Not my term, sadly. Paul strikes again. We have lots of conversations that result in me capitalizing on his brilliance. Thank you Paul!
First of all, what is domestic capacity?
Well for the purposes of this blog, it is our ability to settle into a relationship and live life. It may or may not involve children. It may or may not involve living together. It may or may not involve monogamy.
Domestic capacity is really a very individual thing and as a divorce attorney, I will tell you that it is something so personal and intimate that most people don’t spend five minutes finding out what theirs is, that they have one or whether or not it meshes with whomever it is they have committed their life to...
Domestic capacity involves a lot of little things that all add up to one’s tolerance for intimacy on a daily basis. Can you wake up next to someone every day? Can you fall asleep next to someone every night? Can you share your most personal, inner thoughts with this person or do you have to keep some things to yourself because of fear of inspiring jealousy, misunderstanding or fear in your partner? Can you spend inordinate amounts of time alone or do you have to be together in all you do? Do you shower together or alone? Do you let your kids sleep with you? How about your pets? Can the cats eat on the kitchen counter, scratch the furniture? What exactly can you deal with in an intimate relationship?
What I have found is that none of us really knows...myself included. Why?
My assessment is because falling in love causes us to enter this delusional state, a love bubble that causes us to grossly over estimate our own abilities and that of our new partner. We think they “get” us and we them. We think that they think it is cute that we have morning breath or fart in our sleep. We think that they forgive us our annoying habits and idiosyncracies. But do they really?
In my experience, the answer is a resounding fuck no! We act like we forgive them but really there is a list being made somewhere in the subconscious mind. A list that will inevitably spill out the first time we have conflict, where something goes wrong in the love bubble and reality pops it.
I know you know what I am talking about...you have experienced this before, all is well in Lala relationship land but then your partner, your perfect partner, forgets your birthday, is egregiously selfish, takes you for granted or some other slight (real or imagined) and you confront the situation...and out comes the list you didn’t know you were making...
“And another thing, can you make the fucking bed one goddam time, I mean I do it every single fucking day even though you are the last one out of it... BY AN HOUR!”
“Seriously, can you pick up your clothes off the floor? I am not your MOTHER, you are a grown ass woman and should be able to pick up after yourself!”
“I make dinner every single night, I asked you one time to help and you couldn’t be bothered!”
The list is endless, a million different things that become larger in the speaking or yelling. The things that we have been accumulating, evidence of real mismatches in our reality and delusion that coming spewing out because we are angry, hurt or over tired. It happens...
But what I would throw out there to all of you is that it is actually more likely evidence of your domestic capacity coming into a real life check point. That somewhere along the way to love and commitment you weren’t very honest about your needs and now, you can’t hold it in any longer. Your true self has hidden out as long as he or she can and now the real you is reclaiming his or her rightful spot in your life. And no one is more surprised than your loving partner who is shocked to see this veritable stranger show up in their relationship.
Domestic capacity is something we should all be talking about early on. First with ourselves. What can and will we tolerate? What do we want, what can we give? Can we share finances? All of them, all the time? Even our private wealth that the other person has nothing to do with and didn’t earn and isn’t legally entitled to? Can we be honest that we don’t want to share it? Aren’t willing to share it? Can we live every day with someone else? Occupy the same room and really give up all privacy and alone time on a daily basis? Get into bed together at the same time every night? Do we cuddle every night or only before or after sex? Can you sleep comfortably all tangled up with another or do you need your space? Can you endure night after night of someone taking your covers or edging you off the bed because they need closeness and you just need to sleep in solitary peace?
It is a lot to unpack, a lot to consider so I think most of us don’t. We just tell ourselves this delusional story about the “right” person and then assume that it will all work out when they arrive on the scene. That is folly though...because the truth is that our domestic capacity changes, it morphs and grows and shrinks depending on so many factors: sleep or lack thereof, hunger, time in life, age, the presence of children and their respective ages, pets and their demands and personality, physical space, emotional space and spiritual space required for each person. But what undercuts everything is a lack of honesty, first with ourselves about what we can and will handle.
