Reactivity and responsibility

Mark and I both tend to pick up stress from people around us, including each other.

This means we’re often not very good at comforting, encouraging, or supporting one another, because we find each other’s stress so stressful.

I am reminding myself here that my reaction to his stress is my own problem, not his. He needs to be allowed — to have the space and the freedom — to be stressed. In other words, he shouldn’t feel like he has to hide or deny or repress his stress in order to protect me from it, and I shouldn’t pressure him in that direction, consciously or not.

His stress is also his own problem, not mine. While it’s good for me to see ways I can help (like cooking AND doing dishes, unlike our usual pattern of whoever cooks, the other does the dishes), it’s not my job to get rid of his stress, and I don’t have the power to do so anyway.

My responsibility is to work out — metabolize — my own reaction. I can do that by:

Recognizing that my stress is just a reaction to his, and therefore doesn’t require much analysis or worry.

Recognizing that his stress is not my responsibility. Help as I can, but recognize my limits.

Continuing to be myself — don’t hide, don’t withdraw, don’t become a non-self. Keep doing things I like and need and want to do.

If you want to, pray for Mark — this has been a rather beastly week, with him working every night past eleven. (He gets up around 5 or 6). How blessed we are that he makes time for Amy and me — he does his work after Amy’s bedtime.

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4 thoughts on “Reactivity and responsibility

  1. Oh Marcy,
    This sounds like early marriage and children ‘stuff’. It takes a while not to react or become consumed in the other’s stress. How well I remember. I think it basically comes down to an issue of responsibility. Are you the one who should be fixing his stress, I think not. He’s a big, strong guy but he needs to be given the space to get through it. Again I will tell you that over time in a marriage this too shall pass. We now do a lot more laughing in stressful times than we used to. The saying “Go old along with me, the best is yet to be…” is true, really true.

  2. Is the thirteenth year still early? I guess since we waited to have a child, and since Mark’s only been at this job for a year and a half, it brings back some earliness.

    I do think a lot of it is individual variation — perhaps everyone goes through this in the newlywed stage, but we seem especially sensitive to it.

  3. Hey, we were beyond thirty years before we could laugh and comment instead of try and fix or feel responsible. My dear husband now often reminds me that he likes to do a little suffering now and again. I also admit to not always getting it right and giggle. In the early years I would feel terrible and feel responsible. But life is too short.

  4. Giggling is underrated. I would like to laugh, out loud and long, more often.

    Once my dulcimer teacher Tim and I were in Henry’s studio — Tim had spent hours recording some stuff for his own CD, then he was going to record some things for mine. It wasn’t going well, and during a break Henry and Tim were laughing and joking about the situation, and I didn’t get it — I asked how they could laugh, and they said they *had* to.

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