This is just so perfect. I have a routine medical scan at 8:15 AM, and of course, I never gave a moment’s thought to how that would impact my normal schedule of getting up early to watch the sunrise with some lovely French Roast, and getting my post sorted and up by noon.
My husband has been quietly stewing since the Alpha, Beta, Dickhead post, absolutely seething over the idea that making fatherhood and being a husband a priority somehow makes him a snivelling, boot-licking beta.
I know him. He has been working on this for a while, without a word to me. When it showed up in my inbox this afternoon, I was very pleasantly surprised. The timing was not a coincidence. He knew I had an appointment, and he knew that I would not have planned for that, and he has provided me with a post to make my day go as pleasantly as I might wish.
I’m posting it now so I can get up tomorrow and feel that I’ve already accomplished part of what I intended for the day.
Here, in my husband’s words, is what it is like to be married to me. Illustrated with a few memes I created this evening out on the back deck, watching the kids try to mortally injure themselves on the netted trampoline my Dad bought for them.
When you fall in love with the smartest person in your MBA class you know you are signing up for a wild ride. I had played the field for over a decade by that point and it was time to settle down. I consider myself an “alpha” because I was always in charge of my relationships. I wanted a partner who could keep up with me and also keep me captivated so that I would never consider straying. Too many relationships I’d had before faded out due to boredom. When I met JB we were both on personal pathways of growth that included marriage, family and stability. Stability is basically what I bring to the table – she brings the passion, creativity, loving, caring, nurturing angle to everything she does. Her mind never stops and I am fortunate that she found me worthy of the life journey we are on together. Is life with her perfect – no. She can be more than a bitch – as you can probably imagine. But she is my bitch and I love every ounce of her being.
One of the topics that I believe is under-discussed on the JB blog is the idea of “finding middle ground” or “putting relationships into perspective for mutual gain”. JB promotes the nuclear family and has obviously found a welcome audience that also feels that the world has skewed everything toward women and away from men – or away from the place where both parties benefit equally. That is really it – mutual benefit where both parties feel wanted, loved, cared for, productive, and generally happy. We only go around once, people, so I suggest making the best of what we have.
I do not participate in many online communities but I am flattered that the regular group validates what we have. I consider myself very lucky to have the relationship that I have but it does not come without pain or compromise (and many compromises with JB can be painful). That is another important point – does anything worthwhile come easily? This idea of working at a relationship or really working to bring your children up well is not validated anymore. My personal opinion is that the support systems that came with organized religion are now lost and the void is yet to be filled – perhaps online forums such as this will fill it – I’m not sure. Perhaps that is a topic for another day.
Some perspective on JB might help some of the readers bring additional context to the blog. She has been very forthcoming (sometimes uncomfortably so) with hers (and my) personal information. The post regarding her father was, I believe, an amazing display of sharing to bring perspective to her writing. She posts and soon after reads the post to me (so I do not have a chance to censor it before it goes into cyberspace) where I have a chance to put it into perspective before comments come rolling in. I must say it has been interesting having some of my most intimate relationship details plastered over the internet but I believe that I have learned to appreciate more of what I have through this experience. Sometimes perspective is all we really need and I think the core group of commenters have really created a wonderful forum where balance can be sought again.
In my relationship with JB, I believe that it is our class difference that defines our relationship and it has been our biggest challenge to-date. In the grand scheme of things it is manageable and able to be overcome by two adults who understand what they were getting into. I think of our friends who are not in long-term relationships, those who cannot conceive children, and those who do not enjoy the love and caring that we experience on a day-to-day basis and it reaffirms how lucky we are – class difference be damned. In a relationship there are always challenges and as I have seen from our divorced friends, a new partner just brings a different set of challenges. I am very lucky to have the challenges that I have.
A woman who grows up with three brothers in mining camps has a particular view of the world that was shaped by things that many of us cannot possibly understand. Constant moves (much like an army brat), unfortunate and pretty terrible violence, also affects the way relationships are formed and how they evolve quickly. Having a father who suffers from PTSD combined with religion breeds an atheistic view of the world that is constantly being refreshed. To be honest it takes most of my mental energy just to keep up with her changing perspectives. What many call a “critical mind” is one that is constantly searching for truth or additional perspective on the currently held “truth”. I applaud the readers for embarking on this journey with JB as I feel there is too little of it in our society. Children are being raised to be sheep and the status quo is not challenged nearly enough. Learning is not happening quickly enough nor is our western society evolving fast enough. Perhaps I am influenced from my time in Asia but there is a new kid in town and his name is on almost every product we buy. I fear for our western future as we depart from our nuclear family past and ‘move forward’ with ideas of ‘equality’ for both sexes. As JB has mentioned, there are a finite number of jobs and money. The more we are divided the more likely we are to be conquered.
