A few months ago, Hottie’s sister texted him asking for advice on how to communicate with her husband. She said that she specifically wanted to hear about how he and I communicate and see if she can use any of it to help fix her marriage. Her husband told her the night before that he wanted a divorce. Hottie met with her the next day to talk about everything, and we both felt that she had very little time to remedy things – her husband had never mentioned divorce in the past. We thought he was serious and steps needed to be taken immediately to try to repair things.
A few days ago, Hottie got up with Bryson AFTER I’d rocked him for 25 minutes prior (while Hottie slept – he didn’t even know I was up with him). Because Bryson wanted him, I went back to sleep. I have never thought that if one parent is up, that they both must be up. No way! Once I was up (38 minutes later) and we were getting ready, Hottie said, “I missed you this morning…” and he continued to look at me. I was waiting for it… waiting for it… waiting… “I didn’t know if you were back here in bed or on FB.” THERE IT WAS! The comment. The POINT. The goddamn passive aggressive behavior he learned from his mother.
I was furious.
I didn’t say much because I knew he would not hear me, that he was too preoccupied with his own perception to hear anything I had to say. I quickly quipped, “As if it matters what I was doing, I was back here sleeping.”
We both started the day angry.
The minute he left for work, I sent the following email to his personal account (we’ve agreed that these should not go to his work email) with the subject line of “Continuing”:
I feel like we were not talking on the same level this morning, and there are some things I’m feeling that need to be shared, that were brought up within me when you made your comment about “whether you were sleeping or on Facebook” this morning. (And that wasn’t a glare, like you like to say, it was pure anticipation of, and then confusion with, your comment.)
I feel like when we are in the same space together (weekends, mornings, nights) that I need to be doing something you “approve” of at all times. I feel like I cannot do anything without it being OK with you, and that isn’t right and it isn’t fair. I even feel like I need to “get permission” first by mentioning what I’m going to do before I do it so that you don’t get mad or wonder what it is I’m doing. This is all because of the comments you make, like the one you made this morning. You conditionalize my activities, or just simple resting, based on the value it is to you. You take it personally if I don’t want to do EVERYTHING together, with you or as a family, when you’re home.
I spend every waking moment with kids who need me. I can’t carry a thought in a bucket (you have no idea how long it is took me to bang out that first paragraph above) until they’re asleep, and even then, I’m distracted with them getting out of bed, or waking up too early (too early for them, not for me), etc. We do not have to do everything together. This has been a thing with us from the beginning – me needing just a little space and alone time and you wanting to do everything together. I don’t require much alone time, but when I know that you want to do everything together, it makes the very little alone time I do get stressful because I know you’d rather we be doing things together.
There is no reason for us both to always have to be up just because the other one is. I think it’s great that you do get up and play with the kids in the morning because it gives me a much needed break and delay to the push and pull I get all.day.long with them. If I’m up with you and Bryson, he only wants me, and my day of holding and consoling a toddler starts just that much earlier. You always say you don’t get enough time with them, but when you do have your own time (like this morning), you’re upset that I’m not up sharing in the fun – and it was only 38 minutes. It makes no sense. I got up with Bryson at 6:24 so that you could keep sleeping and rocked him until 6:50, laid back down because he WANTED you, and was back out there at 7:28. (I think it’s sad that I even know the exact times, but I know I have to note them so that I don’t feel TOO guilty for taking a LITTLE time for myself.)
The comments – we’ve talked about those over and over again. Your mention of missing me this morning would have been just fine, but honestly, I stood there waiting for the comment. I KNEW it was coming. I knew you couldn’t help yourself. I recognize that this is a learned behavior from your mom, and that’s why I don’t lose my mind over it every time it happens, but it’s gotten bad again. There doesn’t always have to be a comment to make me fully aware that you don’t approve of the things I am (or am not) doing when you’re with the kids on your own. There doesn’t always need to be a point behind everything, but your comments are just that – a point to make about something you’re upset about that I’m doing. Please think about how you feel when your mom does that to you (us). That is what you’re doing to me.
