Being Available

I’d say I’ve been dating for about 10 years. I would say I’ve been seriously dating for about 5 years. I would say that I’ve been in a healthy relationship for about 2 years.

When Jesse and I started dating, my view on relationships was pretty messed up. I had definitely gone through the ringer in my relationships before that. I had devoted the majority of my energy on these relationships and felt like I had been left in the dust. In retrospect, I could see how these relationships were bad for me, but I wasn’t able to see it when I was in it.

So, you can imagine how scared and excited I was when I met Jesse. I thought he was great (and still do)! I was just worried because I had thought a few guys were great in the past and my judgement had been anything but good. Luckily, Jesse is pretty exceptional and it was easy to trust him. Almost two years later, I’m happy with my past self for trusting her gut and recognizing what a good guy Jesse really was/is.

This meant navigating a whole new set of issues, though. Gone were the days of emotional chaos, lack of communication, and intense fear that the relationship would end. We had conflicts about who would sleep where and on what nights (we were both pretty enamored with our own beds). We had discussions about not having the Play Station in the living room (you can guess who was on what side). We struggled with understanding the other’s love language. Anytime I had a difficulty, I was so scared to voice it because I had gotten the message throughout my life that voicing what’s important to you usually got you closer to being dumped. I didn’t want to be dumped! I was madly in love. I viewed Jesse’s love as tenuous. Something that could just slip away if I let the reins go.

Through time I learned that Jesse’s love is anything but tenuous. It’s steadfast. Instead of distancing when I had a problem, he wanted to work on solving it. He wanted a compromise. He didn’t want to let it sit there and stir inside of us, it was getting solved and it was getting discussed and there would be a solution that made everyone extremely to moderately happy (the Play Station is in the living room).

I’m sure that you’ve made the connection that I sometimes make myself suffer from distorted thinking. Cue everyone going, “Duh, Jen!”. I should have been dating guys all along who wanted to stay with me after a disagreement. I am not something to be qualified by one disagreement, but I had somehow rationalized that it was normal for guys to want to be with me less because I voiced my desires and needs. Of course my needs weren’t important. My needs were irrational. My needs would only lead to a life of loneliness…

That thought process is a big heaping pile of crap. No relationship can be successful if one person gives up their needs with the understanding that if they voiced them, the relationship would slowly crumble. That’s not a relationship at all, it’s just a voluntary prison sentence.

To this day, I struggle with putting my needs on the same platform as Jesse’s. Sometimes I get myself worked up over a few days before I burst with whatever issue I have and you know what? After pretty much every burst, I feel better because we talk about it, Jesse soothes my worries, and we find a solution or just flesh out whatever I’m thinking. It’s cool to go to your partner with a worry and walk away feeling like your shoulders are not carrying such a heavy burden as they were before the conversation. I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate that my partner gives me the permission to be myself.

However, there’s something I struggle with pretty often. Something Jesse really can’t help me with. Something that still hits that nerve where I have to be conscientious about how much my needs are being met. I am solely responsible for making sure I watch myself on this issue.

I make myself way too available. When it comes to immediate needs, mine almost always fall into second place. For example, when I started this blog, I wanted to publish a post every day. If you look back on my old posts, you’ll notice I was super inconsistent. Sometimes I’d publish two times a week. Granted I was busy, but I definitely could have budgeted my time better. Times I had set aside to write usually got looked over the minute Jesse walked in the door. I never even said anything to him about it, I just put his presence above my hobby. His need for my attention was more immediate than my need to blog.

Funny thing though, Jesse made it through his whole day without my immediate attention. He works on his own projects all the time. He will shut himself in his office if something needs to get done and be very deliberate about it. Me? If he’s in the house and has nothing to do, I feel responsible for providing entertainment. I feel like I should stop doing my thing and start doing our thing. Even with all the encouragement and support he gave me to start this blog, I still felt like it was just a blog and he was my partner. He has to come first, right?

