Being at home with a baby all day can be stressful, and I dump that stress on my husband when he gets home more often than I would like. Just yesterday, I decided that the way to end a rough day would be to have a serious discussion with my husband right after he returned home. Specifically, I wanted to talk to him about how I wanted him to do more around the house. Unfortunately, I decided to have this conversation with him before I released my stress from the day, and without giving him time to let go his. As you might expect, the discussion quickly turn into an argument.
We all have bad days. Days when everything has gone wrong. Days when we want to walk in the house and slammed the door. And that’s okay. Really! We’ve already discussed the fact that your partner is human, and that goes for you too. You’re allowed to have a bad day. The trick is to keep that bad day from negatively affecting your relationship. It’s tempting after a long day to come home and unload your struggles on your partner, or even worse, to direct your frustration at your partner. Unfortunately, either solution brings negativity into your relationship.
Usually on Fridays we talk about my personal experience with each strategy, but for this strategy there is a topic so important that I’m going to set that aside for this week, if that’s ok. Instead, let’s talk about impossible questions. You know the type: those questions that have no right answer. The classic example is this one: “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” There may be ways to answer these questions that are safer than others (“You always looks great!” is usually safer than “Not as much as the jeans you were wearing yesterday”), but there are no real right answers.
I am of the opinion that being pregnant is a wonderful thing, even if the circumstances aren’t the best, because a new person is being brought into the world, with all the potential that an individual brings. When you are in a good place financially and emotionally to have a baby, like we are, it is perhaps even more wonderful. Honestly, though, being pregnant has turned out to be a bit of a challenge for our relationship as well.
The challenge that pregnancy has brought to our relationship has not been a physical or emotional one, at least not so far. Although pregnancy can be difficult physically, I am fortunate enough to have an extremely patient and caring husband who helps to lessen my burden, and I have been lucky enough to have avoided extreme mood swings so far.
Instead, our struggle has been a practical one. My husband has been in a new job for six months now, and unfortunately the job is not a good fit for him, so he feels a strong need to find a different job. The likelihood of him finding a job in our current town is essentially zero, so he has been actively applying to jobs in other areas. Unfortunately, that leaves us in the position to either move while I am pregnant or when we have a very new baby. neither of which is ideal. To make things more complicated, I am in a contract with my job until the end of May, and even if I didn’t, I would not want to leave before the end of the school year because that would cause a significant disruption to my students and to the other teachers.
All these factors leave us with two basic choices: my husband can stop applying for jobs until after the baby is born, or, if he gets a job, we can live apart until my contract ends. Not applying for jobs would be very stressful for him because he will feel even more stuck in his current job, and moving would probably be harder after the baby is born, while living apart while I am pregnant would be really difficult for both of us.
As you can imagine, both of us are pretty stressed over this, so this week I worked on looking at the positives of the situation. The good news is, we both have jobs right now, so we are financially secure. Also, my husband is finding plenty of jobs he can apply for, which is a good indication that he will be able to find a job that is a good fit for him. In addition, this issue will be resolved and behind us in six months one way or the other, so it’s not a permanent problem. When I put it into perspective, I can see that this is a stressful situation, but ultimately a positive one. Whatever we choose to do, we will be moving toward our goals, and we will be able to provide for our child.
What I learned from intentionally shifting my perspective from the positive was that shifting to the positive doesn’t require you to be unrealistic about the situation or to decide that you like the situation as a whole. It simply allows you to develop a more balanced attitude. I’m still stressed about how this all is going to work out, and I still wish it wasn’t an issue. Now, though, I feel more positive and I think I may be better equipped to shift back into a positive frame of mind when I start to stress. Try it out on one of your relationship issues if you haven’t already. Hopefully you will experience similar results!
Since we are focusing this week on putting a positive spin on difficult situations, I thought it would be fun to take a break from our normal programming for a dose of positivity. With that in mind, I have gathered a collection of songs all about focusing on the positive and getting happy. Enjoy!
1. Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand – “Happy Days are Here Again”
A golden oldie. A duet by two of the greats, including a funny interlude at the beginning where they jokingly trash-talk each other.
2. Johnny Nash – “I Can See Clearly Now”
This song is a good mellow song for giving you motivation to shift your focus to the positive.
