Posts Tagged ‘allowing your partner downtime’

paa12100001010I warned you that I might deviate from my original intention, which was to write about knowing “when to speak up and when to say nothing.” Circumstances this week have reminded me of something that’s likely even more important: being sensitive to your partner’s stress or fatigue level, and knowing when to step in and give them a break.

It’s best referred to as “tag-teaming it’ and it’s the foundation of a good partnership, whether it’s two cops in an interrogation room or parents dealing with their children. When one is deep in the heat of the action, the other needs to be nearby, ready to step in, and give their partner time to “breathe.”

I learned to appreciate this after the birth of my first son. I was overjoyed to finally have a baby, but like so many new mothers, my euphoria dimmed once he developed colic and cried from early afternoon until midnight each day. I was worn to a frazzle but felt too guilty to complain to my husband. After all, I was the one getting to stay at home with our darling baby, while he made a full one hundred and twenty-mile round trip to work each day and arrived home hungry and tired.

How could I let him know that I not only needed a break from my new-mother role, I needed it right now?

The first time, I didn’t even have to speak. He walked in, said hello, showered, saw that supper was ready, and practically shooed me out the door for a much-needed break. It didn’t matter that we lived in a small town and there wasn’t much to do once I got outside that door. He knew that an hour or so of downtime was all I needed to feel rejuvenated, and the time alone with his son was his reward. He did it more than once. One look at my face was often enough for him to know I needed another “mommy break.”

Over the years, this has been our pattern. When one of us reaches the end of our rope, is unwell or overtired, the other steps in, no questions asked. And that is how it should be. I cannot conceive of a relationship where one person is exhausted and the other is not doing whatever they can to relieve their load. Yet we see it all the time, a situation where one partner is the giver, one the taker and the roles are never exchanged or shared.

In the end, it’s about sensitivity. It’s also about caring about your partner nas much as you do yourself.

There is a great misconception out there that women are weak, unable to handle as much as males. But the reality is that when studies evaluate the work done by both partners in a household, women generally work more hours per day. Women who resort to complaining about that situation or about the aches and pains that have accumulated, do so because they believe that their partner is unaware of the overload they’re feeling. They have become efficient at doing things on their own but inefficient at making their needs known. Their partner may not even notice the number of times they jump up to get the clothes out of the driver, or check the food on the stove, or run to answer the phone that everyone else has tuned out or chosen to ignore.

Yep, we women can be our own worst enemies. In our desire to have our world run smoothly, we can morph into mini-robots, beacons of efficiency, driving ourselves into the ground and not saving room for the good things in life.  We need to remind ourselves that “tag teams” only work well when the one who is tired reaches out, and the other is waiting there, ready to touch fingertips and enter the ring.

Men can suffer from the same “superbeing” phenomena, and depending on their own self-esteem and upbringing, admitting they’re in trouble might not come naturally. Keep your eyes open for the signs that they’re losing steam or getting discouraged. Chances are that they may not reach out their hand and ask for help until they’re going down for the count.


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