Okay, it’s easier said than done — not leaving yourself behind, that is. This post will act as a prelude to my much-advertised post about female friendships, and it also will be very real & unedited.
How does one leave themselves behind — one might ask. Great question. You are quite brilliant. I was talking to my therapist yesterday — breaking the stigma, by the way, because of course, I have a therapist, if you haven’t read any of my other posts — about how exhausting it can be to get my (male) partner to do anything. If he needs a new pair of glasses, I have to find an eye doctor, pick out the frames, make sure the prescription is correct, order them, and then he goes to pick them up, and then he goes, “I did it! I used my car and drove to the place and therefore I did the glasses thing.” It’s exhausting.
My therapist then says, “yes, that’s a common complaint among heterosexual women.” My first thought, “MOTHERFUCKING WHY IS IT LIKE THIS.” Then I calmed myself because I was in a public place.
I had the same conversation with one of my closest friends last night, too. She was noticing how drained she is by the end of the day because of this dynamic between her and her husband.
I won’t speak for all straight + married, or coupled-off women, but I know that I’ve put way more energy into making sure his life is on the right trajectory than figuring out my own. That, my friend, is leaving yourself behind. The mental load of having to take care of every single detail of not just your own life, but the life of the one you love is absolutely exhausting.
A lot of wonderful scholarly articles have been written about women’s invisible labor and mental load (which doesn’t only include housework or emotional labor) and how it affects their ability to take care of themselves, progress in their careers, and maintain a stable mental health.
One of my favorite published examples of this is actually not academic in nature, but it comes from a wonderful writer who crafted a comic entitled, “You Should Have Asked”. Please, check it out: https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked/
Now, some examples of my very own:
“Honey, I’m going to do the grocery shopping so that you don’t have to this week! Just tell me everything we need in the form of a detailed list and make sure your phone is on in case I forget the list and need you to tell me everything to get as I walk around the store.”
Who can relate? Many of you, I am sure.
Another good one:
Me: (feeling sad)
Husband: What can I do to help?
Me: I’M FUCKING CRYING. IF I KNEW WHAT TO DO TO HELP, I WOULDN’T BE CRYING ANYMORE. JUST DO SOMETHING. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT TO DO TO HELP ME, TOO.
I have a lot of academic responses to this kind of dynamic in a partnership and the mental load that women often take on in partnerships with men. I have radical feminist theory engrained in my bones from my undergraduate years. However, for the purpose of this blog post, I want to focus on day-to-day strategy. What small things can we, women, do to protect ourselves? Avoid marrying a man at all costs? Not necessarily. If you aren’t attracted to men, then definitely AVOID AVOID AVOID. But, if you are, let’s think about self-care for a minute.
Self-care is essential, especially if you are a straight, coupled-off woman. Your partner is (usually) not trying to drain you of every bit of energy from dawn until dusk, but he most certainly is draining you. I have put a lot of energy into my relationship because I love my husband, but I often have trouble taking care of myself because he rarely returns the favor. (If he does return the favor, though, he wants praise for weeks on end. Oops, did I just say that out loud? In writing?) I leave myself behind on most days. I panic most days. I cry most days (I cry at everything, though, to be honest).
So, self-care can be anything from reading your favorite fiction books to calling a good friend on your lunch break at work to drinking your favorite cup of tea for the 45 seconds before your kids come running in the house with muddy feet. It can also be taking a vacation by yourself to Italy for 2 weeks, and leaving your husband at home to tend to his own fucking needs. That sounds great, actually. Think about that one, guys.
So, self-care is great, if you’re good at it. If you aren’t good at it yet, the recipe then calls for maintaining strong female friendships. Your friends do not — I repeat: DO NOT — allow you to leave yourself behind. Good, strong female friendships help you maintain a schedule of self-care. So, don’t let your female friends fall by the wayside when you are dating someone new, getting married, partnering off, whathaveyou.
Throughout this post, I am, of course, speaking in generalizations. Same-sex couples can have these issues: a woman could be having these same issues with her wife; a man could be having these issues with his husband. A man could even be having these issues with his wife (though, the research shows this is very rare, so don’t get all excited, Men’s Rights Groups). You could be having these issues WITH some of your more toxic female friends! So, take this with a grain of salt.
But, I was feeling for some of my friends who have left themselves behind lately, who need pick-me-ups from time to time. I know I certainly do. So, my post about the importance of female friendships is coming next. This is a stream of consciousness post. Take it lightly. Laugh. Cry. Whatever. Then go get a fucking massage + watch Bad Moms XMAS.
Banana Peel Kelly