|Linda and Matt chit-chatting last summer.|
During the summer, this isn't a problem. Matt goes to work before she wakes up, and by the time he comes home they both have lots of stories to share. Matt takes a few minutes to pull himself together, then he and Linda sit outside or work together in the back yard as they catch up.
The winter months, however, provide a unique challenge. I call it The Wall.
From November-May, Matt works until 9:30 p.m. Between weather delays and running errands, it's usually after 10:30 p.m. before he makes it home. Linda, however, hits The Wall around 10 p.m. The Wall is that mystical moment when she transitions from alert and interested to tired and annoyed. The exact timing varies on a daily basis, but there's no denying when we've reached it.
This makes winters difficult because Linda genuinely wants to know how Matt's doing - she cares about him and wants to make sure things are going well, so she'll wait until he gets home to get all of the information. If she's already reached The Wall, this can be tricky. Matt still needs time to pull himself together, but Linda is already tired and wants to get through things as quickly as possible. If Matt doesn't respond quickly enough or with the right tone, inflection, and answers, it upsets her. When he tries to explain himself, she feels patronized. If he doesn't explain himself, she feels ignored. Any number of things can go wrong after The Wall, and there's no way to anticipate what those things might be.
Matt struggled with this. He didn't want to upset Linda, but with the situation varying from day to day, he was never sure what would bother her and what wouldn't. This created many stressful nights for everyone. It wasn't until I finally recognized The Wall that evenings became easier.
For starters, I helped Matt identify The Wall. He now knows that Linda isn't being picky or difficult, she's just tired. Instead of losing patience or taking her responses personally, he responds politely because he knows that she cares. I also pointed out the best part of The Wall - Linda doesn't remember crossing it. She doesn't wake up frustrated the next morning because of a difficult conversation. All she remembers are the important details - how Matt's doing and how his job is going. There's no bitterness or animosity, just love and communication.
The Wall took us by surprise, but after we were able to figure it out, evenings have become more peaceful. A rocky road is more difficult to travel, but the results are the same - we end up where we wanted to go. Now we know how not to get frustrated along the bumpy path.