Lesbianing With AE! Are Your Family Obligations Ruining Your Relationship?

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Dear Lindsey,

I’m a member of the sandwich generation. I’ve got a 15-year old at home and spend time caring for my aging parents, who are in their 70’s and struggle with a variety of physical ailments. Within the last year alone, my mother needed a hip replacement and my father had a recurrence of his cancer which is now in remission. I run errands for my parents, take them to doctor’s appointments, spend time with them, do their finances so they don’t fall behind on bills. And then there’s taking my son to sports practices, watching his games, dropping him off places (I need the car for my parents, or I’d be happy to let him use it), and all the rest of what goes along with being a momma to a teenager. Between keeping up with all of this, my relationship is strained. The child is mine from a relationship I had prior to recognizing my sexuality. My partner (we’ve been together 7 years) loves him and me, but she is starting to feel neglected. On an intellectual level she understands the pressures I’m under. Yet she lashes out at home with snide comments just loud enough for me to hear. When I call her on it she pretends she said nothing. I’m writing to you because she humiliated me last weekend by saying something to our friends about how I’m not there for her. I feel trapped between everyone who wants something of me, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep going. I don’t want to lose my relationship, and I don’t think it’s come to that yet, but my son and my parents need me. What do I do?

-Sandwiched

Dear Sandwiched,

Take some breaths, sweetie.

You’re so overwhelmed with your obligations to others that you’ve lost focus on what you need.

You’re so overwhelmed with your obligations to others that you’ve lost focus on what you need.

Tell your partner how you miss the way things used to be. When someone is oversensitive and snappy (as she is) it’s helpful to remind them that, hey, you’re on the same page. You want the same things. It sounds like your pattern may be so entrenched because you’re so stressed with obligations that you’re not really hearing her, and she’s so sick of being your next-to-last priority that her complaints are getting louder and more brazen.

It sounds like your pattern may be so entrenched because you’re so stressed with obligations that you’re not really hearing her, and she’s so sick of being your next-to-last priority that her complaints are getting louder and more brazen.

There may be small things your partner can take off your plate (like doing laundry or giving your kid a ride somewhere) that would leave you a bit more time to either connect with her or to decompress and nourish yourself so that when your son’s out with friends and you’re home and it’s Friday night, you can be more than a zombie on the sofa.

Your kid could be driving himself around in a year or less, so some of that parenting obligation might come off your plate. In the meantime, carpooling the kids can reduce everyone’s workload. If you live in a city, public transit can get him home. There’s Uber, too. Or good old-fashioned walking/bike riding/skateboarding.

Your folks—there may be things you can hire out for or use apps for. Groceries can be delivered. A daily money manager can keep their finances organized. Perhaps start with one thing to outsource to a sibling, trusted friend, or paid pro.

You are close to burning out from all these responsibilities. I encourage you to identify what you can let go of (especially if you’re a bit of a control freak and the idea of trusting someone to do something as good as you do it scares you), and let go of it. Even if it means paying some money so it gets done.

Then give yourself a break. Pamper yourself in whatever way you like to be pampered. You can even ask your partner to help pamper you – If you asked her to draw you a bubble bath, I’m sure she’d do it just to watch you strip and soak.

Give yourself a break. Pamper yourself in whatever way you like to be pampered. You can even ask your partner to help pamper you – If you asked her to draw you a bubble bath, I’m sure she’d do it just to watch you strip and soak.

You need spaces of refuge while you are caring for others.

You need to take care of yourself always, but especially when you are in a nurturing role.

If your partner continues to be petulant after you discuss ways to improve the situation, escalate to couples therapy. Don’t let her bully you into neglecting your own needs to give to her.


Do you need Lindsey’s advice? Write us! Send your question to memoree@afterellen.com with “Q for Lindsey” in the subject line.

 

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