By Ashley Patek
My patience threshold for my children far outweighs that for my husband.
My kids can throw a huge meltdown in aisle five of the grocery store, run through my home like tornadoes, get mad and hit their sibling, resist bedtime for a solid hour before surrendering, and I can usually keep my cool enough to teach and guide them through it. Yet my husband leaves his boxer briefs next to the bed instead of putting them in the hamper, and I totally lose it.
It was a pitfall I was aware of and wanted to change, but I didn’t realize how much my husband noticed it until the day he told me he was tired of being in a cycle of “no-win” situations. “I feel like I can never do anything right,” he sighed one night after the kids went to bed.
My instincts were to invalidate him, to deny it, to argue it … to protect and defend myself and my rightness. But instead, I said nothing. I needed to collect myself and think about his words and my feelings.
I love this man, yet I don’t always like him. I am quick to lash out and point out what he did wrong or could have done better according to my terms and, somewhere in the midst of all of it, I lose sight of who he really is. I label him as unhelpful, unattached, and cold.
I wondered to myself, why did it all change after having kids? How did I go from a laid-back woman to an impatient wife? I was determined to explore this, not only for the sake of my marriage but for the health of our family.
That night, my husband rolled over and went to sleep while I laid wide awake with my mind running marathons. For me to move forward, I needed to release the guilt that was paralyzing me, and become curious. What in me was asking to be healed?
I thanked the pain I found myself in and, instead of judging it, I thought of it as my teacher of sorts, a wise sage who was asking me to honor my feelings as valid and useful and to explore the thoughts that were running them.
I began to peel my thoughts and feelings back in layers ...
Here is why I have more patience for my kids than my husband
1. Time and Attention
There’s only so much time and patience to go around, and usually, that goes to my kids. It turns out that conscious parenting takes a great deal of conscious effort.
I am with our children day in and day out, navigating big emotions, both theirs and mine. So by the time my husband gets home, I am tapped out. I typically don’t have much energy left for me, let alone for him.
Underneath my tiredness was a desire for connection. My anger and frustration towards him was also a call for a sense of closeness and belonging with the man I fell in love with. Ironically, the more I used my anger to communicate my need for that sense of connection, the further away he seemed.
I missed having time as husband and wife, not just our roles of "mom and dad" figuring out bedtime routines, bills, and busy schedules.
3. The Me Factor
I spent so much effort focusing on what I perceived my husband needed to do differently or better when really, just like in parenting my kids, it all starts with me. I am the thermostat in my home. When I come in calm and connected, so does my family. But when I come in with high, unpleasant energy, I am met with more resistance. I noticed that if I adjusted my own thermostat - thoughts, feelings, actions - I influence everyone else’s temperature, too.
Suddenly I felt more empowered.
Pulling all of these insights together, I realized when I felt stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, or disconnected, I yell. I criticize and I nag... but what I really need in these moments is a break and to pause.
So, the next time I wanted to yell at my husband, I did just that … I practiced pausing instead.
When I paused, I saw situations more clearly, and quickly realized I was craving some boundaries. I needed some time for myself to fill my cup and time with my husband.
I found my voice. I started asking for help. I’d always wanted my husband to help more with the kids, but I am not sure that I actually ever asked him. I just assumed he would know.
In clearing the fog within me, something miraculous happened. The circumstances around me began to clear as well.
When I spoke gently instead of yelling, my husband listened. And even more profound, he validated my feelings and acknowledged my efforts as a mother and wife.
He met my call for help with compassion.
It was as if we began seeing the humanness in one another. We also started to let go of the expectations we had for one another, expectations that held us captive and at odds.
From that day forward, I inserted a few small changes:
- When I found myself falling into the pattern of criticizing, labeling, or nagging my husband, I took a deep breath and thought of two things I love and appreciate about him. My kids got involved too, and at dinner we ended our day with, “What I love about you is … What I love about me is …” This simple ritual shifted the energy in our house.
- I found small ways to connect with my husband - placing my hand on his or making eye contact to give a smile. As I opened myself up, so did he. We now make it a priority to offer simple connection moments throughout our day. And our kids really seem to thrive off watching us in this way.
- We offer do-overs. We both make mistakes or respond sharply at times, yet we no longer let those moments run our day. Instead, we both put our hands out like pushing a “re-do button” and use that peace offering to start anew.
Just like conscious parenting is a journey, so too is marriage. It’s fluid and relational and it takes conscious effort.
I am grateful for the process. Because of it, I have healed some generational wounds, become empowered in the face of triggers, and deepened my connection with my husband and children. And, most notably, I have deepened the love I have for myself.
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