Lather. Rinse. Repeat. x3

There are a couple of less-than-helpful patterns I have identified in the past couple of weeks. These patterns are not only unproductive, they are also damaging.

One pattern takes place in my marriage. It looks something like this: My husband and I have some time away from our kids. We reconnect. Things are great for a week, maybe two. Then the mundane routines of life start to reassert themselves and we spend less time connecting and more time alone reading. I start to feel disappointed in our marriage, so I adjust my expectations and make even less effort to connect, so even more distance grows between us. My resentment grows until we have a big blow up. We eventually re-connect and things are better for a little while until the mundane routines reassert themselves. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Clearly what I need to do is keep making an effort to be close with my husband, or truly adjust my expectations to be genuinely okay with a lack of closeness. I’m going to ask that we schedule one evening during the work week and one on the weekend when we expect that we’ll spend an hour or so together after the kids go to bed. No devices/books/distractions. Maybe even no TV. If that isn’t enough, I guess we’ll try something else.

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The second pattern happens in my financial life. It goes something like this: I spend a lot for a month, then feel really guilty about it (on top of recognizing that buying all-the-things didn’t actually make me happy), then I am really good about not getting much for 4-6 weeks, after which time I fall back into a spending binge. Later. Rinse. Repeat.

I clearly need to institute a longer shopping ban, or even a spending freeze. I have started a shopping ban that I intend to stick with for at least three months, but hopefully will stay with until June (or maybe even the entirety of 2017?!). I obviously need to stop shopping for long enough that I’m not just delaying purchases for a little while. We’ll see how I do. But this is just for things I buy, not necessarily experiences that cost money (like seeing movies, eating out with a friend, etc). I am toying with the idea of entire month of a legitimate spending freeze, where I only spend money on the absolute essentials. That would happen in February if I commit to it.

I actually broached the subject (of committing to a spending freeze together) with my husband and he didn’t immediately shut it down. He countered with continuing to track our spending for a few months to see how much we normally spend and then attempting a spending freeze. He has been writing down his spending (he buys everything on his credit card and then uses his statement to track purchases later), and packing a lunch for work most days, so I feel like I should respect his wishes on this. And the reality is, I could still institute my own spending freeze, because a lot of my “experience spending” happens with friends and not with my husband (we only very rarely order in these days and haven’t had a night out in ages). So I still might do it in February, we’ll see.

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This final pattern is a relatively new one for me, so I’m glad I’m recognizing it now. It goes something like this. I have a lot of projects that I want to get done around the house and at work. I realize I have a few days off when the kids are in school so I put off all the projects expecting to get them done during those “kid free days” (which really end up being “kid free hours”). Then those days come and I don’t get nearly as much done as I’d hoped, I panic that nothing is ever going to get done. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This is a relatively new pattern for me because it only started when my daughter started at a school with a different break calendar than my own. It’s taken me a good year and a half to recognize that I do this, and realize that I need to make time for longer-term projects during daily life. I told my husband that I’ll need at least two full weekend days at work a month from now on. I’ll try to take them on alternating weekends. And on the weekends I’m home, I’d like to get an hour or so of long-term project work done each weekend, like actually taking the clothes that I’ve collected in bags all over the house to Young Families Resource Center, or going through the toy boxes in the living room. I plan to put this stuff on the calendar, and I recognize it will probably requiring doing less of other things I value, but I hope the general piece of mind from feeling more on top of things will even out any sacrifices that have to be made.

9 Comments

  1. I love this post!! For me, this has been the best thing about my 30’s – getting to know myself and work with my habits, instead of constantly being frustrated when I don’t do things like everybody else. It’s probably the first step toward becoming massively set in my ways as an elderly person, but right now I’m loving the self-awareness. I’m glad you are having these realizations, too.

    Also, I think some of these things come in cycles. Every time you have a spending freeze, for instance, you become a little bit more aware, even if you don’t stick to it forever.

  2. Yay for discovering the patterns! I too find that everything is cyclic and I do well for a time and then fall down. Usually even about the same time of year I have the same problems. So far it’s been easier for me to recognize the problems and get back into the solutions each time because I pick up a couple of tools each time, so sometimes the cycle shortens which is disconcerting and heartening all at once. The best times in our relationship have been when we had a weekly date night or when we consciously spend time together with no children on a regular basis, just like you described. Maybe there’s a solution in that similar recognition for you?

  3. These are great insights! Definitely knowledge is power! re: the spending freeze, I really think a “don’t buy things” freeze for several months will help you more with your specific goals (minimalism, buying binges) than cutting yourself off from social outings. Your goal is to realize you don’t need the STUFF and you are better off without it. You hopefully won’t feel deprived. Whereas if you just stay home all month you’ll be bored/deprived/lonely and what is the point of that?

    1. Yeah, I think you are right. I think if I didn’t go out at all I would be really bummed out, and if I’m not spending money, $20 on a brunch is going to be more noticeable. I guess we’ll see after a few months how I’m feeling.

  4. Wow. Really points out ways you and your husband have changed and grown over the years. He is supporting tracking money! You are seeing the necessity of time focused on each other instead of just hitting frustration and thinking there is no solution. You are seeing that elephants are best eaten in small regular bites. WOW.All valuable insights, all things one has to see and understand one’s own self. ‘Telling” others doesn’t often work. Now to keeping aware and conscious of these things. I think that is the ‘work’ in any relationship…. and how far you both have come and what HUGE wins these are. Spelling it out really made it clear for me, and hopefully for you. Fingers crossed the upcoming time with you back on your job goes well. Thinking of you and CELEBRATING YOU TOO!

    1. It is really amazing (and supremely frustrating) that we have to learn so many of these lessons for ourselves, from experience. Drives me a little crazy, actually.

  5. Just wanted to put out that it’s HUGE progress that your husband is tracking his spending and bringing lunch almost every day. I’m sure from the inside it still feels like there’s a long way to go, but seeing things on the outside just have to point out that these are big improvements.

  6. On your third pattern, I habe similar experiences. It’s so hard to come to grips with the fact that a “day” is really more like a few hours and unrealistic expectations set us up for feeling like
    failures. Glad you’re recognizing it early and trying to carve out time to get the shit done!

    I echo everyone else in saying yay that your husband is finally coming
    around to the idea of tracking finances and possibly cutting back!

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