Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ambition in Married Life

B and I have been quarreling off and on for the last week. We've been together for a long time (14 years I think), and so have come to a mutually agreeable consensus on most topics. What's left are the insoluble problems, which can't be resolved. So our fights tend to be the same each time, on the same topics, during which we each make the same points over and over. I miss our old fights, when we were first together, which had more range and variety.

Our main fight, for probably at least the last three years, has to do with life priorities. B has a very consuming, stressful career, which requires him to work constantly. In addition, he has very high expectations and ambitions for himself, so that even if there wasn't external pressure, he would still want to work all the time (See: B in Taiwan, when he didn't have a real job or responsibilities. He used this free time to study Mandarin 10 hours a day.) Now that he's started a new job (and is the only income-earner), he feels even more pressure to succeed. To do this, he wants to work extremely long hours, and for me to help him by taking care of everything else. While he will take some time off to please me, this is always stressful for him because he is constantly worrying about what tasks remain to be done. He is happiest when he is immersed in working on one of his projects.

I am not ambitious. My main goal at the moment is to have a happy family life and enjoy myself. I want to spend lots of time chatting, going for walks, traveling, enjoying good food, etc. I know that B has to work (both for financial and personal reasons), but I want him to do it only during specified times, and to cheerfully forget about his work whenever he's not actually doing it. I don't like working hard, and while I often have a long to-do list, my goal is always to get rid of it so that I can sit and relax.

As a result, we disagree about how to spend time and what balance to strike between work and play. I want to go places and have fun; when B doesn't, I feel like he doesn't enjoy spending time with me, or doesn't care about my desires, and thus doesn't love me. B, on the other hand, often feels unsupported in his goals, and constantly pressed for time, while I make still more demands on him.

In general, we try to compromise so that each person gets some of what they want (so B can work 10-12 hours most days, and we go out outings/trips on a regular basis). But basically there is no way of resolving the issue, since it reflects a fundamental difference in priorities.

Sometimes I wish I had a very unambitious, easy-going husband (like my brother-in-law, who spends most of his time on his hobbies or hanging out with his friends: in fact, I don't think he's ever had a real job for more than a few months), just like B sometimes wishes I was a career-focused go-getter. But for the most part, our differences complement each other: we each have something that the other lacks, and together make up a balanced team (even if this also occasionally leads to conflict).

1 comment:

  1. These are some of the hardest things! Those constant arguments are the color of life, but they can be annoying too!