I realized early in my marriage what’s not his and what’s not mine. Let me explain. Sometimes it isn’t the things we share that show how close a relationship is. It is the things that we don’t share. Growing up I had a lot of hand me downs but I didn’t really have to share since I was so much younger than my siblings. When their stuff got to me… It was mine and mine alone. That used bike? It was mine and at no point did my sister try and take it back. Because when Dad fixed it up for me I was seven. And not long after, my sister had her first child. She didn’t need that bike anymore. My husband on the other hand was very close in age to his siblings. Fifteen weeks after my hubby turned two, his Mom gave birth to his little brother. Seventeen days later his twin brother and sister turned one. In two years and eighteen weeks my other in law had four kids. Crazy. As a result my husband was extremely overly protective of his stuff.
When my oldest was a teen she would often steal her Dad’s socks. Because they were clean and organized nicely in his drawer. Easy. But when he found out he would get so angry with her. I never understood it at first. But he had spent his life with very little to call his own and so he was reluctant to share. He started to take a dollar out of her allowance every time he caught her borrowing his socks. When we first started dating he would never allow me to drive his car. Even after marriage it was taboo. He passed away three years ago and I often feel guilty driving his car. I know he would be upset not only by how I drive it but also that I leave stuff in it. It would break his heart. Once in awhile I would wear something of his and he would get upset. I didn’t get it. Now as I allow the kids to take some of his more memorable jerseys or tee shirts I wonder what he would think.
And it wasn’t just clothes or driving. When we would go away on a trip, I would often buy lots of things for the kids or grandkids. If I couldn’t fit it all in my suitcase, I would ask him to take a few items and pack with his stuff. His answer? NO! Straight up. He questioned if I had really tried to fit it all in. Or if it was a golf vacation, couldn’t I just put some of my clothes in my golf bag. It’s like he took that whole “pack your own bag” thing for airport security to an insane level. It blew my mind. When we packed our clothes we each had our own everything. Our own toothpaste. Our own shampoo and conditioner. Nothing was shared. Ever. Its like he didn’t want to get my cooties by having our stuff touch. I found it to be very odd as he was a very passionate man. Not shy. Very lovey towards me. So it wasn’t an intimacy thing. We had shared bank accounts. Everything else was shared. But then again if he bought his favourite brand of canned chili, which was horrible, if someone ate it he would lose his mind. It was his. His i-pod was his. No sharesies. Even our motorbikes. I only rode his after he died and even then I felt guilty. Almost as if I was going to be in trouble. It didn’t go the other way. He rode my bike a few times. He also drove my truck a lot. Even bicycles. He had a mountain bike that was very expensive. After hanging in the garage for years I suggested giving it away. He had a racing bike by then so I thought we could make space. Nope. It’s still hanging there. Even after he died because now its nostalgia.
My sister and her husband have been living and travelling in a huge motor home for about seven or eight years. They love it. When we meet up in a restaurant they often order food and then share it. This is also something my hubby struggles with. First off, we don’t typically like the same type of food. He was raised meat and potatoes and I tend to lean toward the vegetarian diet. I am not a vegetarian but if it is a choice between tofu or meat in a dish I go tofu. But even appetizers he struggled to share. If we are in a group and people are sharing he would make sure to order two of whatever he liked. Then he made sure to get enough of his first choice. Sometimes he liked to order milkshakes. I usually don’t. Too filling. But if I asked for a taste there was almost a look of disgust before he would sigh and reluctantly offer me a drink. Don’t eat off my plate was his motto. And I won’t eat off of yours.
He had his chair. I didn’t sit there. Even at the dining room table he had his chair. It never varied. He had his side of the bed. No matter where we went or stayed or travelled, he hd his side of the bed. If I tried to mix it up, even just to be funny he would just say no. He had favourite mugs that he used for his morning coffee. As expected it was inevitably something of his that would get broken or lost. I still have the mug I bought in Scotland in 2006 whereas his was broke after a couple of years. At the cabin he would hide his mug in odd paces so no one would use it. It is now in a cupboard in the basement so it doesn’t get broken. Our bedroom closet and dresser were his. None of my clothing was in our bedroom. Only the nightstand was mine and I took a long time to clean his out when he passed away because it seemed like an invasion of privacy. We even had separate tool boxes so no one would touch his tools. If the kids needed a screwdriver it was my toolbox that was the communal go to.
