About a month ago, my husband and I endured one of the worst weeks of our marriage.
Nothing of note was happening in our lives – no sudden financial crisis, or difficult family relationship meltdowns. We were just “off.” We had little to say to each other, casual conversation felt painful, and verbal landmines appeared evvvverywhere. It seemed we couldn’t talk about the weather without clawing at nerves, pushing buttons, and erupting into a volatile mess.
We both felt that something was amiss, but there seemed to be no obvious reason for the apparent shift in our enjoyment of one another. This just happens sometimes in committed relationships, or any relationship where you exist in constant proximity to each other – the household temperature rises (not in a good way), and it’s impossible to pinpoint where things went wrong. These seasons are the worst, because there isn’t a quick fix. Without a noticeable issue to correct, or offense to amend, how do you right the ship and get back on course?
Usually, when the answer doesn’t lie in the physical realm, it’s lurking in the metaphysical – something is hiding in your subconscious, creating a block and causing mental mischief. So, my husband and I took some time alone. While the kids were both in daycare, we went our separate ways – my husband to his favorite hiking trail, me to my favorite coffee shop to read and journal. At that point, it didn’t take a lot of convincing to separate us.
While I sat and sipped my coffee, watching the people around me chattering and laughing, it suddenly hit me: my husband was due to leave in two days for a five-day goose hunting expedition in North Dakota. We’d agreed upon the dates, we’d settled the trip logistics weeks ago, and yet my subconscious felt weighted down with the anxiety of a five-day solo stretch with my two tots. The isolation and frustration of managing two young kids alone isn’t something I looked forward to, and on top of that, I wouldn’t see my best friend for five days. I recalled past trips we’ve taken without each other, and unearthed a patterned behavior of pulling away from one another beforehand, picking silly fights and emotionally withdrawing. It was really no wonder that things were “off.”
That evening, we hashed things out, pulling out of our stupor just long enough to connect more fully before my husband departed for North Dakota. In most respects, it was a “win” for team Gonzalez. But relationships are funny – just because you find the magic solution to one situation, doesn’t mean that same situation won’t snag you again in the future.
Lo and behold, this past week, we began to feel the same distance opening between us. Fuses were short, tempers flared, and my mental red flag shot up. My husband and I were both leaving on separate trips for the weekend, and were repeating the same well-worn pattern.
This time, we caught on earlier than before. I took my mental temperature, and again found all of those sneaky emotions trying to stay buried: anxiety about air travel, sadness that my husband and son weren’t coming with us, fear of navigating two airports and a layover with a two-year-old who has a “strong personality.” As each popped up, I made note to share it with my husband.
Getting these hidden landmines out in the open defused their effects, and almost like magic, we found our groove again. I still felt all of those emotions, but now that my husband was aware of them also, he could better understand my erratic behavior, give me extra grace when I melted down with the kids, and help lift my spirits into a more positive place.
When I feel anxiety, fear, or worry, sharing the load with my partner sure takes the bite out of it, and keeps that emotional chasm (which makes everything feel twenty times worse) from reopening between us. But I can’t share these feelings without first digging into my mind to unearth them, and then putting words behind them. It’s a skill, one that can be learned, and one that can be refined, and made better. I know this for a fact, because over time, I’ve gotten faster at identifying the things weighing me down, and better at verbalizing them. Journaling helps. So does talking through things with a trusted friend.
And I’m here for you, too. I’ll keep pumping out my stories, every week, just for you. Until next time- XO