The obvious result of my having a job is my having an income. That was basically the end goal, so I shouldn’t have anything to complain about. But I do- of course. And most of the complaints have been directed at my husband. Why? Because despite what my application said, I don’t perform well under stress.
Before I knew it, there were dishes piled in the sink, dirt collecting under the cabinets, and I was eating carbs for breakfast, which really isn’t me. I was tired and drained coming home from work those first couple months and the last thing I wanted to do was 1. talk about someone else’s problems. 2. clean or cook. 3. do chores. Sure, I had the weekends to catch up, but after weeks cleaning all weekend, I felt like I was never actually getting a break. It crossed my mind to have someone come clean, but I actually like cleaning, just not when there’s something I like to do better as an option.
For the first time as a married couple, we were both working full time. I was no longer the kept wife, keeping up with all things Spencer. I still wanted to serve, but also had to go to work 40 hours a week, just like him so the dynamic we had previously no longer worked for me. Suddenly, we were “equal” and so much needed to change, you know, to be even. At that time I realized I had a placed my husband on a pedestal as “the hero keeping us from poverty” when I wasn’t working. The change from hero to co-contributor was abrupt and without grace. The imbalance manifested in my attitude toward my husband; we needed to learn how to relate to each other at this new station in our marriage.
So there’s that: we were on different grounds. Then there were the sheer facts: My work load basically just tripled and his remained the same, which was plainly and simply, not “fair.” I was resentful of the fact he didn’t acknowledge me for trying to keep up with everything, nor was he eager to help. Even still, there was the plain stress of this major life change for me: working outside the home, being around people and worrying about being liked, and losing autonomy. That in itself should have called for gifts and praise, but instead I found myself feeling disregarded. My husband’s life didn’t really change apart from the house being a wreck, so I assume it was hard for him to recognize that his actions toward me should change.
I needed help. I needed praise. I needed some slack. I didn’t really get those things. I did ask Spencer to do additional chores, but I started slowly so he didn’t get into this checklist mode rather than a #TeamUs mode. That didn’t really work. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why the logic didn’t compute with him. Over 45 less hours to get things done, yet the chore load wasn’t supposed to change??? We fussed about this. Mostly because I had a perpetual attitude aka was”in a poopy mood” and when I asked him about doing something or complained, he simply reacted. I would have liked for him to see that I was stressed and try to help me out, but he’s not that advanced yet. We just fussed.
Men adapt easily. Five minutes after you guys break up, he’s got some other girl on his Netflix account. Spencer adapted to me being gone all the time without delay. I thought he would meet me at the door when I got home from work as I had done him. But instead, after having to unlock the door–which made me feel so welcome when my husband was twenty feet from the door and knew when I should be home–I got a kiss and then back to the tv, and it was hard to pull him away during dinner. It seemed like the tv beat me to my husband in the evenings. It felt like he didn’t miss me, which naturally snowballed into all kinds of concerns about the validity of my marriage because I overthink everything.
The strain in our relationship was a problem until Spencer went to Germany for 3 weeks. Then he came back and it was still a problem. I reread What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, which is about a woman who loses her memory from the last decade and is shocked by the state of all her relationships in the present. I was inspired to cling to the reasons we fell in love and the reasons I find myself obsessed with this person rather than all the ways he was falling short at the moment. But when he came home, I was annoyed at having to take care of another person, and once again, and not having anyone take care of me.
After our fourth or fifth “Come to Jesus,” I asked Spencer why he was defensive or put-out every time I came to him. He said I always came at him like he was supposed to know something and had chosen not to do it. I had expectations that he had no clue about. And that was really the whole issue. I was expecting a lot of him, but not always taking the time to let him become aware before giving him attitude. I was mad about things that he hadn’t even thought of–*cough (despite being in a relationship for 4 years) cough.*
Reality is that he wants to be a good spouse too, and feels defensive when I act like he doesn’t strive for that, I assume. To be honest, I would appreciate if my job description didn’t include reading minds. Anyway, and then there was a problem with what I was looking for him to do. I was asking him to perform things that are natural to me, but were they natural to him? Even though my love language is gifts, can I be mad if that isn’t what he speaks?
Things really turned around when we went on vacation! Not only did we get to focus on each other and have fun, but I finally got a break. I had been able to make resolutions regarding my thinking, but I needed a change of scene to complete my paradigm shift. ($10 word, yes)
While on vacation, Spencer handled my bags, brought me drinks from the bar, brought me food from the poolside grill, and dealt with my incessant car troubles. When we made it back to the airport I had a flat tire. This resulted in us getting air, finding a hotel, Spencer taking an Uber to buy a tire iron (because I accidentally took mine out of my car), returning with a socket wrench, calling USAA roadside assistance, and then buying four new tires; all while I passively sat and watched YouTube in the hotel lobby, chillin. This might seem insignificant, but it really allowed me see that there are ways of taking care of me that are natural to him. He didn’t ask me if I wanted him to change the tire, carry my bags, or deal with taxis. He just did it, much like I just do a lot of things for him.
Despite all my mental work, I have still been agitated post vacation. Being real, I was living for vacation. Now it is behind me. I am back to work, chores, and working out. One difference is that I’ve decided to give my husband a break. I see where his strengths lie. Unfortunately/fortunately I don’t have flat tires and luggage everyday, but I can respect that those things are more of his element. *I would like to advertise that he does stay on top of the laundry without my help.* It’s more beneficial to me to focus on improving my own efficiency than trying to fit a peg in a square. I still ask him to help out and he does, but I don’t think I can expect him to take ownership of all the things that are important to me.
This is where I am now: Tuesday, I come home and my husband informs me that he has posted a “Honey Do” list for me to write down things I need him to do so he doesn’t forget. The first entry was written and crossed out by him, “move bird’s nest.” I’m sorry if I shouldn’t have had the nest moved, but it was on my wreath on the front door and scaring me everyday. Anyway, I stop complaining for two weeks and this guy rewards me by creating a system for him to effectively do what I want… What should I take from this? Maybe in focusing on myself and optimizing my actions, my enhanced self brought about a better self in my husband. I know, I know- it’s meta, but it really comes back to something I learned earlier this year: Instead of focusing on “the right one,” be the right one.