I’ve tried to figure out a way to explain how M values my contributions to our household, and the best way is to compare the two of us using a point system. M has defined the “rules” over the years we have been together and this is my best interpretation of his opinion based on things he has said and his actions pertaining to the activities.
For a little background, M was in a life-changing car accident when he was in his mid-twenties that left him disabled, using a prosthetic for his left leg below the knee and his right leg very damaged below the knee. Another accident resulted in a broken neck which caused nerve damage to his left hand and lingering pain. Yet another accident left him with chronic back pain. He lives with physical pain every day, and I understand that certain tasks hurt him more than others, I really do, but I can’t accept his pain as an excuse to hurt me emotionally. I am able-bodied, but not driven to perform feats of physical excess. I have no desire to be a Hard Body and I resent that he feels that I should be working towards that goal, but that is beside the point. There are obviously some envy issues at play here. I NEVER criticize or demean him for anything that is difficult for him to do, nor have I ever had any “issues” of any kind with his disabilities, which surprised him in the beginning.
Enough background, on to the Point System!
Since he lives with pain every day, any task that he performs automatically earns double points. He starts the day with 100 points just for getting out of bed.
Housework: These chores must be done by someone, so they do not earn any points or recognition unless he performs the tasks. If he does any household chores that are not on his list of “regular” duties (which include cleaning the bathroom and washing the dishes with the occasional load of laundry thrown in) they automatically earn double points and require that I praise him for saving me all that effort. If I fail to notice that he ran the vacuum he tells me that I don’t care about the house or about his efforts to spare me extra chores after I’ve put in a hard day’s work. I would much rather do the chores myself and get no recognition for them than have to listen to him moan and whine about how I don’t appreciate what he does for me.
Sitting Down: Anything that can be done while sitting earns zero points unless it is sanding or painting on a boat. Most of my hobbies are done sitting down, and even though I will knit sitting on the couch, at the end of the day, after all other chores are finished, even if it’s a sweater for him, I get no points.
My Projects: Since all of my hobbies are anachronistic they earn zero points, even if they are for him or at his request. He does not value my fiber arts (although he will praise me in front of others) or my philosophy about handwork. If one of my projects earns cold, hard cash, it can earn a few points, but they are always tempered with a “discussion” about profit margins and whether or not I actually made any money after my time and materials are subtracted.
His Projects: Anything I do for him related to his projects earns me half the points that he would earn if he did it himself. Points are taken away if the work is not done to his standards. He will praise my efforts to others if pressed, but he will not complement, thank or praise me directly. He feels that it is my duty as his partner to participate in his projects with a willing heart, to be “good help.”* It doesn’t go both ways – if I’m working on something else, he interrupts me and expects me to drop what I’m doing to work with him. If he asks me to do something for him and it’s not done in a timely manner (according to his time table) he gets angry and starts to lecture me about my priorities. This is why I don’t work on my projects unless he is away from home.
Paying Work: My value at my chosen career is directly related to how much I earn. When I work at drafting, I make $30.00 per hour, which he is happy with, and he is willing to take over some chores to make it easier for me to get the work done. He makes many comments about deadlines and my dedication to the job and how he would do my work better than I can do. When I work at the two part-time jobs that I’ve taken to make ends (almost) meet they earn no points. In fact, points are taken away from my daily total because I’m away from home and care of the animals and house falls to him. That the money is negligible and there is much wear and tear on my car are frequent topics of conversation, as are our money woes. It’s a no-win situation for me – I need to be bringing in money, there are no jobs in my industry in this town, therefore I have to take a minimum wage job (or two, or three) with no benefits to get some cash coming in, but he would prefer I made more money and worked fewer hours. Surely there’s something I could do to earn more money!
Travel: We sometimes go on long car trips. He drives because of his car accident – he has a fear of giving up control of a car on the freeway. This leads to his being very tired sometimes and resenting me for not taking on some of the driving duties. Problem is, when I drive, he constantly advises me about what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve my technique. In the end, he is a nervous wreck from not being in control and I am furious because of his hectoring. I mean, really, I’ve had two accidents in 25 years of driving (both occurred more than 15 years ago) neither of which resulted in any injuries, so I guess I can do an okay job, right? So, triple points for him and negative points for me, especially if I fall asleep. My duties are to get the dogs and all their accessories ready and take care of them for the whole trip. I also procure and pack all food and ask him the proper questions to verify that he has everything he needs for the trip. No points for me!
What else? There’s more, but I’m drawing a blank at the moment. I’ll update as things occur to me.
* Good Help is defined as someone who knows what the project is, what the next step is and what materials/tools/supplies are needed next and to bring those things to him, to lay out the work as it progresses. Any lack of knowledge or enthusiasm is the same as saying, “I don’t want to be here, your project is not important to me, and you are not important to me.”