I love you, I want to spend time with you, and I truly miss you all day long when you’re gone. That is precisely why I’m trying to roll back naps and bed times – so that we can spend time together at a decent time each night. 6:30 AM is not the time that I want to spend the time together (and it’s not really “together” because at least Bryson, and often times Matthew, are up) – it just isn’t. I appreciate the break. I’m sorry – but I’m being honest here. I am on and playing with these kids from 8:00 – 5:30 (or later depending on traffic) every single day – that’s 9.5 hours of no break (unless they nap at the same time, which is not looking great). So yes, if I can get a little extra sleep in the morning while you play with them, or god forbid, I get to read a quick article or even two while you play with them, then I really appreciate that! It’s no different from our parents reading the paper in the morning when we were kids.
I wish you would understand this. Please think about this from my perspective. I will think about it from your perspective, and maybe we can find a middle ground where we can both feel satisfied and loved. But please know that I love you more than anything.
Hottie wrote back within an hour: “Thanks for the email. I read it and recognize your concerns. I do love you and don’t want you to feel the way you describe below. I don’t have time for a full response right now, but I’ll work on one later.” When he came home that night, we were happy, and calm, and loving. We never spoke of this again, because what needed to be said was said, and it was said uninterrupted. Our actions towards each other have improved since this email exchange and the weekend was terrific… and I got some alone time and he got some “just us” time!
Money. Oh God, must we have “the money talk” again? Well, yes we must, because some mistakes were made and we’re feeling the pain now as the fiscal year is ending.
Hottie’s pay plan changed drastically in July of last year. He gets two different bonuses quarterly that are quite substantial and yes, we live off of them a bit. His employer decided to delay one of the bonuses until year-end (paid out this September 15) and that was a huge hit to us. This all happened after we bought our third car, a sports car that Hottie has wanted for a very long time. Had the pay change happened prior to buying the car, we would have paid for it differently by getting a loan, but things didn’t happen that way. And then, to add more pain to the situation, Hottie’s company offers an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) that he signed up for to the tune of a LOT of money each month. I told him that it wasn’t the best idea due to the pay change, but that we could try it and re-evaluate later. We never re-evaluated it because I do the finances and I KNEW we’d get by, but that it would be tough. What we didn’t think about with the ESPP is that the money was held until a quarterly purchase window, and then those stock purchases had to be held for 12 months to avoid short term taxes (why we didn’t think about this, I have no idea). Essentially, the money we were putting into the ESPP was frozen and unusable for 15 months! Well, when you then add in our WEEKLY date nights ($40-$50 for the sitter, $100 for dinner), we were not even coming close to playing it safe.
When I started feeling the pain a few months ago when I paid the bills, I approached Hottie and said that the ESPP had to stop for now because of the pay change and the cash paid for the car. He hadn’t realized how cumulative the effects of everything were, and when I put it down on paper, he agreed. He almost died, being perfectly honest, when he realized that all of those things (car, ESPP, pay change) in addition to the date nights were adding up to the same amount we’d spend on one of our credit cards each month (we use our cards for everything and pay in full each month, and yes, we do spend more money than most eating out and on our groceries that are all fresh and never processed). It was a colossal disaster just waiting to happen.
I’d move money from savings to checking, from one bank to the other, and used all of my FB sales money to pay things off in full, but money was being depleted quickly. The ESPP was halted but it took two pay cycles for them to stop taking money out of the checks, so that was painful. Date nights came to an end for the near future. I KNEW we’d get to one bonus payout in August that would then get us to September for the big annual bonus (and the one they held for the entire damn year) that would restock the savings account in full, but it was going to be tight. I knew all of this, but I didn’t want to have “the money talk,” (we have it 2-4 times a year, which isn’t bad but is always stressful) so I just kept paying bills, moving money from one place to the other, and didn’t mention it after we’d had that one talk about halting the ESPP and date nights.
Well, Hottie asked about it the other day and said it was causing him stress. I said it was causing me stress too, but that we’d be OK. I immediately tried to figure out exactly what would be left in savings before the bonus re-load in September, but I just didn’t have the time to focus on it without kids bugging me.
