Establish a "time-out" procedure.
Matt and I had a rough week last week.
The previous Sunday, he woke up feeling terrible. I let him sleep in while I took Hoss for a run. By the time I returned, his condition had worsened significantly, and he was asking me to take him to the doctor.
We did a quick search for an urgent care clinic but couldn't find one that was open on Sundays. We opted to take him to the emergency room instead.
Luckily, they got him into a bed pretty quickly. His symptoms included: achiness, fever, severe headache, cough, congestion, nausea, and diarrhea. After he vomited, they hooked him up to an IV. He said the pain was about an 8 on a 10-point scale (which scared me because Matt never complains about feeling sick or hurt--I am the certified hypochondriac in the family).
After several hours in the hospital and several tests later, Matt was released with the general diagnosis of "flu." They sent him home with pain medication, anti-diarrhea pills, and anti-vomiting medicine.
All three of us slept for the rest of the day: Matt was sleeping off his sickness, I was sleeping off potential sickness, and Hoss was sleeping off his week at dog camp.
The next day, I reported for my first day of work, which includes two weeks of professional development before my first, second, and third graders arrive on Monday, August 24. Matt stayed home. By the time I got home, I was exhausted from a day of moving furniture and boxes around my room. I napped for several hours and then got a call from a friend who was stranded in the Houston airport. I ended up picking him up, making dinner for all of us, taking him out for ice-cream, and getting to bed late. Then Matt and I couldn't sleep because a) we were itching from all the Saltine cracker crumbs that were in our bed from Matt's lunch and dinner and b) we had napped for so many hours earlier.
The next day, I was back at work and tired again. Then we proceeded to have a very busy week. We attended a surprise birthday party on Wednesday, a dinner party on Thursday, and a birthday party on Saturday. I also started taking Spanish lessons (on Tuesday) and committed to studying for 20 minutes every night. Aack!
Matt and I were insanely tired every night and over-extended. I wasn't exercising or eating very healthily, so my stress level was rising. When we get over-tired and over-stressed, Matt and I start getting impatient with each other. We pick more fights and get more angry with each other. Then our fighting creates more stress, and it's just a downward spiral from there.
We have to get better about strengthening rather than sabotaging our relationship during times of turmoil. Our lives our easy compared to what we will face when we introduce a baby into the mix or when we start dealing with more sickness and death in our extended families.
One of the strategies we learned our our pre-marital class was to declare a "time-out" whenever our emotions overtake us and we are on the precipice of getting into a bad fight. Here's how to make the time-out work for you:
- Decide how either of you can initiate a time-out. It may be a signal or a word. Matt and I opted for the word "ice cream" because it has so many positive associations for us and it seems like it has the potential to lift the mood just a little.
- Decide what each of you needs to do during the time-out to help you cool down. For me, I need to go do some yoga breaths and stretches.
- Decide what you can say to yourself to help ground you. I need to say things like, "We're on the same team; we're building a life together."
- Commit to coming back to resolve the issue with a conversation after both parties have calmed down and can talk rationally about the situation.