How I'm getting what I need

Aaron and I grew up in very different types of homes. I mean there are many similarities, including loving families, parents who are still together, close extended families, etc. In many other ways, though, our families are just really, really different, which is funny to me because he and I are alike in so very many ways. Or maybe our differences just complement each other so nicely that we simply fit together well. I don't know.

Anyway, one of the many, many differences happens to be home-keeping styles. Aaron's mom is very, very neat. He often tells the story about how his parents were away for the weekend and he and his brother threw a party. After the party they cleaned the house from top to bottom leaving absolutely zero traces that anything had happened there at all. Their mom walked in the door and asked what the heck had they been up to, because she knew something had happened there while they were away. How did she know? A single candle was an inch out of place. Seriously. Busted for a candle moved an inch. That's a house where everything has its place, for sure!

My mom was recently taking a class where the participants discussed their upbringings and how they have shaped the person/artist they are today. Many of the women were talking about how they made their bed first thing each morning, how this helped them feel ready to start the day, and how their moms had taught them to do this every morning before school. Their houses are neat as pins. My mom shared how her mom's philosophy was that children should play, not work, so they never had to do any chores when they were small children. Still, with eight kids in her family, their house was never messy, but she definitely wasn't the one doing the work. Growing up in my house, it was never dirty, but it has definitely been cluttered. A little messy. Aaron thinks it's chaos, but it feels homey to me. My mom's philosophy is that a clean house is the sign of a misspent life.

So, you can imagine how this all comes to play in our home now. I am okay if things are in a little bit of disarray, while the same state drives Aaron absolutely insane. Again, I clean regularly enough, our house really isn't dirty. It's just a bit messy at times. With two small children who help in the mess making, and who wear me out by bedtime, there are often toys left laying out, a pile of mail left unopened, stacks of things that need to be put away here and there. (And my deepest, darkest secret: sometimes the dishes don't get done until the next day. I'm so ashamed!)

Marriage can be hard sometimes, and I'm convinced that there's not much that's harder on a marriage than babies and small children. You love them with all of your heart, but they suck up all your time, affection, emotion, and soul. There are times when I feel like I'm not getting the kind of attention and affection I want from my husband, and it's hard. It sucks! I know my reality is that my kids are at a stage where their needs are more important than mine in most instances (they can't do much for themselves, and are completely dependent, so it just makes sense), but that doesn't make me feel my needs any less acutely.

After some navel gazing during my trip to Minnesota a few weeks ago (I had time to think! It's rare these days!),  I realized that maybe I'm not getting what I need because he's not getting what he needs. Light bulb! Also, duh! I realized that maybe I should get up off my butt every once in a while, set down my phone, and stop wasting all my time (I will still waste a little of it, because everyone needs a little down time), and do some things around the house that will make him feel more at ease. He has a hard time relaxing when there's chaos all around, so it makes sense that he's tense and frustrated sometimes.

So, I'm working harder these days at being more present, thinking about what he may need, and doing what I can to make our life easier. He's a great partner, and no slouch in the housekeeping arena either. He does his part, but now I'm making sure to do more of mine. It's still early, but I think I see it working already. I'm getting what I need by making it about him sometimes too.


Cassie said...
September 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM

I like this post so much. So much of what you've written rings true with me. Joe and I have different issues, but I can see how this strategy could improve our communication with and/or our attentions towards each other.

I also agree that children are such a huge stress on a marriage. It's true that their needs are more important right now; I guess the trick is to find a way to get through this tough stage together so when we do come out the other side, we still like each other. If that makes sense.

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