Right. Totally right (especially with a beard like that, impressive huh?), but blogging doesn’t mean I’m putting him second. It means I’m taking care of myself. I am happier when I write. I am less snappy. I’m more likely to be at ease. I feel like I’m doing something with my energy. Something I need to do to feel like myself. Jesse has remarked many times about how much more pleasant I am when I’m occupied with things I find enjoyable.

With this realization, I realized that to be a good partner I have to take care of myself and make my needs come first, too. It’s possible to keep Jesse’s needs and my needs on the same platform. Of course if he came home with an urgent need, I would stop writing and give him my attention. I don’t spend all night writing. I have my time, he has his time, and we have our time.

I’ve stopped leaving dinner dates with my friends to answer his phone calls. I’ve stopped responding to his texts while I’m in class. I’ve stopped checking my phone if it buzzes while I’m working out. I’ve stopped interrupting my time because being that available isn’t healthy. I will call him after dinner and he won’t mind because he’s great. Same with texting. Same with the gym. He wants me to do my thing because it makes our thing so much sweeter.

 So, if you have this feeling, the one where you get anxious because you are not meeting everyone’s immediate needs, especially your partner’s, try not being so available. Make yourself scarce. There is a reason why we have the cliché “quality time”. Time is better when it’s got substance, whether it’s time you spend with yourself or time you spend with your friends and partner. Allow yourself the quality time you think your partner deserves.

Seriously, though. Life is so much sweeter.



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Posted on by Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA Posted in Couples, Funny Stories, Mind
Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

About Jen Bingaman, M.A. LMHCA

Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a mental health counselor newly residing in Seattle, Washington. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection as the cornerstone of my professional ideology, along with the healing possibilities of puppies, a good glass of red wine, the smell of a new book, and the importance of travel.

  • Sari14

    lovey! i’m so glad you came to these realizations; it makes life so much easier and fun!! so happy for the both of you :)

    • http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/ Jennifer Bingaman

      :)

  • JMoney

    This post really resonated with me because I seriously have this problem. I recognize it and know it needs to change, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I don’t just do this with my boyfriend, but my sister, my parents, my other siblings, my best friends… I seem to put my needs behind the needs of every person I care about!

    The result is that I often end up staying up late at night to have private time, but by that point, I’m too exhausted to do anything constructive (not just homework, but hobbies, too). What’s worse is that this behavior feels ingrained in me. My mother does this with everyone in our family. She can only do her homework for her PhD between about 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. because she’s too busy caring for everyone else.

    What advice do you have for someone who recognizes this problem, but has no idea how to stop it? I’m not exactly going crazy yet, but I know it will happen if I don’t curb this behavior.

    Jessie

    • http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/ Jennifer Bingaman

      Hey girl!

      Well, as an overly available person in recovery, I can tell you the few things I do. Especially because *I know *I learned my available tendencies from my mom. She’s the same way. The first thing that’s great is you recognize this behavior which means you’re more likely to catch yourself doing it. Unfortunately, it’s usually in retrospect because you stay up too late and you’ve missed all your opportunities to do your thing. This is what I do:

      1. I ask people to call me on it or check in with me. When I’m feeling really over scheduled or stretched thin, I’ll ask Jesse to call me on whatever it is. This ranges from picking my face when I’m stressed (so attractive, I know) to anxiously breathing really shallow. He’s really in-tune with me and quite observant, so he’s pretty reliable. Get your boy, your friends and family to buy into your wellness.
      2. Schedule time to do your thing. It’s taken me a while but I’m on a schedule. I wake up at 7 to blog. I go to work, I leave work and go to the gym. All my meals for the week are prepped on Sunday, so I don’t spend time cooking. I veg or I do blog maintenance, Pinterest, whatever strikes my fancy. I notice what makes me happy and I put that in my schedule, too. Solo time with friends, cooking, and even just going on walks gives me that feeling that I’m decompressing a bit. So does a glass of wine. ;)
      3. Be present. Really practice mindfulness. Realize in the moment what
      is the most pressing thing. Sure, hanging out with your boyfriend or
      friends is fun and they want your attention, but you also have a paper
      that’s going to take 3 hours to write. That takes precedence. I always tell
      myself I’ll enjoy my time with people more when I’ve taken care of my
      things.
      4. Last but not least, *you* *have to believe your needs are equal or
      more important than those you love*! Yes, giving friends and family your
      time is important, but so is homework, or whatever hobby you love. Your
      time is just as precious as theirs and they will most likely enjoy the time
      they spend with you more if you’ve allowed yourself the opportunity to
      recharge your batteries.

