In a box in our office closet is a set of dishes. They’re beautiful dishes, I think – I picked them out myself and used them every day in my single life. They’re plain white, no pattern, just the way I like it. I picked the plain white because it would go with anything, and I'd never have to worry about matching them to my kitchen decor.
When Dave and I moved in together, we had a dispute over which dishes to use. His were from his childhood; white with dark avocado green flowers on the edges. He loves those dishes. To him, they represent countless childhood meals and family time. To me they look a little dated.
I reluctantly boxed up my beautiful white dishes, thinking someday I could convince him that my dishes were prettier and better. I think, somehow, that they represent my freedom as a single person – to make my own choices and spend my own money.
I still want that freedom to be myself, and it’s something that I struggle with in my relationship. Having grown up in a world where women were to be subservient to men, where women weren’t supposed to spend money without permission, where women put themselves dead last on the priority list, I have a hard time thinking of myself as an independent person. I’m a wife, after all, so I’m supposed to squash myself into the wife box, and in addition to cooking and cleaning, make-do and mend, serving him the biggest pieces of cake and chicken and pie, and justifying every spare purchase, and thinking of him before I think of myself.
This is all me – Dave doesn’t expect me to behave this way, and in fact, he gets puzzled when I do. I’m learning that it’s more than okay for me to express my needs; in fact, it's vital to the health of our relationship for me to do that. If I limp along in bad bras or worn-out running shoes while simultaneously telling Dave to buy new socks because his aren’t “squishy” enough anymore, he gets upset with me. His needs aren’t more important than mine just because we’re married now, but I have to remind myself of that.
So what to do with the dishes? They represent freedom, yes. But they also represent fear. Fear that I will lose myself. Fear that we won't be able to agree on something as mundane as dishes. Fear that something will happen to our relationship and I'll need them again one day. In getting rid of the dishes, will I get rid of the fear? I don't know...but I think I need to find out.