On the frustration side of our relationship is her constant need to feed everyone who comes anywhere near our home (you can imagine the food budget – especially when everything needs to be organic). To criticize this expense or this approach to life is to criticise her view of the world. Do I like to pay for food for everyone – no. Do I want a harmonious household with someone who has a different value system than I do? – yes. Life is always about compromise. The managers in the audience will appreciate this. That doesn’t mean you don’t pick your battles but in reference to JB’s Captain/First Officer model, it is the Captain’s responsibility to take everyone into consideration – with the Captain’s needs likely coming last.
This brings up another topic which I believe takes about 10 years with a person to realize. First, the mapping of your value system and where it is different from your partner. Second, understanding what will change and what will never change. And lastly, beginning to see the world through the other person’s eyes and understanding that some actions (like feeding everyone) are very important to the person you love and will never be important to you. Will I ever like buying food for people who I barely know and who have more cashflow than I do? No. Do I love my wife and want her to continue to view/act in the world in the way that truly makes her happy? Yes. It begins as a cost/benefit analysis – how much will intervening piss her off? Later it evolves into a deeper understanding of the person and how she views the world. If I didn’t like her view of the world then I shouldn’t have married her. This realization is somewhat shocking. Neither she or I are ever going to change – so now what? Getting to that happy place where you get this into perspective is really what happiness in a relationship is all about, in my opinion.
True story – we were having dinner in the northwestern US on a research trip during grad school. We were on a limited budget supported by the university and the bill came and JB decided to tip the admittedly very good waitress over 25%. I lost it and started lecturing her on how we were going to get audited and lose our travel funding. Well, you can imagine the discussion. After voices were raised and I was told how much of a middle-class prick I was and how her mother had supported them as a waitress and she herself had spent many hours slinging hash cheerfully for paying customers – things got really ugly. I was used to calling the shots and she was not prepared to back down. In retrospect I’m surprised we weren’t asked to leave the restaurant. Anyway, the large tip was left and we were both upset. Values system clash of the largest proportions. Should it have been a warning that we were incompatible? Some might think so (such as my mother) but I believe that for both of us it was a learning opportunity. A learning experience in how to fight fair, to understand that the other is different on this particular topic, and that we would likely never agree. “Agree to disagree” perhaps. When you marry someone from a vastly different background then these things are bound to happen. Is it comfortable? No. Does it make you re-examine your view of the world? Yes. Are you a critically thinking being who wants to evolve in this lifetime rather than just having your current viewpoints validated by everyone around you? Make your choice – I made mine. Is it always pleasant? No. Is the unexamined life worth living? You decide.
This makes me think of the alpha debate. I liked Goober’s response best. The idea of an alpha turning into a beta after having children made me want to throw my phone across the room. Alphas grow up and want to see their genetic offspring prosper. Ever heard of a pride of lions? What is the alpha doing? Playing the field of prospective mates is just an activity to sift and winnow to find the right one and making sure that he gets to breed with her. One that is genetically superior to others you have met. This gets into JB’s posts on weight management and natural beauty. An alpha wants to win – which (if you’ve read your Sun Tsu) means that sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war. This can mean choosing someone who you know deep-down is best. Not the easiest catch, not the richest woman, not the one your mother wants you to marry — the one that you know you are going to have to live with the consequences and deep-down you know what is most important. Alphas fear guilt – guilt that comes with the self-punishment of making a bad decision. An alpha does not need to be told he failed – his own punishment of himself will be far more critical than another person will be. Think about this the next time you get a performance evaluation —- before you open it make a list of what you failed at. My list is often double what my superior says I did wrong. I take responsibility and to delegate that sort of thing is just not alpha.
Alphas want their children to do better than they did –in everything. That is why you take the pain – in your relationship, in your life choices (job, living location, etc.) Once you conceive a child it is not about you anymore. An alpha is in charge – of everyone and all processes regardless of who you think is in control. She pays the bills? – then you make sure the money is in the account – confirm it, make sure, mitigate against failure, leave nothing to chance. This is the foundation of stability and control – diligence.
If a child fails it is the alpha’s fault. If a marriage fails it is the alpha’s fault. If the bills do not get paid on time it is the alpha’s fault. Alpha’s take responsibility and it is not about gloating about successes. Everyone knows so nothing needs to be said. We are all in competition. Western society is a meritocracy even if the feminists don’t like it.
Alphas can dominate in the sphere in which they choose to compete. Like the scope of territory a pride of lions lives in. Does one lion dominate all of the savannah? No. Can you dominate investment banking in both London and New York? Not likely. I think the discussion needs to focus on alphas defining the scope of their operating territory. Once that is established then a more meaningful discussion can happen. Again, perhaps a topic for another day.
