As soon as the Christmas trees are clearanced out, hearts and candies and frilly cards are in the stores. A lot of us have just gone through the travesty of traveling with their kids to 15 relatives houses who all are perfectly mobile but think ‘it’s too far for me to drive’–forgetting that traveling with young kids who could REALLY use their own beds at nap time thankyouverymuch is just as far in the opposite direction. With overtired kids. We resolve to do better on a whole host of items we can’t possibly do all at once on January 1. Everyone’s made it through the holidays and just wants to relax. Then Valentine’s Day swoops in with all the expectations and pressures of ‘romance’. People everywhere are making announcements, they have just gotten engaged, or are planning an engagement or wedding. We’ve all heard the stories. People who marry a perfect stranger- and it works out beautifully. People who marry for money. For attention or fame. Who marry for less than a year. For 50 years. Their high school or college sweethearts. It’s the high season for love.
It’s the high season for stress.
We all turn to our best friends for empathy, sympathy, advice and confidential conversations about what is really stressing us out. With a side of chocolate.
But if your spouse is your best friend, then what?
It makes for great sharing of stories, right? I mean that’s the GREAT thing. All your stress-inducing moments together can be a giggle later-especially if you have kids. You know each other so well that you can finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s minds, cook in perfect syncopation, predict what they might want to buy at the store, or eat for breakfast. On a day to day basis, it is FABULOUS! Chores CAN get done in half the time, even with kids underfoot. You lock eyes over the tragedy that’s become your dream home and instead looks like a toys r us store has thrown up all over it-and you don’t care. You share a knowing look when the 2 year old starts screaming about NOT getting candy for breakfast, AGAIN, when they’ve NEVER gotten candy for breakfast. You look at each other in stunned silence as your 5 year old bravely says a curse word and then cringes in fear of your reaction. You know you’ll laugh about it together later, but now you’re each thinking on your feet for the right thing to say. Or when you roll your eyes as the baby whines for the 6th time that witching hour and each half-heartedly attempt to roll out of bed until someone finally does with a sigh of consternation and the other one sighs with relief. Your best friend isn’t going to do that. Having your husband as your best friend is such a blessing. Until it’s a curse.
Issue 1:Your Spouse. You can see this, right? How do you talk to your spouse about your spouse? I mean, yes, everyone should have those conversations about things that are impeding their relationship’s growth, or if something your spouse does is really bugging you or needs addressed, and that’s all fine. We all need a sounding board, though, before these conversations. They’re the conversations before the conversation you NEED to have. Your venting session that helps you boil down to the nuts and bolts of whatever you’re dealing with at the time. Friends help concentrate the issues until they’re in a neat package in your brain. Without that sounding board, a lot of us would go nuts. Some of us have turned to social media for our sounding board. It’s instant gratification and point of view from a variety of different sources, which you can take or leave at your whim–but you have to be careful of how much you reveal lest you get the ‘don’t shame your husband on the internet’ meme thrown at you. I’m certain pioneer women wrote to their closest relatives or friends about their darkest secrets and concerns, and then waited weeks for a return letter, if it made it at all. How frustrated they must have been with only their animals in which to confide in the interim. Or Jesus. Prayer definitely has its place. But sometimes you need an out loud answer. I’ve never gotten an out loud answer from the Lord, personally.
Issue 2:The Kids. We all touch base with our spouses about our kids. The highs and lows of the days as they pass. Milestones, memories, stolen moments of bliss when they’re engaged in quiet task and you feel like you can breathe and actually look at each other for a minute. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful to share…and at time it can be a double edged sword. Stay with me here. Obviously, the good things, you love to talk about right? The first steps. The mispronounced words through eager lips that stumble and say things oh so cutely, but oh so very wrong. The A’s on the report card. And then? There’s the bad. When you really want to talk to your best friend about something, but it’s so troublesome that you’re almost frightened to do so. Behavior issues or medical problems. It goes double when your spouse is your confidant. Your best girl friend is likely to calm your fears. But your spouse might just confide that he’s worried about that, too. It’s one thing to have some concerns or doubts in your own mind, but another for you and your spouse (the child’s PARENTS) to share them aloud. SCARY.
