A shrill cry from the next room awakens me from deep sleep. I roll over and feel my way towards my husband, Steve. Ah yes, it’s Saturday. Surely, he will attend to the baby’s needs. The thought is a desperate inner plea. I pretend to be asleep. The seconds tick on. He doesn’t move. My heart starts pounding and anger begins to drip into my pulse. It dissolves my hope and brews resentment. “Why do I always have to be the one?” I think.
I angrily snap back covers and stomp my way into the next room. As I soothe my crying baby and my nerves simultaneously relax, my senses return and I realize that he’s been up long before me all week long. How could I be so selfish? And yet, I feel the need for a break too. Haven’t I been the one attending to these cries all week long? I feel like there is no good answer.
Pushing & Shoving Away the Duties
It’s par for the course for new parents. The juggling and shifting of responsibility goes round and round. Steve and I spent so many weekends arguing about who was working harder, who deserved a break, whose turn it was to change a diaper, etc., etc., ad nauseam. I often felt like Steve just did not understand how hard I worked and how much I needed a break. He felt the exact same way. Before long we found ourselves with tensions running high, and resentments carving deep creases into our marriage.
I often found myself falling into two main traps. One on hand, I found myself getting stuck in my own pity party. I would focus so much on my own needs that I didn’t stop to consider his. When I did look up from myself, I would try to guess at what his needs were and meet the needs I assumed he had. He often missed what I was trying to do for him. Resentment and hurt festered on both sides as I would feel like he didn’t appreciate what I did for him, and he lingered unseen, with unmet needs.
When Enough is Enough
After too many weekends caught in a blame game, we finally found a solution that helped stop the fighting, ease the burden, and meet each other’s needs. On Friday nights, after the final tuck, kiss, and drink of water, before we tune out the world in front of the TV, we face each other and ask:
So, what do you need this weekend?
We take turns listening to one another answer this question. Then, we make a plan for the weekend to facilitate and meet each other’s needs. Most often, we each need some space and time to rejuvenate. For me this often looks like going to a coffee shop on Saturday morning. For him, if it’s not raining he likes to go for a walk or a hike. We also discuss how to nurture our relationship and to work collaboratively on home projects. And of course, we discuss when we each will take a turn sleeping in.
Making a Habit of Communication
Knowing that he knows my needs and that we will make a plan to meet them, allows me to get the focus off myself to hear and meet his actual needs. This practice has improved our communication not only on Friday nights but for other times as well. It’s created a habit in our relationship to listen to each other’s needs and make space for them.
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