Part of an alpha choosing a mate is taking responsibility for her – financially, genetically (in terms of offspring), as well as in other ways. Will she always be happy where you are living? Perhaps JB will blog about when I was between jobs and she took a job in a coffee shop to tide us over financially. I appreciated her willingness to pitch in, but honestly, I thought the job was humiliating. How can an MBA, previously working for one of the world’s top performing banks work in a coffee shop? She thought nothing of the sort, and went cheerfully to work every day. She didn’t need to do that however, because I was already planning for our future and a short time later I secured a job in a perfect location for her. Unfortunately it was not the best location for me personally. But that didn’t matter. First, it was a well-paying, full-time job with iron-clad job security. Years later as my soul slowly dies in this small town I know that it was the right decision to take that job and it is the right decision to keep the job (overseas opportunities still present themselves annually). Alphas don’t need to be happy – they need to fulfill their roles to the best of their ability or else they don’t sleep at night. This is not a martyr thing – it is a provider thing. Alphas get more satisfaction from providing than from being happy. If your pride isn’t moving forward you will be up all night worrying about it. If you are one you know what I mean.
As you can imagine, JB is very blunt with language – I never have to guess what she is thinking. This is a refreshing, somewhat male approach to communication but that is what comes with growing up with three brothers. Yes, in some social situations I am cringing around my middle class family and friends but the alternative is having a mate crying in the corner when something is troubling her. I hate guessing. My whole childhood was trying to guess what the fuck was up my mother’s ass now. I prefer to get hit over the head with issues. Just a personal choice. I believe that a relentlessly happy and chipper partner means she is capable of subterfuge and lying. No one is happy and chipper all the damn time. There is no silver bullet. My mother never says a negative word to anyone but she is capable of frightening and very subtle aggression. Different delivery methods depending on class. I would encourage everyone to consider their preference before selecting a life partner.
That leads to another topic that, I believe, has been under-discussed on the blog – the idea that each positive has a negative. I like to chat about my day to JB and when she lies down on the floor and closes her eyes I know that she is not very engaged in my discussion topic. Sometimes I need a time out to go to my mental happy place before re-engaging with her. On the other hand, when she goes quiet I get really worried. That’s usually when she is so angry she is going to explode. Communication differs between couples but, as I remind my colleagues, it is a two-way street. I constantly have to think about how I am communicating before I rush to judge how she is communicating back. This took me many years to understand – how to manage oneself for the good of the relationship.
We spend a lot of time with our kids and we both insist that they must treated with kindness. If you don’t know what to do, and god knows that happens pretty much every damn day, default to what is kind. I married a woman who would overwrite the most negative aspects of my childhood. I believe she did the same. I am boringly stable but she grew up in such a world of volatility and pretty horrific violence, where the gold mine sirens went off weekly signalling an accident in the mine and her father moving the family every few months, sometimes just to avoid social services who took an interest in how she and her brothers were disciplined. She wanted stability for her and her children. I grew up in a Dr. Spock household where hugging was discouraged. I wanted a loving, dynamic environment where togetherness and interactions are the norm. What do you want? What are the best and worst aspects of your upbringing? How are you going to make the environment for your children better than your childhood? If you are going to choose to have children then I think you need to focus on this.
Some people say we are “too privileged”, “too educated”, “too well travelled” so naturally we have the perfect family. Let me tell you how many dates JB and I have had in the last 12 years — 2 — because our friend JudgyAsshole was nice enough to watch our kids for us. Do we want to go on more dates? Yes. This requires budgetary choices. We can’t afford to buy organic food for the children (and everyone else on the block) and also eat out. Can’t do it. JB can cook better than 99% of restaurants anyway. She takes her cooking to a higher level. Remember the post about the President’s party? Unbelievable food for 35 people.
I like saying the words “we can’t afford it”. Initially you see shock on people’s faces but basically what you are saying is “we have priorities and are not willing to compromise them”. I drive a shitty mini van. When I went to the dealer to buy it the salesperson asked me if I wanted to test-drive it. I said no – it is a drill bit. I want the hole not the bit. I like driving my 5 year old minivan because it says my family is more important than me. Most people know we could likely afford a different vehicle but the symbolism is powerful. What do you stand for? What is important to you? Who in your life is more important than you? There is a special sense of satisfaction in providing, nurturing, caring and saying a polite “fuck you” to everyone around who is floundering to figure out if they should buy a new Prada bag or a BMW. Who gives a shit? This goes back to the alpha provider thing.
Perhaps living in a 12’x12’ room in Japan for two years just before JB and I met has shaped my idea of material possessions. Have you read The Paradox of Choice? Why do you want more? Do you want more for you or for others?
These days I love Christmas. My parents always ask me what JB and I want for Christmas – new windows for part of the house, new tires for the van, etc. (it always has to be a functional gift from my utilitarian parents). My response is always: “spend more on the kids – I don’t want anything”. I just love to see the look on their faces. It isn’t about me anymore. I don’t want to feel guilty for taking anything away from them. I chose to have them. I am lucky to have them. How could I possibly enjoy buying more shit for myself? I justify alcohol because it allows me to hang out at home while watching them and giving JB a break. Other material possessions – why? Who are you competing with? Yourself? Perhaps a rethink is required.
This is enough of a rant from Mr. JB. I really enjoy reading all of your comments and perhaps one day we can have a JB convention somewhere in the world. Chicago might be central enough….
Lots of …. well, okay … trepidations
But respect, admiration and gratitude, too.
Thanks for giving my wife this awesome distraction from housework.