Consider the Spoons in Your Marriage
Nateanite and I are both a relatively unique combination of introversion and high-strung “Type A” personalities. I think it comes from being the oldest sibling. It makes for a pretty unique dynamic in our marriage. One of our main tools for communication is Google Hangouts. We talk during the day, chatting about what’s going on in the moment, discussing parenting strategies, reminding the other about things we may have going on in the evening, and bills we have coming due. Really, just the minutiae of what needs to be discussed on “the regular” to take care of your affairs.
I think, without having really discussed it at all, we have arrived at a communication arrangement that speaks to our own self-care needs. We both work with people, and although we love our jobs (mostly) it is exhausting and we need to reserve our spoons to care for Electric and Adorable when we get home. The phase of life you enter when you become parents is wonderful, but it also takes a lot of energy, and when you are introverted (as we are) you get your energy by being alone and not by being with other people.
With all of this, I really want to share a conversation we had when Nateanite was hospitalized with a mystery illness. During this time, my poor fellow started to suffer from panic attacks. The kind that are heart and soul wrenching for you and wrenching in all other kinds of ways for the one experiencing them. It was during this time that we had this exchange:
Rachel: I want you to be home ❤
Nateanite: You and me both haha. Are you sure you’d be okay if I had another one of these attacks there?
Nateanite: Okay, I’d hate to put more stress on you, if that’s possible
Rachel: Oh gosh, don’t even worry about it. We’re a team 😊
The rest of the conversation was just about now Nateanite was negative for being septic. Important for us, but I think it’s fair to say not applicable to what we’re talking about here.
As we have moved through this new chapter of care in our relationship, communication has been key to getting through it. Sometimes communication means deep breathing exercises during a panic attack. Sometimes it means communicating through saying “I cannot talk about this right now” and walking away. Or realizing, like in this next example, that you are the one being a crab apple and stepping away.
Parenting little children, especially when Adorable is still getting up at night, can add an extra layer of stress onto your relationship. You are so tired! Recently, Adorable was up for the fifth time in a row. I was very nearly dying from exhaustion. I rolled over and begged Nateanite to sit with her. He graciously obliged. However, after what seemed like an eternity to my sleep deprived brain I decided to be a martyr and stumble into the girls’ room.
Rachel: I should have known better than to ask for your help
(gasp from the audience)
Nateanite: What do you mean!? I help all the time.
Rachel: I just meant it seems like you’re struggling.
Nateanite: I’ve got this, I do this all the time.
Rachel: Fine, if you’re going to pick a fight I’ll just leave.
Not one of my proudest moments, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. I also think it’s important to acknowledge that it is okay to be crabby. Being in a long-term relationship is hard. Parenting, whether your kids are little like mine or are teenagers and dealing with the cocktail of hormones that come with it is hard. We don’t have a script for “this thing called life” (I wouldn’t be a true Minnesotan if I couldn’t get a Prince reference out of this one) and it’s completely okay to biff it from time to time. That is how we learn. We learn through our own mistakes and the mistakes of others. That moment might not have been my proudest one, but next time the script I’m now equipped with opens with “It seems like you’re having a tough time. Can I help?”
Ultimately, communication can be about talking but it can also mean you are saying to your spouse, “I am too stressed out and can’t talk through this until ‘x’ happens.” Telling your partner what your needs are in the moment is key to tackling stress as a team. Honoring your needs, and the needs of your partner, really can help you to productively tackle issues as you come to them.
Rachel is a blogger who writes predominantly about parenting and ways to juggle “having it all,” even though she thinks that phrase is overblown and generally impossible. She also thinks that time management and cutting yourself a little (or a lot of) slack are key to managing all the pieces of your life. Rachel and Nateanite have been married since 2010 and they have two daughters. Electric is three years old and Adorable is 10 months old.