One thing that I saw developing with my own children is the idea that whatever was owned by the parents was in fact a family ownership situation. It starts at a young age. Our house. Our car. Our cabin. And some of it carries into Adulthood. My husband used to buy me tickets to a mystery theatre. The first time was 38 years ago. We finally bought seasons tickets around 18 years ago. Initially two seats. Then five. And now four. My daughter quite simply says “We have seasons tickets” when raving about the latest production and encouraging people to attend. And frankly “we” do. They belong to us. The family. My Granddaughter went to her friends cabin last summer for a few days. Afterwards Missy told me that she had invited her friend to come to Missy’s cabin. This would have bothered my husband. Oddly enough. My house is home for my unmarried son. No matter where he lives this is his home. My daughters have homes and families and refer to my house as “Mom’s” house. We were married for close to 20 years before my husband stopped calling his moms house, home. He referred to the building where we lived with our children as our house. When going to visit his Mom he was going home. In fact, after four years of marriage he finally changed his address on his drivers licence to our address. It bothered me and he never understood why. He stopped saying it in part to avoid fights but mainly because she moved and the new place wasn’t home. Strangely enough he struggled with the concept of our children’s rooms as being private. He would come to me in disgust after peering into the open door of a kids room. I would just tell him to shut the door. It is their room. It drove him nut because his family did not have the same privacy. Their parents had an infinite amount of control over their bedrooms. Their home was perfect. Matching. Clean. Tidy. Bedrooms were not personal or private. Just a place to sleep and store your clothes.
As the years went by and I came to understand my husband and his upbringing on a deeper level, I was surprised to finally realize how trauma played an important role in my husbands idiosyncrasies. How so many of his actions were in part a form of self protection. Although it was his family of origin that created most of the distrust and fears, that was where he was pulled in. Because there was a comfort in the bond the siblings shared. It had nothing to do with me. But it truly was an unhealthy place to turn in life as in so many ways his family could not move passed their early trauma. Because when together, they reverted back to their former characters. Who they were back then. As children or teens. Their actions and responses were not those of adults but of children. The sarcasm and taunts. Mean comments. Passive aggressive conversation styles. It was crazy to watch and the sad part was watching it happen to my own children. At family get togethers. I remember my brother in law telling my 25 year old nephew to get his elbows off of the table. Not his own son but one of the siblings children. I was appalled. This is a grown ass man you are bossing around. Would you do this to any other adult? NO. My husband couldn’t understand my attitude. In his view the nephew shouldn’t have had his elbows on the table. It is obvious why family trauma makes its way through the generations. People are unable to break away from their childish responses to life when exposed to the childhood family dynamics. I see it in my own family as well but in a different way. I am the baby of the family. Always will be. There is a type of hierarchy that was created over time and as siblings we often fell into our roles when we met as adults. We all have our petty “poor me” attitudes stemming from our perceived childhood woes and these tend to resurface when confronted with those who shared that time. Unlike friends and acquaintances, we often feel safe enough with family to act poorly.
Behind closed doors, in marriage, my husband was a very loving and sensual man. I was always number one in ways that other people didn’t see. I didn’t see it for the longest time because my idea of love and marriage was different than his. He questioned early on why he had to say I love you so often. I knew he loved me right? I grew up hearing it often. And so he said it. Often. He “helped” in ways that I found odd but were actually from a place of practicality. He washed his own clothes often but never mine. But frankly I didn’t trust him to read labels so it was good. He didn’t baby me or go out of his way to make life easy physically. He didn’t fill my car with gas or wash it. He complained that it was dirty. So it would go wash it. I am and always was very independent. He kept me accountable. And yet every morning he would bring me a cup of coffee in bed. He bought me beautiful cards and wrote romantic songs and poems. He showed his tenderness in so many ways. His final act of practicality was giving me his passwords to his phone and computer and the files where he stored others. His illness and his death showed me that his trust in me was absolute and that throughout our life together he had shown love in the most important way. Maybe he didn’t like to share. But he trusted me implicitly. That became very evident during his illness when he would panic if I was away at all. Finally, he knew I would respect his wishes. He wanted to die at home. And he did. His only wish after death was to be cremated and that his funeral was to be a church service. He didn’t care about anything else. His faith was deep. In God and in me.
So now everything that was his is mine even though his car is still Dad’s car. The TV room is still Dad’s room. His motorbike. His golf clubs are still his even though two of my kids use them. My daughter has his mountain bike although I doubt that she will call it hers. It will always be Dads bike. I am surrounded by his stuff. His possessions. I sleep on his side of the bed. I use his night stand. I still pay for his cell phone so I can call him sometimes. I use everything. I would gladly promise to never touch his stuff again if I could just have him back. My marriage wasn’t about sharing in so many ways. It was beyond that. It was about understanding your partner. And loving them anyways. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn that lesson.