I was an only child growing up and in both my mom and step dad’s families I was still the only child. My mind, my imagination, is what kept me company most of time, what entertained me. I also read a lot. I would go to a used book store and buy a three foot stack of books while turning in another three foot stack of books that I already read for credit. I had a lot of friends growing up too, so I wasn’t alone all the time, I would hardly consider myself antisocial. Regardless, I still ended up alone a lot. This didn’t bother me, I could so easily entertain myself. I remember on vacation in Florida an old lady remarked to my mother how amazed she was that I could keep myself entertained for hours in a pool with only a few colored diving sticks. I was content, happy, I had fun playing these games I made up in my head or escaping into a book.
My husband had a very different childhood, he had a younger brother growing up. He was very close with his family and they would do everything together. He didn’t have many close friends growing up, but he was close to his brother and family. Now that we are married he wants to do everything with me and spend all our time together. Now don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with him and it’s not that I get sick of spending time with him, it’s just that, I’m so used to spending time alone. I love to let my mind wander, curl up with a good book or just not have to worry about what someone else is doing or if they are having fun. I re-energize by retreating into my own little world. I’m not used to being around someone else 24/7, it makes me anxious. He is so dependent on me, without me he doesn’t know what to do with himself, he feels lonely. I could go for days without seeing him and still not feel lonely, I would miss him a lot and miss spending time with him, but I would easily keep myself occupied.
Our dramatically different childhoods have affected us in ways we hadn’t thought about before. He gets mad at me if I spend too much time ‘doing my own thing’ and I get mad at him for not allowing me to do the things I want to do. I try to encourage him to hang out with his friends or go play basketball or to do other things I know he enjoys doing, but he is hesitant to do anything unless I do it with him. I didn’t understand, but he didn’t enjoy those things as much if he didn’t have someone to share them with. I had learned to derive joy from solitary activities to the point that I needed solitary activities in my life in order to feel balanced.
We talked for hours the other night trying to explain how we saw things and why we saw them that way. We each walked away with a better understanding of why we were the way we were and that neither of us meant to make the other person feel badly, we just didn’t understand the other person. I felt guilty when I did my own thing because I could see it made him unhappy, which made me unhappy. If I didn’t do my own thing, I would be unhappy and he would happy until he saw I was unhappy, then he would be unhappy too. It’s a no-win situation, that is, until we discussed it. Hopefully *crosses fingers*, now he can understand that me wanting to spend time alone is nothing against him and I can understand why he wants me to do things with him all the time. My happiness is based on a mixture of independence, companionship and his happiness. His happiness is mostly based on companionship and my happiness. Without my independence I will not be happy and if I’m not happy, he’s not happy. Hopefully we can find a good balance so we both feel we are getting the kind of happiness we need.