One day recently, my wife, Lori, came home and said, “We both know that I went full-time at work a month or so ago. It’s been great, but I’ve been getting frustrated at home. And I finally figured out why—I’m still carrying the majority of the housework, even though my workload has increased.”
How could I argue with that?
My wife added 10-15 hours to her work week, but I hadn’t stopped to think about what that meant for maintaining our home. She could have gone on simmering in irritation, looking at me with the stink eye as if I didn’t care—but where would that have gotten us?
What about you? Have you stopped to consider the effects of change on your relationship?
If you’re in a funk lately, or you’re wondering ‘What is up with my spouse,’ chances are that something has changed and you’re experiencing its effects. Maybe it’s just how they feel that’s changed, or maybe something legitimate is different.
Either way, change can be unsettling, but it can be downright destructive when we don’t see how much it is affecting both our lives. So what should you do about it?
Ask the obvious question
It’s simple, but this is the first step in finding your way through it all. Ask the question: What has changed? One of my friends has a new boss and he is helping catch her up to speed, but he was already feeling a bit overwhelmed at work as it was.
Now he’s trying to build trust with his new boss, too. The expectations and flow of his work has changed. Another friend keeps getting emergency calls and texts from his parents as their health is failing. He’s their only child, and their need for him has changed.
Understanding what has changed in our lives can expose the source of stress or tension.
Has something changed for you recently? Health? Work? Kids? Family?
When something significant changes in life, you need to get honest and call it what it is, and you need to do that together. Because change for them means change for you, too. Have a conversation with your spouse about what is different or frustrating. Get it out in the open.
If you don’t, then you’ll keep rolling along like it’s just how things are now. And you could easily fall into relational conflict that never needed to happen in the first place.
Imagine what it’s like
Imagine what it would be like if that was you. If your spouse is the one who is navigating change, then imagine how aggravating or disturbing that might be. Think about how you would feel if the circumstances were reversed.
This is called empathy, and it’s quite possibly the “magic button” in marriage. If you can place yourself in your spouse’s shoes, then you can feel what they feel, see it how they see it, and understand them so much better.
When I looked at my wife’s new workload and responsibilities from her perspective, I not only understood her frustration, but I wanted to help make the right adjustments. And you can do the same for changes in your life.
Decide on a better way forward together
It’s time to own this change as a couple, because change for them means change for you, too
Do they need 30 minutes of decompression time after work? Are your parents in an unhealthy season? Do you need to allow your spouse time to respond to texts and calls without judgement? That’s what some of my friends realized recently.
As they talked about how different this season is with his ailing parents, he realized, “I’m not just their only child anymore, I’m their care-taker.” His wife has rallied around that heart and mentality. Now, they’re serving his parents in an incredible way.
My wife’s workload changed, so I own all the laundry at home now (and I fold clothes like a Marie Kondo-ninja). It’s so much better this way!
Change what you fight for
What happens if you keep doing the same thing? If you keep disregarding, keep fighting, and keep living irritated? Where does that lead?
Imagine how much less emotionally exhausted you’ll be when you stop fighting with what’s changed. Instead, start changing what you fight for. Imagine how much peace you will bring back into your relationship because you understand where your spouse is coming from, and you work together to create a new normal through understanding and teamwork.
If something has changed, or is about to, don’t underestimate its full effect on your relationship. Change is good if you meet it head-on together.
What’s changed in your marriage recently? How do you deal with it?
Dave Safstrom is the director of Married Life at LCBC Church, a groups-based experience for couples in their 20s/30s and 40s/50s. He lives in south-central Pennsylvania with his wife, Lori, and their two sons.
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