Stress is to be expected at this point in our lives. We were warned that the first year of law school is a crazy stressful experience and it is turning out to be true. For Tim, starting as a new teacher in a demanding and challenging new school is full of stresses as well. We expected this. What we weren’t prepared for was how stress would affect our relationship. Frankly these last few months have been some of the hardest months in our marriage and we are approaching the four year anniversary.
People say that if you can survive the Peace Corps as a couple you can survive anything. I believe this is true. We supported each other throughout that crazy experience and I know we will get through this too. It is just so different. In Guyana at least we had down time to be with each other, decompress from the stress of being a stranger in a strange land. Now, we are both so busy, anxious, uptight, tired and just plain stressed most of the time that we get snippy with each other, start fights for no reasons and lose our tempers (or bottle up our emotions) in ways we never have before.
Recently we have been talking about ways to make things better. I am proud of us for communicating and being willing to work for our relationship and this is ultimately what I think will get us through these, and all the hard times in life to come. We know we need to take more time for each other, even if we have to schedule it in and stick to it like we do our other responsibilities. Our plan of stressful school relationship survival thus far has 5 steps:
1. Regular date nights out of the house (not necessarily spending money, but at least always getting out of the house), no canceling for school or work allowed.
2. Making the most of the down time we have by decompressing by talking, listening and snuggling with each other, not just vegging out in front of the T.V.
3. Patience and understanding. Openly communicating and informing each other of how we are feeling (tired, stressed, overwhelmed, hungry etc.) so we understand where negativity is coming from and not take it personally.
4. Oma’s tip: taking turns talking (the talking stick). When in conflict, bust out the talking stick and take turns giving each other 15 minutes to express everything without being interrupted or questioned.
5. Take care of ourselves. Make time for the things that keep up healthy and happy: continue to strive to eat healthy, work out regularly and take alone time for meditation.
The plan goes into effect when Tim gets back from So. Cal. (where he is visiting family and friends right now) next week. I think it will be a good time to start the plan because Tim will be on vacation until mid-October and then we will have the habits fully in place when he goes back to work.
As I constantly remind myself, successful relationships take constant work. We are more than willing to put in the work. After almost 4 years of marriage (and 7 years of living together) we are still madly in love with each other. We still consider the other to be our best friend, teammate, confidante and deepest love. That is the stuff that comes easy but it is also that stuff that is worth working for.