You know you’re getting more mature when you feel yourself getting aggravated and wanting to snap at your husband–and you manage to pull it together.
Yesterday my husband and I should have had a few tense moments and perhaps even a bit of a blowout. Ten years ago, in that situation, we would have.
But we didn’t, and I’m proud of us.
I think, after 25 years, we’re actually growing up!
So let me tell you a story about our day yesterday.
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Once upon the time there was a couple who lived in a three-story house. Her mom decided to move into their basement, and that means that the main floor was now common property. So since the couple are now empty nesters, they decided to turn one of the guest bedrooms, that is currently supposed to be Sheila’s office, but let’s be real–she just sits on couches with her computer, actually–and turn it into a sitting room/exercise room/TV room.
And for that, they needed to go to Ikea. Which is in Ottawa. 3 hours away.
(Okay, enough of telling the story in the third person. Let’s get personal here).
When my mom moved in she also brought a lot of nice furniture. We tried to keep the best and get rid of the rest, but one thing she did have was a super nice dining room set. We decided to take that to Rebecca and her husband Connor in their new basement apartment.
We also had a number of smaller things that needed to be moved to their place, and since we were going to Ottawa, we decided to take some of the boxes that Katie would need for school to Ottawa, too. So we rented a UHaul trailer and borrowed a truck and off we went.
Well, that was the plan anyway. Keith was supposed to pick up the trailer at 8, when he got off of call at the hospital, and then pick up our nephew who was going to help us, and then be home early so we could load up.
But at 7:50 he got a new consult at the hospital so he was running late. The UHaul took forever to rent and the truck wasn’t ready. It was 10 by the time he got home, and I was getting a little testy.
Now, here’s where personality differences kick in.
I’m an ENTJ, which means that I’m a big picture person, and I don’t care much about details. Keith’s a heavy detail person. And so Keith couldn’t, in all good conscience, put any good furniture in this trailer unless it was done exactly right, with nothing able to move and everything protected with blankets, etc.
Keith, of course, was totally right, but it was taking him FOREVER to load this thing up. And did I mention it was like 35 degrees (for all of you non Celsius people, that’s like mid 90s)?
HE was the one doing all the moving, but I was getting really grumpy in the heat. And then he starts getting a little testy when he sees how much there was to move.
When Keith gets testy, I assume it’s because he thinks I’ve done something wrong.
So I immediately go into defense mode. All sorts of things went through my head–“we have the truck now, so we’ve been saving it all up to move all at once”, or “why did you think I was writing ‘Rebecca and Connor’ on all those boxes for weeks?” But I didn’t say it. Because I took a deep breath and realized something.
Keith is not upset at me. He is hot and frazzled cause he is running late and he just wants this over with.
And I went and got him a glass of water.
We did get to Ottawa, and got most of the furniture downstairs fairly quickly. But then we tried to get the dining room hutch down. And you know what? It just didn’t fit down those stairs. Matt (our nephew) was on top and Connor was on the bottom, and Keith was trying to guide it, and everyone kept talking about physics and angles, and NOPE. It was stuck.
(this was really the only pic I took yesterday. Sorry I don’t have more to show you!)
So they took it back upstairs, we put it back in the UHaul, and we had to bring it home.
We all went for lunch at the food court at the mall, but it was 2:00 by now and I was super hot and super hungry, which usually makes me grumpy all over again. But I held it together.
After lunch we had to drop stuff off at Katie’s condo.
And on the way there he realized we were low on gas, and no one knew where a gas station was that could accommodate a truck and trailer. So he starts running his hand through his hair like he does when his stress levels go up. And he says to me, “I’m just frustrated because I didn’t realize what all of this would entail today, and we started so late.”
And I get frustrated because we talked about all of this. But I often find that men are like that. When you make a plan for a family beach day, for instance, a guy thinks, “we’ll pile the kids in the car and drive to the beach.” A mom often pictures all the meals that have to be packed and the sunscreen and the changes of clothes and the toys and then, on the morning when mom’s running around getting all of this stuff and asking him to start doing some prep work he’s somehow surprised. And she wonders why.
So I find myself stressed, because it’s not my fault that we have no gas and it’s not my fault that we have to drop off Katie’s stuff, and what exactly did he think we were going to do with Katie’s stuff in the back of the truck anyway?
And then it occurs to me again: Keith doesn’t think it’s my fault. He’s just frustrated. So I calm down and we find a gas station on Google Maps.
Then it was time for Ikea.
Now, Keith doesn’t like shopping. He never has. And so shopping is usually tense because I don’t want to buy something if he’s not happy, but he’s never really happy because he doesn’t want to be there in the first place. So if I say, “do you like this one?” and he says, “Sure,” I’m never sure if he means “Yes, it’s amazing and I’ll love it forever,” or if he means, “Yes, I like it if it means you will let me leave this place and go home.”
To make matters worse, as we walk through Ikea the first thing he says is, “So we’re just looking for a couch, right?” And I said, “No, we’re looking for all the furniture for the guest bedroom. We want a corner couch and a wall unit to go around the TV, and maybe some storage if it fits.”
I thought we had talked about this. But apparently we hadn’t.
But he didn’t get grumpy. He just looked frazzled.
And a large part of that was because the hospital kept calling him about a patient’s blood test results while we’re trying to shop, and his mind is in a million places.
True story: I’ve always gotten annoyed when work phones Keith when he’s supposed to be off. Or when all of his phone calls delay us leaving town. I know he can’t help it. I know it’s part of his job. I know he’s not deliberately doing this to me. But I also refuse to let him talk on the phone while he’s driving, and he refuses to go on speaker phone with anyone else in the car because of patient confidentiality, so we often have to pull off the road so he can call and it’s all just a big hassle.
Again, not his fault. He is a very responsible man and a good doctor. But hassles drive me batty.
So there we are, running three hours late, hot as anything, and I’m frazzled that he’s surprised that somehow we’ve got to buy actual furniture at Ikea and he’s frazzled that there are more decisions he has to make.
But we all agree this is necessary because we don’t get to Ottawa with a UHaul very often.
We actually picked out the furniture fairly quickly, only to find that the store was missing one of the key components of our couch. But then Keith realized that he could pick it up at the Toronto branch this Thursday when he has to go into the city, and it will fit in my mom’s car, so he was my hero again.
We got home at 10:30, he and my nephew unpacked that UHaul, and now we can spend this weekend getting the room ready. I’m happy.
But best of all, I didn’t blow up when Keith seemed tense.
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Usually when I get upset it really is because he’s testy and I get defensive. But what I’ve been noticing more and more is that when Keith is testy, it’s rarely because he’s ticked off at me. He’s just frustrated with circumstances. If I take it as a personal slight, I blow the whole thing out of proportion. But if I just realize he’s frustrated and if I say something encouraging, like, “I know this is a pain, but we can do this. Let’s just get it done fast!”, or “I’m so impressed with how much you guys carried today. I couldn’t do that in all this heat,” or “I’m sorry that you still have to worry about that patient. You really are a good doctor, you know,” I just change the whole dynamic of the situation. And it’s so much better.
I’ve written a lot about believing the best of your spouse–believing that they want the best for you, even when you’re aggravated. And it really does change everything! It’s like what I said in Thought #2 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage–you don’t have to get ticked off. You really can control the way you react to your husband. So the next time your husband gets testy, don’t assume it’s because he’s mad at you. Try to see things from his point of view. And maybe you can defuse the situation, too.
When do you and your husband usually get testy with each other? Do you guys shop well together? Let’s talk in the comments!