Her. [Oh, I forgot to tell him about the party we are hosting Thanksgiving week for our friends who are leaving the country. I’m going to miss them so much and can’t wait to spend the day with them and several other close couples. I already put the party on the calendar and scheduled with everyone but I’m haven’t told him yet. He’s going to flip again. Oh well, too late, it’s scheduled.] “Honey, did I mention that our friends are coming over during the Thanksgiving Holiday just before they leave for China?”
Him. [I knew it. I could see the scheming look on her face, she does this every year.] “No, dear, you didn’t. When were you going to clue me in?”
Her. [Obviously that was bad timing, well at least we are in a public space so he can’t get too angry and yell at me. It’s already scheduled so there is nothing he can do about it and if he had it his way, we would never do anything but sit at home and watch TV. I’m so sick of watching football all the time.] “Well, it’s on the calendar like you asked me to do and I just assumed that you would be looking at it. Besides, I knew that you would want to see them and we had to make plans quickly so that nothing else got scheduled.”
Him. [Here she goes again; I thought the calendar was going to fix this.] “So when exactly is this little party of yours.”
Her. [Little, there is nothing so little about 30 people coming over for dinner and that was just the last count. We still have not heard from two other families so our “little” party maybe pushing 40 by the time everything is counted. The problem is that my friend makes too many last-minute decisions and the numbers could change again. So I’ll leave that little detail for another conversation.] “It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, won’t that be great? The kids are going to have so much fun.”
Him. [Oh my gosh, I’m having another panic attack. She better not be having 50 people over.] “Ok, whatever. What our plans for Thanksgiving Day?”
Her. [There he goes again. Well, if I tell him that I changed my mind again, he’s going to flip even more. First we were going away and then that plan changed. Then we were going to our friend’s house but that got changed to us hosting them on Sunday. Then we were going to work at a food bank but they didn’t need any volunteer. Then I was going to have the kids help with cooking Thanksgiving but they couldn’t even empty the dishwasher without complaining. Then we were going to a buffet but I didn’t like the prices. Then we were going to carry out a Thanksgiving meal but I never really liked that plan.] “I’m still working on it, don’t worry we’ll do something.
Him. [I can tell this isn’t going to end well, it never does.] “Just out of curiosity, how many more plans do you have swimming around in your head?”
Where is this going? Often in a marriage there are two perspectives in a situation and coming to an understanding of the other person’s point of view can be a challenging process especially when what is thought is often not what is said. It’s kind of like shooting at a moving target, just when you think have your aim, the target moves. Let’s explore how each spouse could have better handled the situation before, during and after.
Before. Instead of ambushing your spouse about plans that you have made, mention to your spouse that you updated the calendar and they need to look at it. By making gentle reminders about periodically checking the calendar and making sure that the information is complete and accurate, you can reduce anxious moments such as this. Another suggestion is to have weekly meetings with calendars, budgets and other details that need to be discussed so such matters come at more expectant times.
During. Pay attention to how your spouse reacts to your comments with non-verbal body language. If they are stressed by your comments, agree to table the discussion for another time when tempers are not so likely to flare up. When you know that there is a holiday decision that needs to be made, be proactive and involved instead of letting one spouse make all of the decisions. When you feel out of control or that you are being controlled by others, strong intense feelings of anxiety are likely to occur.
After. The holidays bring enough stress with last-minute plans and agendas. Instead of expecting things to go as planned, expect the unexpected and learn to roll with it. This is only temporary and is not a pattern for everyday of the year so don’t make it to be more than it is. It’s all in your perception of the matter.
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