3. Little Richard – “Get Rhythm”
A fun, active song that makes you want to move, along with a video with some fun old school dancing.
4. Jimmy Soul – “If You Want to be Happy”
A kooky, silly song that gives some wacky advice for how to be happy.
5. Pharrell Williams – “Happy”
The newest classic in the happy song genre, and becoming a classic for a reason.
Since we’re focusing this week on waiting until the mood is right to have serious discussions, I have been trying to find optimum times to bring up issues. Sadly, I am having a fairly significant problem with doing that this week. You see, not only am I pregnant, but we are moving this week. Being pregnant does not encourage good moods. Neither does moving. And if you put them together? Well, let’s just say that my good mood moments are few and far between at the moment.
What I have realized this week is that there are some times in life when it is a good idea to avoid serious issues entirely. If I brought up one of our major issues this week, those issues that are difficult even in the best of circumstances, chances of the conversation going well are minimal. Even a small complaint addressed this week could spiral out of control pretty quickly. So for this week, I’m keeping the issues I raise to the absolute minimum: things related to moving and our new house are allowed, like, “Have you scheduled a time to get the keys to the new house yet?” Anything else, I am keeping to myself until after this weekend, when we have successfully completed our move.
I’m also going a step further to match my conversations with my husband to what will work best for any given moment. I’m using the strategies we talked about for keeping peace during transitions, and particularly focusing on giving my husband grace for his inevitable crankiness as we prepare to move. So far we have both remembered that the move is causing our stress instead of blaming our stress on each other.
I have to admit, though, that I make no promises for this weekend. Is it possible that one or both of us will get overwhelmed by the move and take our stress out on the other person? It’s a definite possibility, maybe even a probability. The truth is, even when you are trying your best, stress takes its toll and you can find yourself doing things you would never do in a calmer moment. That’s one of the reasons that I hate those “87 Qualities of a Good Man” lists (and their female equivalents) that are always floating around. They usually have statements like, “He never makes you feel bad about yourself” or “He always treats you respectfully.” In reality, we do the best we can, but no one is perfect. I know that I have driven my husband to tears, and I’m pretty sure that in that instance I made him feel bad about himself AND was disrespectful. (It only happened once, thank goodness, and I was absolutely horrified that I hurt him so badly.) Fortunately, he knows my heart, and he chooses not to judge me on the occasional bad behavior. As I go into this weekend, and as you work through whatever stresses your marriage is currently facing, let’s all work to give this grace to ourselves and to our partners. Everyone deserves a do-over once in a while.
As you may know, I don’t choose the order of topics that we cover in this blog. We follow the strategies given in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love, covering one strategy per week. That makes it all the more amazing that this week is all about transitions, because there is an incredible amount of transition in my life right now. How am I handling it so far? Well, I’m doing my best.
First of all, I’m pregnant, and this is our first, so that is a huge deal for both of us. Second, I started a new job last week teaching PE, which I have never taught before, and several of my classes are with younger kids than I have worked with before. I was mostly observing last week, but this week I am on my own to lead the classes. To top it all off, we are moving in two weeks to shorten our commutes and be closer to the hospital.
Balancing During the Transitions
My husband and I are just starting to move into these transitions, so I am starting to use some of the strategies we have talked about this week, along with a few others. The other day, I reminded my husband that we are going into some major transitions, and that we need to be especially kind to each other, and I have begun to remind myself of this on a regular basis. I’m taking care of myself physically by taking naps to recover after work and making sure I bring plenty of food to work with me. Soon, we will start to pack in preparation for moving, and we have set it up so we have a full week to move out of our current house and get it ready for the new tenants.
Two Bonus Strategies!
Mostly though, I think our success in making all these changes will come down to two strategies that haven’t been discussed here yet:
1. Practice Self-Control
Self-control is always essential to relationships, but it is particularly important during the stress of transitions. When you are tempted to say something in the heat of the moment, take a moment to ask yourself, “In the long run, will this comment hurt or help our relationship?”
2. Forgive Freely, and Ask for Forgiveness Frequently
No matter how amazing you and your partner are (my husband is pretty amazing!), neither one of you is perfect, and in the stress of transitions, it is inevitable that both of you will behave badly at times. Give grace to yourself and your partner and be willing to forgive when your partner messes up and to admit when you mess up.