Issue 3:Me Time. Unless you’re really into monster trucks guess where we spent our first anniversary. go ahead, guess. or he’s totally into pedicures, you’re not likely to have every interest in common. Yes I’m stereotyping. It makes a point. When you really want to do something for ‘me time’ with a friend, if your spouse is your best friend, it’s not likely that you’ll go for every adventure side by side. Not only is your spouse not interested, but also it simply isn’t ‘me time’ if he is with you. Every couple needs some time apart, no matter how in love they are. Some days I’m ridiculously glad for my super hot shower. At least for a few minutes I neither have mine nor anyone else’s fluids on me. For a stay at home mom, that’s a win. The last thing I want (generally, there are exceptions) is company in the shower. 😉
Issue 4:Gifts and Presents/Money. There’s not much surprise in either gifts or presents if the only person you can talk to about it is the recipient. While this isn’t a huge issue, it does lead to some pretty boring exchanges for the holidays, birthdays, etc. Which of course leads us to the money issue. It’s great if you’re in perfect spending sync. No sense in complaining TO your spouse or confessing to your spouse about how much money you/they spent. Umm. Yeah. I know of a lot of people who try and hide how much they have spent on things from their husbands: clothes, shoes, diapers. I guess there’s no real thrill about purchasing items that your best friend isn’t going to squeal over and be super happy that you got just what you wanted. Everyone needs retail therapy now and again, but generally your spouse is not going to be whooping it up with you. On the flip side, if your spouse is spending a bunch of money that you don’t necessarily approve of, who can you complain to about it that will offer you an outside perspective? It’s just not going to happen. You have to buckle under and have those hard conversations with no bracing.
Issue 5:In Laws and Family. This makes sense, right? You can giggle over crazy Aunt Mabel at Thanksgiving, but there’s only so much grumbling you can tolerate about your own parents, no matter what your relationship is like. Pointing out home truths just doesn’t always go over well. Since we’ve already established that the younger generation with kids has to do most of the traveling and hit every relative’s house for every holiday, there’s some consternation over how long you stay, what time meals are (figure it out around the naps!) and even when the family is jealous of how much time you spent with the other in laws. This particularly holds true if the families live close together. Everyone is upset that they didn’t get to see you if you’re ‘in the area’.
Some days I feel like that pioneer woman – except with running water. My friends are few and far between. I can’t meet them every day for coffee like previous generations did. Most of my time is spent in the house with my kids and my blessing/curse of a best friend. Sometimes we go to bed frustrated or angry. I suppose the upside is that they’re literally there beside you bed in the middle of the night to talk to if necessary. Saying ‘you hurt my feelings’ or ‘I wish you wouldn’t do that’ or ‘I love it when you…’ is difficult at first. When there’s no one else to run that stuff by to sound it out, it can be a really upsetting thing. You really have to take all frustration and anger out of the equation to get anything accomplished. High drama has no place in these situations. Good couples work through it. The longer you do it, the easier the conversations become. Some (like those above) are still really hard. I’ve found that I can edit myself pretty well by email. Many notes have been sent in the middle of the night. An all out discussion at midnight when you can’t sleep isn’t generally feasible, though. Taking a half hour to type out a note that makes clear your feelings on a particular problem can be very healing. You don’t even have to send it, it can serve as your own personal sounding board as you read it back to yourself and imagine your partner’s reaction. It might just help you sleep… and e-mail is an efficient way to ask your partner to please do xyz the next day. You get it out of your brain and your partner gets it in their inbox. No one forgets and gets angry. Instant win.
Are you blessed/cursed with a best friend who is your spouse? Do you have any tips or tricks for making those ‘hard to say’ conversations easier?
That’s a tough one! My husband is also my best friend, but lucky for me, he’s a friend who needs a lot of alone time, which I make sure he gets. Of course when he’s got his alone time to ride his bike or visit his friends, I get some too. It wasn’t like that when our son was little though. He stayed at home with the baby and I went to work, but as soon as I got home, I was mom and he was out the door for a bike ride or a walk. It was irritating (after all, I’d just put in a long day in the office), but I understood about needing time to yourself. I made sure I had some for me as well, even if it was folding laundry while watching something on TV all by myself. It’s a juggling act. We don’t always see eye to eye on things, especially when it comes to our son. He is very over-protective, whereas I let him do things so he can learn his limits. Nothing dangerous, but a little outside the comfort zone sometimes. I finally got to stay home from a field trip this year!!! My husband never felt comfortable letting him go somewhere without one of us there. I saw that as a way to put a damper on his social life (which is very, very limited already). Last year he went skiing with the youth group AND to Washington DC with his school group without us and he has grown so much from having to rely on himself. With three kids, I realize that this is going to be hard for you to pull off anytime soon, but try to find a little time for yourself without kids and without hubby on a regular basis. Maybe ask him for one day a month. You could go to town, get a pedicure, window shop, maybe see a movie by yourself. It’s a great restorative to just be able to breathe alone sometimes.