Does this sound familiar? ‘You think your day was tough? I dealt with thirty customers before lunch!’ It’s easy to get sucked into ‘The Martyr’s Contest’, where your problems are worse than everybody else’s. And if you’re not careful, it can creep into your home.
Alicia Howe writes: ‘At day’s end when workplace frustrations are fresh and domestic tasks are looming, the setting is ripe… Spouses who desperately need each other to recognise their efforts, battle it out for the title of hardest-working person… We have a fundamental need for recognition from our spouses, and if we don’t get it, we devise strategies to evoke it.’ The problem is, when we compare ourselves we can damage our relationship. So with that in mind:
(1) Be alert for unspoken pleas for encouragement. When your mate expresses frustration, don’t counter with one-up-manship. Jesus said, ‘Listen… if you have ears!’ (Mark 4:9 GNT) What your mate needs is assurance that they can handle the problem.
(2) Express appreciation often. Envision your mate wearing a sign that says, ‘Appreciate me!’ The fact that society is inclined towards assigning gender-specific roles doesn’t give you the right to take your partner for granted.
(3) Reinforce your spouse’s efforts to help. Don’t criticise the way they fold laundry or rake the lawn. When you do, you guarantee they won’t try to do it again. Think of a four-pronged fork:
(a) Be respectful of one another’s work.
(b) Recognise that while your jobs are different, they can both be difficult.
(c) Be sensitive, and flexible enough to help when it’s not ‘your job’ or ‘your turn’.
(d) Outlaw the complaint, ‘I’m tired.’ It’s counter-productive, and chances are you are both tired of hearing it!