And remember: transitions are temporary, but your relationship is not. Be intentional about protecting your relationship during transitions, and your relationship will be better for it. I know that the transitions that my husband and I are going through right now are going to strain our relationship at times, but I believe that we will come out the other side with an even greater confidence in our ability to make it through the tough times together.
If you have gone through a major transition at any point during your relationship, you know that transitions can be one of the toughest times for a relationship. Marriage, pregnancy, death of a loved one, a new job, moving: changes like these cause strain on even the healthiest of relationships, and if your relationship is already struggling, the damage can be even worse. This week’s strategy from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love, “Allow Time for Transitions,” is all about reducing that strain.
When my husband and I started planning our wedding, I had watched enough Bridezillas to know that wedding planning could be stressful. Part of the stress comes from wanting the wedding to be perfect, but part of it also comes from the process of merging two families and two lives, which is a massive transition.
Knowing that the transition would be stressful, my future husband and I frequently reminded ourselves that this was a stressful time, and that we should be particularly kind to each other while we transitioned. I won’t pretend that we had no stress while planning our wedding, or even that we were always kind to each other, because that would be an exaggeration. However, being aware of the stress both of us were under was extremely helpful.
How Allowing Time Helps
Although there are many ways to reduce the stress of transitions on your relationship, I think allowing time for the transition is one of the most powerful, for a couple of reasons.
1. It Encourages Teamwork
When one or both partners are stressed, it is really easy to turn on each other. Whether because you assume that the other person is to blame for your stress, or just because you need an outlet for your stress, your partner is a likely target for the negativity caused by transition stress. When you constantly remind yourself and your partner that you are in a transition, and are both experiencing stress, it encourages you to work together to keep your stress levels low and to be especially kind to each other.
2. It Puts Perspective on Conflict
No matter how strong your relationship, a major transition can lead to some pretty serious conflicts. If your relationship was struggling already, or if the transition is particularly difficult, the conflicts may even make you feel like your relationship is doomed, especially since the conflicts may increase dramatically in frequency and intensity. Mentally allowing time for the transition can help you to remember that the conflict is being caused by the transition and that the transition is the problem, not your partner. You can remind yourself that when you have navigated the transition, the conflict is likely to be greatly reduced.
3. It is Helpful in Almost Any Transition
Because allowing time for transitions requires only a mental change, this strategy is applicable to a wide variety of situations. It requires no money or other materials. Whether the transition is sudden or planned, positive or negative, financial, physical, or emotional, shifting your mindset can make a huge difference.
Stay tuned for our post on Wednesday on other strategies for keeping transitions from hurting your relationship!
Let’s face it: pet peeves are almost always your problem, not your partner’s. By definition, pet peeves are small things that don’t really matter. They drive some people crazy, while other people don’t even notice them. So, in the interest of reducing the stress in our relationships, here are some strategies for keeping your pet peeves from hurting your relationship.
1. Recognize that you are just as irritating to your partner
I read through this list of 50 Relationships Pet Peeves, laughing and nodding. “Yep, my husband does that! Oh, yeah, that one drives me crazy!” It was fun! Then I went through it a second time, and this time I counted up all the ones that I do. Not so much fun! Turns out that I am guilty of 24 of these at least occasionally! I’d suggest trying it out yourself. It really builds a little humility, and when your husband starts to irritate you, you can remind yourself that he has plenty of reasons to be irritated with you as well.
2. If the issue is really important to you, discuss it with your partner
When you discuss, remember that the issue is really your issue, and try to address it that way instead of blaming the other person. Check out this article for ways to discuss specific pet peeves: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/19/biggest-pet-peeves_n_2638912.html
3. Use stress reduction strategies if you find yourself overreacting
If you find yourself overreacting to things that you know are not major issues, it may be because you are feeling stressed in general, which is making you less able to deal. When my dad kicked me out of the house, he was dealing with unusual stress, which probably contributed to his overreaction. I have personally found that stress hurts my ability to react reasonably to problems as well. This slideshow provides a number of suggestions for dealing with stress. Personally, I like the suggestion to use ritual. When my husband was across the country for nine months in an internship, I developed a ritual of ending each evening with a soak in the tub while I read a book, and I found it really comforting to know that that bit of happiness was waiting at the end of each day.