DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I have an ongoing fight. I’m not good at a lot of things. I know this from all my humiliating attempts at extracurricular activities as a child. If I am not good at something, I’m not enjoying myself, and I withdraw quickly. I’m OK with that.
My husband is good at anything he tries – math, science, work, karate, etc. Even if he’s not very good at something, he’s a million times better than I am. This is where the tension comes in.
I’m lucky in that the one thing I’m good at, I’m really good at. Although it has limited opportunities in my field, I don’t mind because finding a good job isn’t a challenge. My husband thinks I should branch out into different challenges as a backup plan.
I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d be good at. It’s one thing to come in last in every single race at a track meet, but it’s another to take a full-time job I’m bad at but I have to stick with because we need to pay the mortgage. My husband thinks I don’t try enough, but I know from my experience and the experience of watching my gifted siblings excel without much effort that it isn’t the case.
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How do we even begin resolving this? Why can’t he just be happy with me as I am?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: All this fighting is over a backup plan?
“Why can’t he just be happy with me as I am?”: That is the nub of it. It’s time to ask him whether you and he can agree to be yourselves, and accept each other accordingly – which includes laying off the whole issue of your branching out.
If he refuses, then you calmly remind him of ways you give him room to do what’s right for him (have some ready). If he persists, then enlist a therapist to referee.
That’s the marriage portion of your question. On the personal part, your self-portrait as a frog in a pond full of swans is painful to behold. With no disrespect intended, I find myself doubting your self-estimation.
Are you really as bad as you say at all but one thing? Or are you so accustomed to comparing yourself unfavorably to others, then quitting, that you never nurtured an interest that could have blossomed into a skill?
Yes, some people are quick learners, and yes, many who were born on third base are dead certain they hit a triple – but the world teems with people who achieved competence through stubborn persistence alone.
I’m not going to take your husband’s position here: If you find no joy in trying new things, then, of course, relish the rewarding old ones. It’s your life.
At the same time, though, I hope you will privately vow not to limit yourself – and maybe, eventually, tackle something you think you can’t do. Just for you, just because.