This post is the Q&A for July 20, 2019. If you have any questions to send please email me at [email protected] and we will do our best to respond. Sometimes we will take a few questions and put them together into one so you might not see your exact question here but you will get the idea of questions.
Question - How to approach a partner to ask for his help to shape marriage life to be 'easier'. I find mine quite difficult sometimes. I feel like having children limits my potential and marriage makes me feel trapped. Thank you.
Answer - This is a really important, significant question and therefore I'm going to unpack it in a number of different ways. I do not know the circumstances of your situation so I'm going to provide a broad-brush answer to this question that can be used by a number of people who are seeking to have important conversations with their spouse.
An easier life
I believe that there is no such thing as “an easier life”. I know that from the perspective that you are in right now things could be easier. Things can always be easier but that does not necessarily mean that they will be easier in the long term, or that they will be right. It can also mean that there are more complications later on from what it is that you experience right now. I ask you to start by defining what you mean by “an easier life.”
Chances are what you really mean is that you need some more assistance around the house, with the children, some emotional support, or perhaps even some “time out” or respite so that you can have a little bit of space to nourish and nurture yourself.
By starting to articulate what you mean by “an easier life” will help you to have a more specific conversation with your partner.
Negotiation is the key part of any relationship. We see our children negotiate with us, we negotiate with them - Do you want peas with your dinner or salad? Both provide the same results of a vegetable being on the plate, however your child feels as if they are the ones that have made the decision.
At some point I will be teaching an entire course on negotiation as there are some subtle nuances that can enable win-win situations for everybody. But now my role is to give you some simple advice that you can implement immediately.
Have options available for what you would like to do. For example, you are seeking some support in your marriage. Define what support looks like and provide options to your husband. It could be that some additional help around the house is one option for you, but realistically only if your husband is that way inclined. Maybe you can present this alongside the option of you having some personal time where you can do an activity to nourish your mind, body, and soul. You can see that by presenting these two options (both of which you must be satisfied with as relatively equal) you are giving him some choice and power. You are then in a position where you are happy with either outcome. Your husband then feels as if he is supporting you (which he 100% is) and you feel as if you have made progress in this regard.
What then happens if your husband rejects both options? Ask him what the options are for him to enable you to feel and be more connected with your marriage and to feel less trapped. I know that this is a difficult conversation to be had. However it is all to do with how you present it. I suspect that your husband will want to have this difficult conversation if it means preserving your marriage. Whereas not having the conversation could lead you to feeling even more trapped, or, at it its extreme, maybe even seeking a divorce. If you say to your husband that you want to discuss this with him because you love him and care about your family, I hope that he would be willing to have the discussion with you.
Complimenting his support of you, and his role within the family will make your conversation and negotiation much more effective and easier.
I want to explore a little bit of why you feel trapped. Sometimes there are underlying psychological issues which require work and in order for your marriage to be a success this work is required. Sometimes people who are free feel trapped, and sometimes people who are actually trapped feel free. I am in no way denying how you feel, I'm inviting you to reflect on WHY you are feeling trapped and how that feeling is manifesting itself in your life.
Occasionally we create a self-perpetuating prophecy - by telling yourself that you are trapped, you start to feel trapped, and therefore believe that you are trapped. Just spend a little bit of time stepping outside of your situation and reflect on it. I know some people who want something different from their partners, and yet the reality of that something different would mean that other aspects of their life would become destabilized resulting in a life of even greater chaos.
Acknowledging that this is how you feel is a very significant part of the solution, so a huge congratulations and a pat on the back for acknowledging that this is how you are feeling. Sharing that you feel this way is a significant part of finding a solution for this. Please make sure you also share it with your husband.
Something that we do not talk about enough is burnout for mums. I wish that I could write a book on this. Research by Maslach and Leiter helps us to define what burnout is. Burnout is a psychological effect that comes from prolonged chronic stress related to a job (or a role in life) - I have added in the bit in brackets because research into burnout is currently only related to people who are in a paid job. Symptoms of burnout include overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. The combination of these three things creates stress in an individual's life experience. I suspect that when an individual is starting to feel disengaged with their relationship, circumstances, job or role in life, or even life itself, then this is linked to burnout.
The first step is seeking help. This help can come in many shapes and forms but it requires you to be bold enough to ask for help. I have outlined above how that conversation could be begun.
In conclusion, many of the areas that I have outlined above are factors in individuals feeling that their potential is limited. I want you to know that you are capable of so much more, within the constraints that you feel you are currently in, but you need to determine how you wish to live your life. There is no reason for you to emulate the superwoman that somebody like Serena Williams is (which would be impossible without the support network), your key role in all of this is to find out what is effective for you in your life, with your circumstances, based on what brings you joy and makes you feel alive. Please spend some time unpacking what this is for you.
As always I invite readers of this post to share their thoughts or any insights that you may have which will assist the person who asked the question. feel free to add your comments below.