Originally published Friday, 16 September 2016.
It’s really hard to see someone you love struggling and unhappy. As mothers, we see this more than we’d like with our kiddos whether it’s in the form of failed tests, broken hearts, peer pressure, or the missed pop-fly to left field. But what about when it’s your husband who is struggling?
My husband has a super stressful job that offers zero work-life balance. It wasn’t always this way. As corporate America moves toward the trend to run leaner and meaner, forcing the select few to do the work of many, the attempt to balance professional and personal responsibilities can take its toll. It certainly has in our family.
He’s a proud guy and doesn’t make a habit of bellyaching. He doesn’t have to as it’s quite evident in that he’s a mere shell of himself, emaciated by that which has sucked him dry and spit him out as mere leftovers for his loving family.
The obvious answer for some might be to simply quit and get another job. But that’s just not doable for many families, including ours. We’re simply not in a position to walk away from 15 years of investment, mainly because of the financial repercussions.
While we recognized that we are in fact blessed that he has a job, I still wish there was something I could do to fix things.
The only way I can help is by concentrating on the things I do have control over. So while we continue waiting and remaining faithful in the belief that God will work a miracle, here are: 5 Ways I Help My Stressed-Out Husband Cope
We start our day with prayer here in our house, individually before setting one foot on the hard floor and then together as a family before we part. But I continue praying during the day for God to lift my husband’s spirits and for Him to send special people in my husband’s path to help make things easier for him and to encourage him. I pray the Armor of God to be on my husband, that he would be able to stand firm against the enemy’s tailor-made attacks, and that the Holy Spirit would encourage him and help him persevere.
There has been a day or two when the stress of the job has been so enormous that my husband has texted me to ask that I pray for him at that very moment. I am thankful that, although my husband has a lot of pride, he recognizes the need for God’s guidance and intervention in his daily life.
After this happened a couple of times, I started texting him at least once a day to tell him that I loved him and that I was praying for him.
I actually don’t think it’s a good idea to call and text your husband while he’s working unless it’s a quick “I love you” or to offer brief encouragement. This leads me to the next item on my list.
My husband and I have been married for 15 years as of this month. I’ve never forgotten the only piece of marital advice my father ever gave me: Don’t call your husband and bother him with anything that can wait until he gets home. Back then, my dad’s rationale for telling me this was because he’d seen fellow coworkers become upset by a phone call with their spouse or girlfriend and within hours become victim to an on-the-job accident. They simply weren’t able to focus on their jobs and the safety of their jobs because they’d become preoccupied with what was said on the earlier call. It makes total sense, doesn’t it?
Likewise, in the case of my husband, he doesn’t need one more thing to worry about or be stressed about while trying to handle his typical day at the office–another distraction, frankly. Testing my husband about trivial things from broken dishwashers to the pest control man running 30 minutes late doesn’t make sense. Can he really help me with that kind of stuff while he’s at work?
The first thing I do when my husband texts me to say he’s on the way home from work is to open our front gate. The man just worked at least 13 hours and drove an hour to get home. The last thing he should have to do is to get out and open his own gate. It’s just courtesy, and it allows my son to see me doing special little things like that for his dad, as an example of my love and thankfulness.
Something my husband hates even more than raisins is a locked door. (Is this a man thing? Seems all the guys in my family have issues with locked doors!) My son or I will go outside to greet him, help him in with his computer and lunchbox and the 20 other things he has to lug back and forth. If we can’t make it out to greet him, when he pulls in the driveway, I unlock the front door for him. It’s one less obstacle he has to traverse.
Of course, there is the welcome home hug and kiss, but there’s also a special place for him to put his work things. It helps to keep everything together so that the next morning runs smoothly and he’s not searching the house for everything he needs for work.
Basically, I’m trying to do my very best to welcome him home, help him shake off the day, and end it on a good note.
THE SOUTHERN CHARM
The only piece of marital advice that my mom has ever given me was to never talk to your husband about anything before he’s eaten supper. My husband’s been entertaining complaints and problem-solving all day long. The last thing he wants or deserves to do is to come home and have more of it. So I consciously make an effort to not hit him with anything right off. Some days this is harder than others, especially if I’ve had to spend the last hour in homework mode, helping the little guy subtract fractions!
Before anything of real substance is presented to him, I insist on the four S’s: Shower, Slippers, Supper and, of course, Sweet Tea. (Every good southerner knows that hard things, like accepting that the dishwasher’s dead for the fourth time this month and will, yet again, need to be taken apart and repaired, just go down a little bit easier with a sweet tea chaser.)
Unless my husband initiates a conversation about work, I sit quietly. There really is no sense in asking how his day was because, frankly, I already know. It’s just a matter of how bad it was.
If in fact, he does bring something up about his day at work, I’m careful to not feed his anxiety and stress by offering my two cents. Honestly, as weird as it sounds, just as I can get all “mama bear” when it comes to my tween, I can become the same way when I hear someone has mistreated my husband or made his ridiculously hard day even harder. I have to dig deep, pray hard, and sit quiet, practicing self-control or risk escalating the situation. My getting upset only adds fuel to the fire.
Have you ever seen an upsetting movie just before bedtime and not been able to sleep for thinking about it? I’ve found it to be equally true when you talk about something upsetting before bed. On the nights when the two of us would rehash the day’s goings on, my husband wouldn’t sleep at all. And we all know that there’s no way the next day can get any better if you’ve not slept the night before.
So mum’s the word.
However, it’s important that he opens up to me at some point to relieve some of the stress. It’s just imperative to sit tight and pick those opportunities at the right times.
My husband appreciates that I take care of most things here on the home front. He looks forward to coming home and being able to have a relaxing evening, even if it is just two hours, maybe, until he falls asleep in his recliner. Some days it’s knowing he’s coming home to us, to a loving safe haven that gets him through. And those little things I do demonstrate my love and gratefulness to him, for all he does to provide for us.
For whatever reason, this is where God would have us right now.
I have to keep faith that He’s working a little miracle for our family, albeit behind the scenes.
In the meantime, I’ll continue praying for my husband and encouraging him, while doing all I can to make life a little easier to swallow–one sweet tea at a time.