For me, the undercurrent of ideal domestic capacity is an ability to be honest first with myself and then with whomever I am trying to domestic with...and that is hard. I would so much rather have you think well of me, or better of me than to show you the real me. I hide in so many ways because I am sure that if I am really who I am, you will leave.
It takes a lot of bravery to show up in your authentic, often times asshole skin and say “yep, this is who I am, can you really deal with that...are you really sure you want to?” So most of us skip it altogether. We just pretend and so does our mate and then we end up having a really good row about what way the dishwasher is loaded...
So I throw this out there as a topic of conversation to be started in all the people having or beginning relationships. Can you be honest? Can you really tell your partner the truth about the stuff you’d like to keep quiet, on the down low and off the radar until you get a little farther in?
I encourage people to talk early and often about the stuff that seems relatively unimportant when you are having hot sex and are totally vibing each other. Pause the madness long enough to really confront your own domestic demons and be able to come to some sort of terms with them. Own them. Allow them to be yours...flaws and all. Don’t pretend they don’t exist or will magically morph when Ms. Or Mr. Wonderful walks into your life. They won’t. They are deal breakers that masquerade as minor annoyances that trip you up because you are so busy trying to pretend that they don’t bother you, that you don’t even see that you are headed for a fall.
We are complicated people. And I think that is mostly because we spend so much time not talking about the stuff that really matters and talking about a whole bunch of shit that matters almost not at all.
For me, relating and relationshiping should be the aim of two people (or more if you are into that - see another thing no one wants to discuss) to be themselves and see if that can and will mesh with the other person. What usually ends up happening though is that one or both people allow the past and unresolved trauma (or just unmet needs) to drive the relationship bus and then send it careening off the relationship cliff because they were unaware or unwilling to be authentic and real and to have hard conversations all along.
It is not easy to show up and say hard things like:
“I don’t like it when you touch me like that, please touch me like this instead.”
“Ok, please show me how you want to be touched...” Instead of just getting hurt and defensive.
“I love you but I can’t and don’t want to see you every night, I don’t even want to talk to you every day, I need the space for myself and when I give it to you we both suffer.” Instead of just allowing your person to invade your space and time and then resent them for it.
It is hard to be authentically intimate. Because that requires that we start with ourselves. We get to know what we need, how we need it and then how do we ask for it from our partner? How can we make this happen?
As with most everything in life, it starts and ends with us. We have to come to know and respect ourselves and find a way to love all the things about us that are really not particularly lovable. All the things that we so fear someone else would run if they knew. We have to provide ourselves stable ground to stand upon and plant our individual freak flag and let that fucker fly!
HERE I AM WITH ALL MY WEIRDASS STUFF, I AM GOING TO LET YOU SEE IT AND THEN YOU CAN DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO STAY OR GO.
And that takes so much fucking courage that most of us don’t do it. Which seems like a better deal but in reality it isn’t. Our domestic capacity is the basis for the rest of our intimate pairing and if we can’t be honest about the fact that we only like to cuddle after sex for five minutes or that our sex drive is something that has NOT diminished over time and needs daily, sometimes hourly attention, or that we want our own bedroom, that we want to wake up and not talk for the first two hours we are awake, or that we never want to live with another person or that we hate kids and do not want to deal with them. We are going to have problems...and we are never, ever going to get a love we can enjoy, grow and experience. Instead we will get some fucked up version that allows us to continue the myth that we are with the wrong person and once, just as soon as the right person comes along, all will be well.
But as we all know, that just starts the whole fucking shitshow over again. Instead, I am hopeful that we can all do some inventory work about our own domestic capacities and then really do the hard work to share that with a person we are entertaining as a love interest.
Telling ourselves the truth is the hardest and most important thing we will ever do. It is the precursor to intimacy with another. It is where we get it wrong repeatedly. All the tiny ways we abandon ourselves to get what we think we want. Instead of really coming to know who we are and where we need attention. So once again it appears that acceptance is the key...finding a way to come to know ourselves better and then finding a place where we are willing to own it and also change it all while loving the complicated, messy parts of ourselves that we are absolutely sure no one else on the planet will understand. It is a long damn life if we are lucky. Might as well spend as much time of it as you can being who you really are, and hopefully, getting the love you so desperately want.