“No, absolutely not! Don’t even think about it. I will not let you do that.”
30 years of marriage and this is not a conversation that I expected.
My first reaction was to pop open my mouth and tell him exactly what I thought about being told what I would and would not be ‘allowed’ to do.
But that calm quiet voice deep in my soul reminded me that if I wanted our communication to continue to become more open, and if I wanted him to feel safe expressing his thoughts; I needed to hear him out.
I was so thankful that I obeyed that voice, because his next few words completely rocked my world.
“If I need to, I will move my vacation time to that week and stay with her. You deserve to get away! You need time to decompress and time to have fun with your best friend. You need to enjoy Michael and be responsible for nothing more than what is completely necessary for a few days. Whatever it takes, we will make it happen. I want you to be able to relax and enjoy and come back home refreshed.”
In that moment, I loved him more than words could say. The gift of him understanding my need for a break was incredible.
I love being here for my mom; being able to move her in and provide for her needs has been so good. I love being able to greet Ken when he walks in the door, to get my hug and kiss and learn about his day. I love being at home with Michael when he suddenly wants to share a special moment in his day with me. But being ‘on call’ all the time can get exhausting. Which is just one reason that is so vital for caregivers to make sure to take time for themselves.
Over the years I have been notorious for putting everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. I also used to have a horrible habit of putting the needs of whomever cried the loudest ahead of my husband, family and myself as well; which made me a favorite in volunteer organizational structures. At that same time though, I had such a hard time understanding why Ken felt that he didn’t rate high in importance to me. I lived out that old cliché, “I told her that I loved her when I married her, isn’t that enough?” Except my version was, “I told him that he was important to me in the beginning, do I really have to keep showing him that he is?”
I hadn’t realized that my behavior of ‘taking care of everyone else’s urgents’ made my ‘importants’ feel neglected and devalued. Ouch. Something had to change.
Trying to break old habits is hard to do but knowing how much I was hurting my family and even hindering my health caused me to begin changing.
But sometimes it takes an obstacle to shine a light and see if growth has really happened. So, it was actually kind of exciting in some ways to come up against this obstacle, let me explain why.
It’s funny, I was talking with a wise and caring friend just a couple of weeks prior to this discussion between Ken and I and couldn’t see a way around bringing mom with me; unless she could stay with my stepsister Sandy. This would entail me flying across the country with her, and then returning to get Michael, and then the opposite at the end of the trip. I am an avid traveler, but this would mean being away from my husband for the holidays and a lot of arrangements would need made. Besides all of that, would Sandy even be available to do it? I was trying to come up with multiple solutions and nothing seemed to line up. The words of wisdom given to me were not to stress, trust God, trust my husband and keep a positive attitude.
Well, I will be honest here. Ken taking vacation to stay home and care for his mother-in-law, my mom, while I took a relaxing fun vacation; was not a solution I even considered!
Instead I let the frustration of trying to solve this begin to seep into my daily life. So, along comes the conversation that I alluded to at the beginning of this blog. Suddenly I was able to look back and see how this whole situation could have escalated into so much more. But by having learned about ‘conflict resolution’ by reading Conflict Resolution available by LIFE Essentials, and also utilizing listening techniques shared in How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger; disaster was avoided. I was able to implement a new approach and not only eliminate a potential battle, but I was able to see growth in myself. I was also able to be in awe of how incredibly blessed I am to have Ken as my knight in shining armor yet again.
How many times in the past had Ken tried to help me, to offer a solution, but I took offense in his wording or demeanor and instantly bristled; causing him to clam up?
I also realized that what I had been reading about in Leadership and Self-Deception (by The Arbinger Institute) about being out of the box was working. I was able to step out of the box, let Ken share and feel heard and respected, and because of this – was able to experience such love and care from him.
How many times do we ‘assume’ we know what someone is thinking or going to say, and we stop them in their tracks?
How often when that happens does the other person think – why should I even try? Then just give up and leave us gloating in our ‘know it all’ mindset?
What would life look like if we learned to listen instead of assuming?
I’m listening, Amy
A little side note, my stepsister is amazing! She worked her schedule out to keep mom. As for Ken and I being apart over the holidays? He said we would make it work, and I listened!