"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Struggling To Be Supportive

Life and its challenges plus the busiest time of the year at work for me have been consuming most of my energy lately. I'm so looking forward to nine days off over the holidays. One more work week and counting then I get a break!

However, my long awaited break looks like it's going to be filled with the stress and demands of a new business venture for Mike, one that I'm really struggling to be enthusiastic about. From the day I meant him Mike has worked a second job in a bar. First as a door/security man and then as a bartender. Due to the nature of bars this meant he worked weekends from evening until the wee hours of the morning. This was in addition to his full-time day job. The money from bar tending is hard to beat, often averaging $25 dollars an hour, and on holidays it can be double that. The downside is the crazy hours. Because of my 9 to 5, five days a week office job it also meant I spent most weekend nights alone for the first three years of our relationship. I tolerated this because I knew the necessity of his second job. 

At the first of this year for various reasons Mike quit bar tending. After a few months he took a job at another bar in town. After giving his time and advice, all uncompensated, during the few months before opening, but with the promise of a prime position after it opened, things didn't happen as promised. There were also personality conflicts between him and the owners. Things obviously weren't going to work out so he quit. Despite the loss of income I wasn't sad to see an end to his bar tending days and schedule. I'd borne it as a necessary evil for years and was becoming more and more resentful of the toll it was taking on our relationship. The financial benefit hardly seemed worth the constant sleep deprivation Mike suffered because of the hours, and the effect that had on his emotional well-being and ability to function during the day. 

Then a couple of months ago he was offered the opportunity to become a partner in another local bar that was being sold. He jumped at the chance. He was happy. I wasn't. I've been down that road and was happy to be off it. I know the toll it takes, and I also know the time and commitment starting a new business requires. There were many tears on my part. I questioned his commitment to our relationship knowing how strongly opposed I was to the hours, time and commitment this venture would take. Not that I don't recognize the opportunity for him and he does have a real talent for bar tending. It's a job not everyone can do or do well. Who was I to demand that he not pursue such an opportunity? It was a positive for him, but felt like a step backwards to me and not something that would enhance our relationship. 

Getting financing and approval appeared to be several months off. That would hopefully give me time to adjust my attitude. At least we'd have the holidays. It would be the first Christmas Day that he wouldn't have to bar tend. We would get to spend New Year's eve together instead of him being behind the bar while I was on the other side pretending to enjoy myself, surrounded by people but feeling very alone.  

Wouldn't you know it, things sailed through and as early as this Wednesday he and his partners will be owning and running a bar. As I write this they're meeting with the staff and current owners. The days of burning a candle at both ends, working two jobs and working nights and weekends will begin again. Mike promises it will be different this time. He'll have more latitude, more flexibility, others can share the weekend shifts. Eventually that may be the case, but expecting that right away seems naive given the certain demands of ownership, staffing issues and growing the business. My input and presence is welcome, but owning or working in a bar has never been something I wanted. Being there while he works, helping in an administrative and marketing capacity is a poor substitute for quality time together. 

I'm sad and discouraged. He's happy. I'm trying to be a supportive partner while also resenting the lack of consideration for my needs and desires. We're at odds.  I'm not sure I want to play this time. I know other relationships have made it through these kind of challenges. Partnership is all about compromise, right? In this instance compromise feels like conceding to me, once again deferring what I want in support of what he wants. Right now it feels like a really bitter pill. Putting on a happy face is going to be really, really difficult for me. I need advice, support and encouragement. How have you overcome similar challenges in your relationships?