Posted by: Andrea | April 23, 2008

The curse of the independent woman

I think sometimes that I’m cursed from being single for too long.  I’m fiercely independent, mainly because I’ve had to be.  I’ve never gotten used to having a boyfriend around.  It’s only been in the past few years (I turn 29 next month) that I’ve ever even had a boyfriend for any length of time.  So when that tire went flat?  I fixed it myself.  When I had to put together furniture?  Yup, all me.  I managed to put up shelves and picture frames and clean the house and fix things entirely properly without anyone there to assist me to do it.  I never felt the need to have someone around to help me or lamented the fact that I had to do it.  All by myself!  The horror!  In fact, I actually enjoyed it.  I liked that I could manage things on my own, that I generally do fine with everything in my life without needing someone else to give me a hand. 

The problem is, I now have a boyfriend who likes to help with things.  And he’s a lovely, sweet, attentive, fantastic boyfriend.  So when we finish eating dinner at his house and I go to wash the dishes, he immediately stops me and does them himself.  When we’re eating dinner at my house he does the same thing and then gets visibly antsy when I say no, that I’ll do it this time, thank you so much though for offering.  Except that not being able to do the dishes obviously bugs him so much that he’ll stand there trying to figure out something to do to be useful and then ask several times from the couch if I’m really sure there’s nothing he can do to help.  Because he can’t just sit still and not help.  This is impossible.

See, the thing is, this is so sweet of him to do.  Except that I am the insane woman-who’s-been-single-too-long.  So when I’m at his house and he won’t let me do the dishes, I feel like he’s saying I’m not doing the dishes right, or that he can do the dishes better.  There’s this irrational voice inside me that just wants to say, ‘let me do the damn dishes already, I can do the dishes without your help!’  And it’s not just the dishes.  He tries to help me with everything, every little thing that he notices I’m trying to fix or put together or mess around with, he wants to do it.  We went hillwalking and I have these awesome new walking poles my parents gave me for Christmas.  These poles have three separate sections so they can be adjusted to different heights by unscrewing the bits and extending them as needed.  Except as we walked the poles gradually became unscrewed and were telescoping out or back as the mood took them.  So I stopped to tighten them back up again.  Simple action.  Stop.  Screw poles back to desired height.  Start walking again.  But as soon as I stopped and he saw me messing around with my poles, he was all ‘here, give them to me.’  You can imagine my response.  In my head: ‘No!  I’m not a baby!  I can fix them myself!  Don’t you think I can fix them myself?!  Just let me fix them myself!!!’  Out loud: ‘No, it’s fine, I just need to tighten them a bit.’ 

I know, I know, I’m being such a bitch about this.  He’s just trying to be nice!  And helpful!  And feel useful in this relationship!  Because I’m not a total idiot, as much as it may seem like it sometimes.   I realise that men like to be helpful, like to be seen as useful to their partners.  Particularly when dating a woman like me, who asks for so little and prefers to manage so much on her own.  I know that by always wanting to do so much for myself, I’m actually stopping him from feeing like an important and cherished part of my life.  I do know this.  But it’s so hard to stop the little voice that’s constantly saying that if he’s doing something for me then he thinks I can’t do it by myself.  It makes me feel like a child and I hate that.  But I hate even more that I’m so unable to accept help when it’s offered.  How did I turn into this woman who can’t even let him wash the dishes without feeling like my dish-washing skills are being maligned?  I mean seriously.  Just let him wash the dishes already.  

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Responses

  1. Hmmm…I agree with the “Just let him wash the dishes already.”

    Do an experiment: the next time you have dinner (at your house or his), immediately after the meal, don’t say a thing. Just get another glass of wine and go plop yourself in front of the TV. See what he does. I’ll bet it isn’t so much that he wants to do the dishes as that he wants to INSIST on doing them. If you don’t give him the chance to insist, maybe he’ll get over it.

    I don’t know…don’t listen to me. I haven’t had a boyfriend in years. 🙂

  2. See, I know he is not at ALL the problem, it’s my inability to just accept help when it’s offered. Like I have to do everything myself to prove that I can and if someone else offers to do something for me, it’s not because he’s just trying to be nice, it’s because he thinks I can’t do it. Which is SO stupid and not at all true. It’s just something that I’ve noticed lately and made me realize once again that yes, I am insane.


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