state of the marriage

…is good. But wow, it’s work, isn’t it?

Just got back from a lunchtime sit-down with Gimli, ostensibly about vacation plans but with ramifying, as these things do, into what is becoming familiar territory around our shifting roles, perspectives on child-rearing, and general approaches to life.

So, easy stuff.

Right.

I’ve often said that every time we fight it’s the same argument over and over again in different guises; I still think that’s the case, but I’m understanding more deeply what is implicated in that argument. It’s really some basic personality differences – differences that make us a great match, but also cause friction. Isn’t that always the case? For us, it’s how each of us responds differently to stress – I get still and quiet like a rabbit (freeze), while he starts giving orders and trying to control the situation (fight). So he gets mad that I’m not doing anything, and I get mad that he keeps telling me what to do, because it makes me feel like he thinks the situation is my fault.

Right now the stress in our life is by and large good stress – the children, living abroad – these are good things in both our books – but he’s frustrated with me because he feels like I’m not fully plunging into life in Albania, and I’m frustrated because he keeps wanting to run around and do all this stuff – big family excursions – and keeps pushing me to be more social. The running around part makes me feel like he doesn’t care about the needs of our little ones, and the social part – well, it’s just scary for me with my social anxieties. I also end up feeling defensive, like how am I not good enough/doing enough for you???

So we needed to talk things out, and I feel like we understand each other better now. We also made a few minor decisions (like, no big family excursion until my in-laws come to visit in about 3.5 weeks, and he’s going to start trying to come home earlier in the evenings), and that feels a little bit better too. The sucky part was I ended up crying in the middle of the restaurant where we met for lunch. And I lost a good hour of work time. But hopefully overall this will help maintain domestic harmony.

When we were dating, we both read a book titled Two Years Before the Mast – a memoir from the days of sailing ships, written by a Harvard student who for health reasons worked as a lowly sailor and visited California when it was still part of Mexico. Gimli and I both marveled at the descriptions in the book of the tedious work sailors had to do, like scraping the rust off of chains or tightening jibs, and we made it a metaphor for our relationship. You have to do the small maintenance daily – at least weekly – to be storm-ready. I did a counted cross-stitch of a sailing ship that we hung in our bathroom at home in the States as a reminder to do this.

We were due for some good jib-tightening. It’s not fun, but it’s better than the alternative.

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2 Responses to “state of the marriage”

  1. coffeegrljp Says:

    I am amazed at how similar this sounds to my own life and situation. I tend to freeze up and my DH just plunges onward. His take is that we can always make changes and adjustments as needed – later if the case arises.

    Also, I think it’s a little different because he came to live in the US when he was 16 years old and stayed. Those years are certainly more formative and he had a chance to really focus on learning English etc. I didn’t make the move to Japan until in my mid-30s and the adjustment feels harder (I’m certain I would have adapted much more quickly 15+ years ago). Now, for him living in the US or Japan feels equally comfortable since he’s spent roughly 1/2 his life in each place. For me, making the transition to Japan continues to be a challenge (maybe complicated by the fact that we are only there for 6 months at a time and then we’re back in the US).

    We’re constantly trying to figure out if there’s a way to make this any easier. It’s *never* easy. *sigh*

    • Elizabeth Says:

      That constant relocating has got to be so hard. Not just moving, but all the inter-cultural stuff too. Because I grew up as a missionary kid and have traveled a lot since we got married (20 countries in 11 years, the longest period of time abroad about 3 months, until this current move) it feels kind of normal to me – but one thing that has helped me a lot, was a friend told me that “the first year after you move to a new country it’s normal for your whole family to be dysfunctional.” I don’t know what this means when you move every 6 months!

      But then I also think of the migrant families I used to work with – that was exactly what seasonal workers do – they move every October and April (more or less), so think what that does for the kids’ schooling since it’s not synced in any way to the school year.

      The school I went to in Peru as a child was synced to the US academic year, instead of the Peruvian academic year (which runs roughly February-November) so that we missionary kids could transition more easily between north and south.

      It’s so interesting to me how much our experiences resonate considering how much they differ in the details 🙂 but on the larger scale there is a lot the same.

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