As you have probably guessed by the few updates we have managed to share this month, Maria and I have been ridiculously busy. We are in the midst of finalizing our wedding details (many of which are DIY projects), we sold my house, moved me into our new condo, painted the condo, Maria has been gearing up for the normal end-of-the-school year craziness, and I have had quite a busy month at work myself. It’s been more than a little stressful for both of us.
Everyone handles stress in different ways. Me, I get really grumpy, it’s hard for me to focus on more than one task for any length of time and I am generally not fun to be around. Maria, unsurprisingly, is used to being really busy. I mean, she teaches full-time and runs two online businesses. She gets stressed out, but she manages that part of being stressed much better than I do. But when it comes to certain things, Maria’s usual tolerance doesn’t do the trick.
The only time I’m aware of Maria discussing a similar situation online is in a post on Kinder Craze about how her classroom was not ready when she started school in her new building. The plans for her classroom were incredibly beautiful, as you know from the results, but there was not enough time to complete all of the projects before school resumed in the fall; which lead to a lot of tears and lot of frustration.
When we first signed the lease for our condo, it was dark with those beige-rose walls. We came right over after getting the keys, which probably was a mistake as it was nighttime when we arrived. Maria loves well-lit rooms and when she looked around the condo, it was almost impossible for her to visualize it ever being a bright, welcoming home. Needless to say, it was a pretty awful night for both of us. Maria was upset because we had just signed on the dotted line and committed to living in a place that did not feel like home and I felt awful because I just wanted her to be happy.
During the moving and painting process, more tears were shed as many things did not seem to go right and there was just so much work. It also didn’t help that I was busy at work with several evening meetings during the time that Maria and I had planned on painting together.
I’m still learning how to comfort Maria when she reaches these levels of stress, but I’ve gleaned a few lessons that I find are very helpful.
1. It’s (usually) not my fault
This one is key to keep in mind. I see Maria crying and I automatically wonder what I could have done differently to stop her from crying. I never want to see her stressed out, crying, upset, sad or any such emotion. But, life doesn’t always work that way and you can’t always control what happens. That being said, I sometimes do screw up. What I love about Maria is that she tells me what I did that upset her (because I often don’t know that I did anything that would upset her) and we work through it together.
2. Just comfort her
My entire life has been about solving problems. I trained as an engineer in undergrad and all engineers do is come up with solutions to problems. Then I went to law school and became a lawyer. All lawyers do is solve legal problems. That’s my mindset and that’s what I automatically start to think about when I encounter a problem. But Maria usually doesn’t need me to solve her problems. Mostly, she just wants me to listen, let her vent, or let her cry it out on my shoulder. She just needs me to be with her. It’s hard for me to do only that when all I want to do is find out the cause of her emotions and fix it. I have learned that if I give Maria time to cry and be upset with whatever is bothering her, she almost always devises her own plan of attack for the problem and goes for it with guns blazing. Often, she just needs time to be sad.
It is nice on occasion, though, when Maria does want me to fix something. During those moments, I am always happy to help.
3. Try to take the easy things off of her plate to lighten the load
Once things have calmed down, I try to take what I can off of Maria’s plate so she doesn’t feel so overwhelmed. These are usually little things like cooking dinner, taking minor errands or other chores around the house or something like that. Doing that frees more time up for Maria so she can focus on what is bothering her while I take care of things that need to be done anyway. When we do this, we are working as a team to get everything done that we need to accomplish.
I’m not saying that these are the only things we do, but these are the main lessons I have learned in my two and a half years with Maria. I’m sure I’ll learn many more lessons as we are together for many years to come.