Potentially Painful Pronouns: When Grammar Hurts

Early on in this deployment I started to notice a shift in my lexicon from plural to singular:

“Want to meet me at my house?” I asked K one day while making plans.

My house.

Later that same day K and I were in the grocery store getting some lunch supplies when her husband called. K filled Joe in on our morning and finished up with, “We’re going back to my house now.”

My house.

I chuckled because I was delighted to learn that I wasn’t the only one that did this.

“Right now I do everything,” K said. “I mow the lawn, I take the trash to the dump, I do the grocery shopping, I feed the kids, I wash the dishes. It feels like my house.”

“I know,” I said.

And I do. The change was unintentional and a natural result of our situation. My husband – albeit temporarily – no longer lives with me. I became responsible for almost every aspect of our life here. I, too, take the trash to the dump and do the grocery shopping. I also handle most of the finances, do all the cleaning and take care of the pets. And as I started to take on more responsibility, I started to feel more ownership.

But it’s more than that. At the moment, I don’t have to take anyone else into consideration when I’m making plans. It’s not like T would be put out if I had some girlfriends over this weekend.

Actually, he wouldn’t care anyway, but you get the idea.

The point is, there isn’t anyone here to ask, “Hey, do you mind if I ask XYZ over for lunch?” I can get in the bathroom anytime I want. I don’t have to shut off my clock radio quickly in the morning so as not to wake anyone else up. Some of the shoes never move from the shoe rack (I have to dust them, for goodness sake). I can drink out of the orange juice container. (I don’t…but I could.)

My house.

The problem is that it’s not my house. It’s our house. And I think that when I use the singular pronoun, it hurts T. It makes him feel like he’s not a part of this anymore.

The part of me that resents his leaving isn’t too concerned about changing my speech patterns. It’s a small part, but it is there. It selfishly revels in inflicting back some of the pain that I’ve felt this past year.

Fortunately, there is a larger part of me that loves my husband dearly and knows he didn’t want to leave. This part knows that to help T feel like he’s coming home to a partnership, I have to start making an effort to be plural again. I have to give up some of the ownership and trust that he is every bit as capable as I am. I have to know that relinquishing the singular doesn’t mean that I won’t be recognized for my contribution during this deployment. And it doesn’t mean that I will be any less me.

I did my job well this past year, but the job is changing. The new job description involves less control and more trust. It also involves plural pronouns and I intend to start using them.

When T walks through that door, I want him to know that I’ll be welcoming him back into our house.

Our house.

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5 responses to “Potentially Painful Pronouns: When Grammar Hurts

  1. I do this too… I didn’t actually realize it until the first time Chris called me out on it after I asked him to put something in “my” room. It’s been a struggle for me to adjust because of his crazy deployment schedule. Generally, by the time I get used to saying “our,” he’s gone again and it’s back to “my.” Lucky for me, he finds it amusing and isn’t offended by it at all!

  2. Oh, guilty as charged and I even did it before OccDoc left – I moved into the house about a month before he did, so technically I have seniority and everything is mine. Although I frequently refer to the Chihuahuas as ‘his dogs’. And, you’re not supposed to drink out of the container of orange juice? But what if you don’t like washing cups? I see it as conserving water.

  3. The best part about moving only a month before he returned, was that I was moving into “our apartment”. I didn’t have a year for it to become just mine. I moved away from what had been “mine” the entire year, and moved into “ours”. It was a really easy transition.
    Although I still call it “my kitchen” lol he will never have any ownership to that room (nor does he want to)!

  4. I can imagine how “our” becomes” “mine” gradually over the deployment months, and how unintentional it is too – based on the new circumstances of being alone rather than any possessive intent. But I can also imagine how happy you will be to be in a position of needing to break that habit. Hopefully you can both see a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel now, & it’ll be back to “ours” in no time at all!

  5. Awwww! I do this too! It was even worse last year when The Hubble deployed because Little Butt and I moved to Texas from NY. We lived in a house that The Hubble never lived in with us. That one was truly MY house. But it is good to let them know they belong there too. Good luck on changing the speech pattern/habit.

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