"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? 


  1. I'm really emotionally entrenched in this one. I know Mike really well, for 25 years, I know how hard he works, and how often things just don't work out.

    I've been really happy to see his quality of life improve, especially due to his relationship with you. I am fully aware of his financial burdens and how much of an uphill battle is involved, but he's winning.

    I also understand the industry all too well. I have curtailed being a professional musician for the sake of my wife, 5 nights a week in a bar, all across the state, going to bed at 4am? Not much of a relationship there when the wife has a day job, so I got myself a day job. Home life is great, we're in inseperable, but it's a huge concession to my art, a huge part of who I am. There are still gigs, I try to make sure she can come to as many as possible, but with Jazz they are usually private affairs, and with Jazz, whether the audience cares or not, that is the best music, it's working.

    I have my own concerns for Mike about the bar. Skeptical of the partnership, especially with Mike's hard work and loyalty having a tendency to be taken advantage of. Part of me wants to quit my day job and be the manager that can help make it work, and reassure Mike has the evenings and weekends, but I'm not the one, neither are you. That individual needs to exist, a good manager will make this work in every regard.

    I'm convinced that it is smart business decision, as long as Mike is an equal partner, he knows what to do, and he knows how to delegate, but we all know that the head that wears the crown is heavy, and that one "pays the cost to be the boss".

    I have faith that your relationship will survive this, and be stronger for it, but I know how hard it will be.

    Mike and I have worked together before, I've worked for him before. I'm looking forward to helping out in anyway, if he asks, which I hope he does. There's so much potential for good in this venture, especially for Mike's future which I hope includes you and your daughter, I know how much he loves you both.

  2. This is a really hard one, Keicha. You are right that there is no compromise here, only you giving in once more. I have been through such relationships, and sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. Time will tell for yours, but I am sad that your holiday will be marred by the situation you face. I wish there were something I could say to make it better, but you know I can't, I'm just a listener to your troubles. I'm sending you virtual hugs and hoping for the best.

  3. Oh man. I definitely know where you are coming from. I worked multiple positions in restaurants the first 6 years of our marriage and it pretty much tore us apart. In fact we separated for about 4 months because of poor decisions I made caught up in that environment. What I found was that in the midst of it I had no clue the true destruction I was creating. What saved me was first the ability to realize that the income wasn't worth the pain and second I was able to find a primary job that covered the bills. Knowing you, this blog isn't the first time he will have heard your plea at least I hope so. Lucky for me I had a strong woman that stayed with me while I found a place in this world. I hope he finds a place soon...I will keep you both in my meditation and prayers.

  4. Hmmm. No one needs relationship advice from his/her own mom, but since you asked, my advice has always been, and will forever be: Please don't ever put on a happy face when that is what you are feeling inside. You, my dear, are too beautiful and wonderful inside and out to ever put on a false front. I love you.

  5. I have never done the bar thing :-) but I did put a husband through law school and that was after we went to colleges and worked in separate cities for 2 years. He went to Ogden and I went to Logan, we lived in Brigham and saw each other…sometimes. Law school was horrid, not gonna lie. He would roll in about 4 am every day, get up at 7 am and start all over. His weekends were spent studying at the law school and I rarely if ever saw him. I would go on vacation without him. I was working as a teacher at the time so I was long asleep when he got home and gone before he got up. It was really hard but I knew there was possibly a light at the end of the tunnel when he graduated (in 3 years =P) I found support in really good girlfriends and other wives in the same boat. I guess my advice would be to talk with Mike, see what his plan is for the future, how much does he plan to turn over to a manager? Maybe it will end up being a good thing if he can get someone competent to manage. If he can have the income coming in without having to put in the hours maybe that will be a blessing. I was always supportive of Treg but I was also very honest. His friends would ask me to talk to their girlfriends and get them to "understand" that they had no time to spend with them. I told them they were out of their minds that I wouldn't stick around either if I wasn't married to him haha So sorry for your struggle :-( Communication if definitely going to be the key. Lots of love and good luck. Jenny

  6. Wow, Keicha -- this is a toughie. I see exactly where you are coming from and certainly past history doesn't sound as promising as one wishes it would. I guess if I have anything to offer here it is to be honest -- it may not change things, but to pretend it's OK with you (the happy face) will only cause confusion and probably build up a certain resentment. I know compromise is always important, but that implies that both people pony up, not just one or in this case, you. You have to keep talking and be aware of your own parameters. I will be sending you all the prayers and good vibrations I have that you can come to some resolution on this one. Right now, it just seems tremendously emotionally stressful -- never a good thing. Sending hugs.

  7. So sorry. This reminds me of when my husband decided to open our restaurant on Sundays. I was completely, one hundred percent, opposed. And he knew it. When he decided it to do it anyway, I felt like he was choosing the restaurant over our family. But then I realized that the reason why he works so hard and the reason why he wants the restaurant to be successful is because he cares so much about our family. It doesn't always make it easy. . . it hasn't been fun when he's worked on Mother's Day or stayed home to work while we've gone out of town for family parties, but understanding his motivation has helped my perspective and attitude.

  8. So sorry. This reminds me of when my husband wanted to open our restaurant on Sundays. I was completely, one hundred percent, opposed. And he knew it. When he went ahead and opened anyway, I felt like he was choosing the restaurant over our family. But then I realized that the reason he works so hard and the reason why he wants the restaurant to be successful is because he cares so much about providing for our family. It's doesn't always make it easy. . . it's not fun when he has to work on Mother's Day or when he has to stay home and work while the rest of us go out of town for family parties. . . but understanding his motivation has helped my perspective and attitude.


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