Sorry that this ended up being so long.
For most of my “almost adult” years (I’m 30 now…) I have struggled to establish routines, make progress on my goals and adhering to a schedule in order to fulfill some wants, some needs, as well as some musts. I have succeeded sometimes and have found that increasingly in the last few years I have succeeded more than I have failed. I still fall of the waggon from time to time, but I’m pretty disciplined nowadays and I actually enjoy a life that runs like a well oiled machine, a life that is somewhat predictable but produces some emergence (= new, thus far unknown quality, whatever that may be) in a somewhat controlled setting. My life is not boring. I am trying to finish my masters degree right now and have already lined up an internship in a field I’d like to work in. I have to work hard, be disciplined, by sheer necessity, especially since I have some student debt which I will have to pay back starting in October of this year, so there is no time to just relax or let life flow completely free. However stressful my life might be: I’m actually not unhappy with the situation. I have developed a pretty good work ethic and a methodology to make working effective as well (beeminder has become a big part of this). I see these challenges not as problems but as opportunities, or at least I try to.
Here’s the actual problem, though: As brought up but earlier in this forum but then regrettably forgotten I’m in a long distance relationship. I love this woman very much (and she loves me), but we’re also different people with different needs, etc. which makes things sometimes complicated. Right now it’s crunch time for me: I have to write my thesis and have to wake up early, which I’m doing. But this has changed the freedom of us having daily skype calls more or less whenever we want. Those calls have to be earlier than we usually had them (between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. was the norm) and I had consciously decided that I will call her everyday at 9 p.m. at the latest, no matter what, because it’s much easier for me to hold a firm line when establishing a new habit (coincidentally it’s also easier to beemind). Yesterday she told me that she strongly dislikes my lack of spontaenity with this. It’s of course just one instance of a whole class of similar problems which I had kind of ignored in the past, maybe.
So what do you do when you’re trying to be more disciplined and more productive and are actually succeeding more and more (finally!) and have a partner who feels too constrained and “disciplined by proxy” through my behaviours and routines?
We have been together for almost two years now and truth be told shortly before this, we had our first small actual strain in our relationship when I visited her for a week, that still comes up at least in my mind, which had to do with kind of the same thing, I think: There were a bunch of very small, pretty different on the surface and in itself meaningless quarrels, but they were all connected to a situation at least emotionally. This situation was the following: We were invited to dinner at one of her parents apartment. My partner discussed something I won’t get into after dinner in a way that not only made herself but also the rest of the family (we were four adults there) uneasy and unhappy. Basically she was feeling very strongly about something and to my mind the dinner situation and the discussion of this subject would have benefitted from discussing it at another time or at least in a somewhat emotionally more distanced manner - from my perspective and own life experience in those situations, at least. The situation was somewhat tense already since that was the first family dinner I ever attended. This situation was eye opening for me also specifically, because we had talked over skype about similar situations and now having my own experience of what actually happens I could see that my girlfriend had at least part in creating the types of situations she later would complain to me about.
So I brought it up when we had a minute to ourselves and she couldn’t or wouldn’t understand it. There is of course this issue of cultural differences involved (I’m from Germany and she’s from Finland), which means that the conventional wisdom I have known to be true has to be taken with a grain of salt, I get that, but it seemed clear to me, that it was her individual behaviour more than her cultural background that led to this situation. So I said that she should have let it go and/or try to not let it get to her to the point that she can’t have a relaxed conversation or polite discussion about it. This has come up before, too. In her mind she always wants to bring everything up immediately so she doesn’t need to walk around with it. She wants to speak her mind, even if that means that she’s unhappy with it and chips away somewhat the nice atmosphere for example of a family dinner. In short: She wants to be spontaenous here too.
All the other smaller quarrels of our real life meeting can be seen in a similar vain: Me bringing up something later I didn’t like in her behaviour is bad, because I should’ve brought it up at that moment. Me wanting to know a time of day when we’re going to do something is bad, because it’s not spontaenous. Of course, I’m no angel either and me being annoyed by her indignation at wanting to respect or protect a nice atmosphere or situation, or trying to come up with ideas on how she could improve her interactions with her family (for example) that are interpreted by her as an attack on her are some examples. But then again I don’t want to bring that up every time it happens either, because that’s not how you preserve harmony in a situation… and that leads to further quarrels, tears on her end and so on.
And so I have been sitting here with that problem for the last 12 days or so and it really came into focus yesterday. It all seems to be connected to this fundamental difference in me and my partner: One wanting to be controlling his life and is okay with handing over some agency to technology and the other wanting to live life free of expectations and controlling agents of any kind.
I believe in this relationship. It feels weird to write so much about it and having to spell that out as well, just to make sure. I want this to work. My newest idea to make it a little bit easier on her but not abandon my goals is to “approximate spontaneity”. But I don’t know how, yet.
I assume that this problem is actually not that uncommon. And the solution will probably not be a pretty, consistent, “clean” one. It will probably take adjustments on both ends and me and my partner both have to learn to tolerate each other’s differences. But still: I’d love to hear some tips on how to dial my own controlling nature back in a way that lets my partner experience more freedom.
TL;DR: I like routines, she likes spontaneity. How to be routinely spontaneous?
P.S.: In some weird way this seems to be the opposite problem of tracy_reader: Feeling too scheduled.