Life gets busy and the hustle bustle of your obligations quickly gets crazy out of control. Work days get later. Work weeks roll into the weekends. Going out is something that becomes a habit because you’re both too tired to cook ( “you were cooking tonight right?!?!”, as we in sync say to one another). Conversations are short. Complaints are high. Griping about co workers and bosses. Permanent eye roll every time you hear about your husbands co workers and the never ending office drama (a lovely reminder why I am just fine working from home). The simple topics of bills, weekend plans, and the 682 things we both forgot or just plain didn’t do can really break a marriage down over time. Eventually this comes to a crossroad where something has to change because nothing is changing. Zero communication. And no one is feeling heard.

Having step kids that live out of state does minimize additional bodies in the house ( but rest assured the stress and energy is still there in other aspects), but two people working 60+ hours a week each in incredibly stressful work roles is HARD. It’s hard. It’s tiring. It’s draining. It’s stressful. And if you’re like me, if it goes on too long it’s a problem.

Recently after a long stressful week, my husband and I finished a session with our therapist on a Friday afternoon. We’ve been seeing her for a good six months. She’s amazing. AMAZING. And a God send to our marriage. We were at a point in our counseling sessions where it felt like one of us had hit the point of inner peace and the other was struggling. One of us was taking self care time and putting them self first ( the most important thing in a blended family because if you aren’t happy as an individual you def aren’t going to make it long in a high conflict blended family) while the other wasn’t. It’s a hard situation because you can’t make progress as a couple when one is out their own self care realm. We decided to take a break from counseling ( favored by one not so favored by the other).

Leaving her office, we set out for a date night to try to ease into the weekend of stress ahead. Bills and budgeting was on the agenda and that’s something that is not a good subject when you’re 19 months and $50,000+ into legal fees due to a high conflict ex wife/custody drama without hope in sight. Also finishing up our kitchen overhaul which we have had months of battles over difference of ideas and opinions on. We had reservations to our favorite, fine dining place both not in the greatest mood.

Holding back tears, I remember we went to a wine bar as we were early for our reservations. We snipped back and forth to one another and we’re both ready to go home as we walked across the street for dinner.

As we sat down and started an actual conversation the tears started. And I mean started. Not exactly the most desirable moment for it squished in the midst of these happy couples enjoying their $89 bottles of wine. My husband was entirely checked out and I was just silently sobbing away. He began reminiscing about how that exact same weekend the year before we had been there for dinner. I half heartedly smiled ( this is a landmark for him to remember something so trivial) and said maybe it should become our tradition. As we relaxed and eased into the evening, we both realized the side of each other we’ve been missing. We went from auto pilot to holding hands walking downtown for the art walk.

We scratched our plans for the weekend of adulting and decided to a Saturday bender of ChicagoPD and just cuddled up and enjoying past due togetherness time. Something that I never could have realized we needed and missed so much until we both literally just broke from the go go go and routine.

That night we talked about what made the day different from the normal grind and what it would be like to get back to how we both felt that day. We had a good long talk about where we each were. What we needed. And what’s been missing. We each gave difference answers but it all tied back to the lack of quality time we get. The quality time we each need. And how overwhelmed we both felt with where our lives currently are. The fact that though we each said the same thing to each other that we have been for months, but this time we were actually listening to the other. We were hearing their words for what they were. They were validated.

We came up with a schedule. For chores. For cooking. For shopping. For errands. And honestly for “us”. Yes – we literally block out two nights a week where we are both done with work at 4:00. My husband cooks those two nights ( as in a cooked meal that doesn’t come from a processed box or take out bag). We pop a bottle of wine. We don’t talk about work, stressful things in life, kids, ex wives, or finances. We spend these two nights talking, laughing, engaging, and checking in with each other. Two nights that make the other three nights a heck of a lot easier!

Has this solved every issue or problem with each other? No. Are there days where we both are still losing their minds? Yes. Do our schedules toss a wrench in it that’s out of our control? Absolutely. The difference is, we shuffle the schedule and still get our two nights.

Once this became easy and our routine, the one of us lacking personal time began seeking it out. Gym times changed from 5am to lunch hour. Moods improved. Communication became better. We started coming up with daily things one could help the other with. Those have became habit and routine too. Weekend projects have become something we look forward to and enjoy.

Nothing is perfect no matter how hard you try. We still stumble. We find ourselves negotiating and shuffling and juggling but that is just part of life. The difference is that when we are exhausted and tired and just overwhelmed – we might still each be dealing with the craziness and madness and well, LIFE- we know the other is supporting and helping, and carrying the part of the load we may not be able to.

Some weeks Monday is changed for Tuesday. Sometimes we are off work on time but we are mentally exhausted and we go out instead of cooking. I get a midday call because a problem I’ve been having at work has been keeping my husband awake and he has an idea to help me through it. Or I’m the calming pep talk my husband needed to get through his day.

Emergency mode is every day life for a lot of us. That’s just the way it is. But stepping back and reminding yourself it doesn’t have to control and consume you – can really make a lasting effect on you and your spouse. Struggles will happen. If you’re like me and think it’s absolutely absurd to calendar time with your spouse, I do promise will prove to be the best decision you’ve ever made!


Strong Struggling Step Mom

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