The next morning, I got an email from Hottie, who had been up since 4:00, with the subject line of “Finances.” Ugh. Well, he’d done the analysis I was trying so hard to find the time to do, and came to the same conclusions that I knew in my head. His email was not accusing, it was factual. He was more panicked than I was and suggested a few immediate changes that I didn’t think we necessary, so I wrote back:
Looks like you did the same analysis I was trying to do yesterday.
We will get to August without the scottrade $. It’s tight, it’s no fun, but we can do it. Is that cash that you’re transferring or are you selling stock?
The 401k drop is ok only because you max out in September anyway, but what was it at? I bet X%. I’d take it down to X% at the least. We still want to max it out this year without a doubt. This is something to consider for long term though, if we set out at X% (our whatever) per check, will we still max out each year? By September, you’re no longer contributing because you’ve reached the max, so can we change it to spread that out to December and have more take home each month? I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that before. I’m sorry.
My biggest hits are groceries, gas, and… Lunches. I buy nothing for me (besides painting every other month) and the kids clothes are minimal. My dad gave us $300 to spend on their clothes in preparation for school, so that’s good. I need to figure out how to lunch at home too. I’m worried we’ll fall into hot dogs. I don’t want to be cooking 2 meals a day and the way the kids really makes lunch at home hard.
This would not have happened if we hadn’t done the ESPP or bought the car. I’m not regretting the car, just saying that that cushion was used that we use every year before savings load in September. The combo of those two things and the pay plan change and we were doomed. Our spending has NOT changed. The paychecks did. The bonus change was, essentially, $X (pre tax) per MONTH ($X quarterly) and the ESPP was $X per month, so combined that’s $X per MONTH we didn’t have that we had all other years. That is significant.
Not an excuse, but that is the reason. I don’t want you thinking I’m off spending money with abandon this year.
No need to sell company stock.
Saving more is always good, so I like your thoughts in the email.
I came out and told him I’d responded to his email. He then read it, and responded to me. “401k contributions were at X%. Totally agree with your plan below. Let’s keep at X% for now and reevaluate once savings balance is higher. I don’t think you’re spending money with abandon. If anything I am – on lunches.”
We were on the same page, we both felt better about the situation, and we did not speak of it again. We will get to August, and then September, with money in savings and then we’ll reload savings, and we’re going to decrease our monthly spending because it’s the right thing to do. Done. (And I know this is not easy for everyone to do – we are just both very aware of spending and love saving money, so we really take it seriously and know that we’re fortunate enough to be able to fix the problems by lowering our monthly spend.)
I sometimes think that the way we communicate when the topic is incredibly unpleasant is ridiculous. Email? We send each other emails? But yes, we do send each other emails. We send them, and then we tell the other one, “I sent you an email about XYZ. Please let me know when you’ve read it.” This sounds so crazy as I write it out, but it works for us. And that’s what matters.
When Hottie’s sister asked him for tips on how to communicate, I asked, “did you tell her that we send emails when the topic is too hard to talk about without interrupting each other?” He did tell her that. He also told her that she can’t be passive-aggressive or wait for her husband to bring things up that are bothering him. If he seems bothered, ASK him what is upsetting him. If there is a giant elephant in the room, send an email and get your thoughts out cleanly, respectfully, and COMPLETELY. We both think that the most important thing when discussing hard things is to get your thoughts out completely without being interrupted. We’re both TERRIBLE at interrupting each other, especially during an argument, so when the topic is really hard, we step back and use email.
We’re not perfect, and some therapists would probably think we have big problems if this is how we communicate, but doing it this way helps to keep our verbal communications pleasant and respectful.
Sadly, Hottie’s sister’s husband filed for divorce last week. We all saw it coming because neither of them was trying to make a change. Another marriage broken because of communication problems (and other problems, of course, but his sister says this was their biggest problem). If we ever get divorced (of course we won’t, said every married couple!), it won’t be because we don’t communicate (notice I didn’t say, “communicate correctly”!!!).