Meredith Mediates by Meredith Richardson
Last Sunday, I broke my arm while paddleboarding. That’s a story in and of itself, but we’ll save that for another day.
The bigger story, at least for the purposes of this blog, is how it impacted my relationship with my spouse and what that says about our relationship.
First, there was the immediate impact. I called him from home, dripping wet. “Where are you?” I asked. He knew from my tone that something was wrong. He came home immediately to help me to change into something dry and accompany me to the hospital.
Two big empathy tests there and he passed both of them successfully. Not everyone does.
1. Can your spouse discern when you are in crisis just from the tone of your voice? Check.
2. Is your spouse there for you when you are in crisis? Check.
Then, there is the short-term impact. It turns out that while there is a lot you can do one-handed, there is also a lot that requires two hands. Since your spouse still has two working hands, these chores fall to him, even those of a more personal nature.
For example, there is clothing that requires more than one hand, but which doesn’t need to be removed throughout the course of the day, and a spouse can help you to put that on in the morning and remove it in the evening. There is other clothing that just needs to wait to be worn until you have two working hands again.
Then there are dishes to be done (can’t hold a dish and wash or dry it at the same time), laundry to be done (can’t fold or carry a stack of laundry or put a pillow in a pillowcase or make a bed), meals to be made (you try making dinner one-handed), floors to be swept (it’s getting what you’ve swept into a dustpan using only one hand that’s the challenge), dog to be walked (can’t hold the leash and pick up poop one-handed, let alone tie the poop bag).
His chores have more than doubled.
What I can do takes twice as long and I’m learning as I go.
In the first few days, how does it go? If you are someone who hates asking for help, as I do, then you can feel like a burden. Truthfully, you are a bit of a burden. There’s a lot more work for your spouse now, as I’ve pointed out. However, in the short-term, it shouldn’t be a problem. My husband opted for the white lie: “You’re not a burden.”
3. Can your spouse handle the additional work in the short-term? Check.
4. Can you ask for what you need? Check.
Let’s talk longer term. We have been at this a week now. It’s time for a fight. He’s been doing double-duty for a week. I have been doing less than usual, except that my body is healing a broken bone, so it’s pretty sure that I’m the one working overtime.
So, we argued. He’s got a little compassion fatigue and I’m a bit frustrated and fatigued as a result of my current limitations. It was a quick flash, followed by some time alone in separate corners, and then time to talk it through and make up.
5. Can your spouse ask for what he needs? Check.
6. Can the two of you work through the problems that arise as a result of the shift in responsibilities? Do you still have compassion and understanding for the other person while doing so? (“While doing so” may be extended to include not just the immediate moment.) Check.
In times of crisis, we learn a great deal about ourselves and our partners. We learn who will be there for us and who will not. My spouse will be there for me. Will yours be there for you and will you let him/her do so?
I knew Obama's Middle East speech last Thursday was a bombshell when my 19 year old daughter called me in a panic, "Mom, did you hear Obama's speech on Israel?"...By Denise Tamir