They say that the number one thing couples fight about is money. In our almost-ten year marriage, I think I can count our “Money-Fights” on one hand.
No, for us, the number one thing we fight about is this: Who is more tired.
Do you have this fight? It’s subtly nasty at our house. It usually looks a little like this:
Husband: (yawn) Wow! I’m tired.
Me: Oh yeah? Me too. How did you sleep last night?
Husband: Oh I slept pretty well. Alarm just came too early.
Me: Huh. Well, at least you didn’t have to get up with the baby three times last night!
Husband: Yeah? Well, I didn’t see you rolling out of bed at 5 to go to work with me!
And so it goes. We slap down our “I’m more tired!” card like some vicious game of Slap Jack until someone eventually gives up with rolled eyes and the winner feels smug in his her her debilitating fatigue.
Of course, this fight leads to all the other fights, like the dreaded “Division of Labor” fight.
Me: (slamming dishes) Why do you never help clear the table after dinner? Don’t you know I’m tired?
Husband: I worked all day! I want a moment to sit down!
For me, the weekends are even worse when I see my husband fall swiftly into NapTime Land on the couch.
I often feel like smothering him with a pillow because, even if I have the same opportunity to rest, because I can’t fall asleep easily.
Sleep Jealousy: It’s real, folks.
Somewhere, though, in the middle of the years of baby induced sleep-deprived-jealous-fighting, we finally waved the white flag and realized something important:
We are both tired.
Fighting about who is more tired was just making us both miserable, as if we could keep tally on something so abstractly personal.
Because it is personal. My husband’s exhaustion is HIS exhaustion. He is such a hard worker and he works 50-60 hours a week to provide for our family. He is tired.
My exhaustion is my exhaustion. Night time parenting is hard. Nursing a baby takes a ton of energy. Taking care of four kids and a house is tiring, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
We have different kinds of tired but one doesn’t trump the other.
So we stopped our stupid “who’s more tired” pissing contest and these days we try to acknowledge the other person’s feelings as real, even if my husband’s version looks different than mine.
It’s stretching, this type of acknowledgement. I’ve had to realize some important truths about myself.
Like, it isn’t my husband fault if I can’t fall asleep during an afternoon nap. His ability to fall asleep quickly isn’t a reason for acute rage (sleep jealousy, people). Napping is really, really good for him.
And, when my husband and I accept each other’s feelings as real, without feeling threatened, or devalued, it helps us to love each other more fully.
Author Iris Murdoch said, “Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.”
These days, when I say “I’m tired” my husband is more likely to say, “I’m sorry. Let’s get dinner out” or he encourages me to slow down and rest, something I usually resist.
When he vents about a long, exhausting day at work, instead of trying to one-up him, I try to listen and affirm with a whole-hearted, “Wow, that’s exhausting. I really appreciate how hard you work for our family.”
My tired isn’t the only reality, and my husband’s exhaustion doesn’t mean that my hard day doesn’t matter.
Our tired is real. Our feelings are real.
And by acknowledging that, we’re working on the Love.
Do you fight about who is more tired in your marriage?
How do you support and love your spouse during exhausting days or seasons?
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