I've written many a blog about being the third, fifth, seventh, or 21st wheel in a group of couples.
Truth be told, it used to really bother me because I hated being single. A rectangular table on Thanksgiving where you're the only one who's sitting on one side is nothing short of excruciating when you're newly widowed.
But part of my journey into established singledom has been about coming to terms with it and - dare I say - actually being comfortable with it. I don't get anxious when I go out with another couple because I'm grateful they invited me. More often then not, I'm able to sit back and relax in a group of couples while at least two-thirds of them argue over petty little things and I'm able to just peacefully sip my wine. Seeing other couples around me no longer makes me feel uncomfortable and exposed.
I'm just me. And I kind of like that right now.
However, there is one area of single life that I think I'm not all that great at.
Standing up for myself.
Don't worry. I'm not being bullied or anything and, in most cases, I do speak up when I feel like I'm being screwed over (especially these days. I think I need to get my hormones checked). But a friend of mine recently brought to my attention that I might not be doing everything I can to act like the strong adult I believe I've become.
And that has me a in pickle.
I was raised in a no-conflict zone - at least for the most part. Yes, my parents had little squabbles when I was growing up and there were many times when I'd want to shave my older sister's head...but for the most part, I grew up in a pretty calm environment.
Sounds like hell, right?
But something that I've noticed about myself lately is that I've become kind of a doormat as an adult, particularly when I'm around other couples. The men speak up when they want something, their wives either agree or feel it's worth the fight, and I just sit there and wait to hear what's been decided.
And when it's something I don't agree with, I rarely say anything and now I'm questioning why. And I think it's this:
I don't want to rock the boat when I don't have someone else to rescue me.
Out to sea
There is no doubt in my mind that if Brad was here, I would be speaking up a lot more. It's true that there would be times when he would probably side with someone else, but for the most part I would feel a little more confident in speaking out. If anything, I would have that other adult I could go to and say, "Should I say something about this?" or who would take the brunt of my frustration and temper it a little before I went off on someone else.
The bottom line is that I would feel like I had some support.
So, while I've gotten more comfortable with most aspects of living on my own, this is one that has me feeling a little "out there" - like I'm just dangling on my own without any back-up. It's frustrating to feel like such a grown-up in most other areas and like a child when it comes to this ONE THING.
Here's the REAL problem
When I spoke to my friend about it, she did bring up something that I'm always concerned about: How does this behavior affect my kids when they witness it? Because no matter how frustrating the situation is, I AM participating in it by being so complacent...and many times, my kids are watching.
Have I confused the "maturity" of going with the flow with being somewhat bullied? In my effort to set the right example, have I actually done the wrong thing? Are they not learning effective communication skills...because I'm not communicating about it at all? And, worst of all, are they learning that what you should do in these situations is just shrink back when something happens that you don't agree with...and not do anything?
None of this is going to get solved right here, right now. I'm in the "awareness phase" of this new discovery. When I truly ask myself what my biggest fear about speaking my mind is, it's that I would be risking relationships that actually matter to me.
And that's no small thing when you don't have back-up.