      It seems like you’ve already realized your needs are getting overlooked,
      but are you really valuing them the way you value others’ needs? That’s the
      trick. It seems kind of obvious, but it’s definitely a struggle. My biggest
      thing has been 3 & 4. Realizing in the moment that what I’m doing is for me
      and unless there’s a fire or someone has died, the ping of my email does
      not need immediate attention. My task, my hobby, my fulfillment deserves my
      full and uninterrupted attention.

      Hope that helped. :) Good luck and let me know how it goes! xo

      • JMoney

        Thanks, lady! I need specific directions. Haha. Also, I totally pick my face when I’m stressed, too, so don’t worry.

        Funny story: I told my bf to call me on my stuff just now and then I touched my face (just to itch my nose) he squirted me with the water squirter we use to keep the cats off the counters. Whatever works, I suppose. :P

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000002461958 Tammy Thornhill Fisher

    Jen, I’ve been following your blog for a while now but this post prompted me to comment. I recognized the same issues in myself. I just got out of a 12 year relationship that all but destroyed me. It ended in such a way that made me realize I needed to get into therapy to figure out why I not only believe my needs aren’t as worthy as someone else’s, but that I’m not worthy either. I just wanted to write to say that I’m really enjoying your blog and this post really spoke to me.

    • http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/ Jennifer Bingaman

      Hi Tammy,

      I’m glad the post spoke to you and I’m even more happy to hear you are finally giving yourself the love you want and need to feel you deserve. I hope therapy is an eye-opening experience for you and one that brings clarity to your struggles. Good luck in your growth and thank you so much for reading.

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  • Malory

    Jen-

    Reading this article really opened by eyes! I struggle with having “me time” in my current relationship because I currently am the girl that drops everything to be by my bf’s side to “entertain” him. When this isn’t necessary. A balance in your relationship, makes it that much more sweeter…and he’s definitely being a sweetheart because “[h]e wants me to do my thing because it makes our thing so much sweeter.” Like you mentioned. Thanks for the great insight!!

    • http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/ Jennifer Bingaman

      Glad it was helpful, Malory! :)

  • Chrstina

    So I know this is a really old post but I can completely relate to everything you mention in regards to being too available. I am always that person in my relationships but I don’t know how to change. I don’t think I can. I just got broken up with last night because my now ex-boyfriend decided he is not “relationship material”, is now afraid of commitment, and wants his freedom. He even suggested the idea of an “open relationship” because it’s clear to me he wants to have his cake and eat it too because I think he knows I will always be there for him, stop what I’m doing, and always drive 25 minutes to see him. I think he wants an open relationship because he’s bored and knows I’m the doormat, always available girlfriend that doesn’t offer him a challenge and he knows he can always have me as a back up. Do you think being too available has lots to do with him breaking up with me? I would love to know your thoughts.
    -Christina

    • http://www.thepursuitofsassiness.com/ Jennifer Bingaman

      Hi Christina,

      I can’t say for certain because I don’t know the whole story, but I will say this:

      There is something really desirable about a person who values themself, including how the evaluate their time. There are also many benefits to being in a relationship with someone who balances their time spent with their partner and spent cultivating themself outside of the relationship. It speaks a lot to healthy state of mind when you seek fulfillment from additional avenues besides your relationship. Then, you ring interesting discussions, valuable friendships, and new perspectives based on what you did building yourself outside of your relationship. When your only source of comfort, sense of self, and occupation is your relationship, you and your relationship become stale and if it’s not a reciprocated occupation (such as codependency) then yes, people who don’t value you want to have their cake and eat it too & people who do value you probably will only value you as their friend.

      Hope my perspective was helpful.

      • christina

        Thank you. You were very helpful. I am still kinda new to the area I moved and I don’t have a job or any friends so my life revolved around my boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend.