Curiosity and Empathy: Remedy the Marital Tug of War

Sometimes there’s this thing that creeps into our marriage. And our parenting.

It’s not pretty. But, please tell me we aren’t the only ones.

It’s kind of difficult to explain, but I think it’s a cross between a subconscious (alright, sometimes conscious) tally system, and a marital tug of war. 

Eeek. I’ve already said too much.

It sounds something like, “I have managed to keep my cool with the kids ALL DAY, and yet you my dear husband, are struggling after a few hours?! PUH-LEEZ.”

Or, “Since you’ve had a night out with the girls, I’m going to go out tonight after work with the guys. Just keeping it even around here, babe.”

“I read books at bedtime last night, so…it’s your turn.”

“You’re traveling again for work? When does Mama get a solo work trip, with per diem?” 

I think you’re picking up what I’m laying down, right? 

It’s not all bad. Taking turns at daily tasks, and being honest about needing a little break is good, healthy even. However, I find that when my posture becomes slightly and oh-so-subtly adversarial with my best friend, teammate, and husband, that it’s time for a heart check.

Curiosity and Empathy: Remedy the Marital Tug of War
Rock Photography

It’s time to acknowledge where we’re at, get on the same page, and ultimately search for spaces to serve and love each other well. Because I believe it’s the subtle things that eventually eat away at a marriage. Days of he always, you never, and it’s not fair, slowly turn into years of me vs. you, and chips away at the partnership. 

The remedy I’ve found while spiraling in my own passive aggressive record keeping, has been this: good ole fashioned curiosity, and empathy. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes has never been more instantly gratifying than in my marriage. 

Curiosity comes first. “I’m exhausted, but I wonder what immediate re-entry to family life is like after being at the office all day…”

Then comes the empathy. “I bet re-entry is abrupt, and difficult for him to leave work at work.” 

Boom. The self pity passive aggressive train comes to a halt when I can be honest about where I’m at and then immediately consider and validate where he’s at.  It’s catching my self in the me me me, and flipping it around, so I can give from a place of actually understanding. 

Because at the end of the day, in all of our roles, in all of our different contexts, that’s what we desire. For someone to understand, validate, and even celebrate the work we’re doing and seize an opportunity to tag us out for a break.

Curiosity and Empathy: Remedy the Marital Tug of War
Rock Photography

He’s better at it than I am, but we’re getting there, and I’m thinking it’ll be worth the practice. 

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