National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Ditch the Misery Meter

Family Matters – Married Life

BY Tom and Caroline McDonald

August 26 - September 1, 2007 Issue | Posted 8/21/07 at 2:34 PM

 

My husband and I are experiencing tension because he claims I don’t appreciate how much stress he is under at work; at the same time, he doesn’t appreciate how hard I work at home with five kids plus a home-based business. How can we break this impasse?

Why are we married couples so prone to conducting misery contests? We see it all the time; in fact, we’re sometimes tempted to succumb to it ourselves. The truth is that it’s unhealthy to keep up these silly competitions, which lead nowhere and produce nothing but resentment and anger.

We encourage you both to fight that temptation and understand that, although your days are most certainly very different, both of you are fulfilling your vocations. Both of you are working hard, and both of you are under stress.

Your husband must remember that you may never have a second alone, and that managing a household (not to mention your home business) is a thankless, never-ending task.

It’s hard to justify even brief moments of relaxation because something always, always needs to be done. On the other hand, you must remember that your husband faces myriad workplace pressures — quirky bosses, co-workers and clients; pressing deadlines, evaluations and office politics — that you, as an at-home worker, do not have to deal with.

The disconnect in daily experience brings its own kind of stress to both of you.

You can work on your schedules to make sure each of you has a break now and then, but that may be a temporary fix. I think at the heart of this tension is a desire to be understood and appreciated. Affirmation is sorely lacking in the workplace and, meanwhile, no one celebrates a toilet cleaning even though everyone benefits from it.

It’s crucial for us to constantly express gratefulness for the sacrifices made for each other and the family. The children need to hear it so that they can grow in thankfulness, too. Brag on your spouse often — in front of your spouse and the kids.

Let’s face it: Marriage and family life is deeply satisfying. It’s a means to grow in holiness, and it’s richer in joys and consolations than sorrows or frustrations. But it’s also hard work for wives and husbands.

It will ever be an opportunity for sacrifice and sanctification. Thanks be to God for that!

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.