t fair to Dan and wasn’t pleasant for me. This year, I knew I had to make adjustments and come up with a plan that worked for my needs. I was determined to create space for me to be the good kind of selfish: mindful, present, and open, so that I didn’t lose myself and turn into the bad kind of selfish as a result: resentful, blame-y, and bratty.
This past weekend was the first marching band competition of the season, and the tweaks in my approach made it so that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was a happy, loving support system for Dan, his team, and the kids. As a wife, I had a breakthrough. Here is what I did, and the takeaways from these lessons that I hope you can apply too:
- I carved out time for a 75-minute yoga class the morning of the competition.
- Takeaway: Wake up early if it means you get an hour to center yourself- mind and body-for whatever / whoever it is you are the support system for that day.
- I packed my own healthy snacks that I could eat until dinner, so that I was in control of how my body felt.
- Takeaway: Prepare beforehand so that you can stick to your daily routine for as long as possible in your displaced environment, and you don’t get anxious or upset when what you need isn’t available to you.
- I drove my own car to the competition, on my own time. I had 3 hours to myself to charge and get in the zone with the right music.
- Takeaway: Take time to yourself in quiet, so that you can be ready to give your all when you are needed by others.
- I booked my own hotel room that I was comfortable with, walking distance from the stadium.
- Takeaway: Create your own safe space where you can step away to recharge if need be.
- For the first time ever, I experienced the competition by Dan’s side – behind the scenes. I only stepped foot in the stadium seats to watch the band’s preliminary performance. For finals I was on the field, and I loved it.
- Takeaway: Do what you need to do to experience your situation from a different perspective. Support from a different angle – be useful. You will learn something new that you didn’t before, and you will feel both needed and appreciated.
- Dan was aware of this new approach I was trying, and he found a way to include me and incorporate me into the whole experience as his right hand.
- If you talk to your partner and are open with them about ways in which you think you can support them better, chances are they will adjust.