In a perfect world, returning to your home, a place that should offer safety and solitude and being greeted by the love of your life, would go something like this: you walk in after a long day of work, throw open the door, run to your loved one and submerge yourself in his arms, breathing in the smell of his cologne and letting the troubles of the day melt away. What realistically happens looks more like this: You pull into the driveway after a hellish commute, fumble with your keys as your cell phone rings off the hook, your spouse is lounging on the couch and barely notices that you have walked in at all. It’s not long before the two of you embark on a bickering match that may or may not be justified. The art of learning how to avoid arguments after work is not complicated. It comes down to a few acknowledgements and some subtle adjustments on both yours and your partner’s part.
The latter scenario is the one that probably resonates with you. Your tense from the long drive, exhausted from the day and probably a little jealous that your partner is already home lounging. The nerve. It takes maybe moments for the both of you to go to battle and start picking each other apart, to the point where you aren’t even sure what you’re arguing about or why you are so mad.
This is more than a common occurrence for couples. We are conditioned these days to get more done in less time. While at work you are paid to take care of everyone else; your clients, boss and even play therapist to co-workers. Couple that will a nightmare commute, overtime and perhaps even being trapped in a job that you despise. It’s a recipe for disaster. Because it is not acceptable to lash out at work or look distressed, the overwhelming events of the day have been bottled up for hours. By the time you get home, you’re ready to release that venomous rage on the first “safe” person you see; your partner.
Human condition dictates that we let those whom are closest to us see the anguish, hurt, stress or pain we are enduring. Therefore we consider our partners to be safe people, that we can torment emotionally and take our aggression out on because we know they most likely will still be where when the storm blows over. On a deeper level, we know that they understand us, understand everything we have to deal with daily, and though we may be being unreasonable for the moment, we also know we will be forgiven. Besides, it feels good to yell and bicker sometimes. But regret at some point soon will follow.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could mirror scenario one most days and not have the arguments after work at all? Or at least on fewer occasions? There are some very simple things that can be done so that these arguments don’t become too frequent and damaging to your relationship over time.
Hold Up the White Flag
A white flag during times of war was a sign of surrender. The first 30 minutes upon your arrival home are very indicative of how the rest of the night can go. Declare to all parties that are home with you after work (partner and children) that for 30 minutes from the time you walk in the door, that you are off limits. Hold up your white flag. You are surrendering to yourself. You are giving yourself 30 minutes to decompress, change into comfortable clothing or maybe have a cup of coffee in silence before you engage in the activities for the evening.
By giving yourself these precious moments you will be able to lower your blood pressure, regain some composure and just breath, without having to deal with anyone else or their needs. It’s time for you. You can certainly walk in and say hello; then make a quick exit to another room and do whatever it is that will allow you to get into positive and relaxed head space.
Share and Share Alike
It is also a great idea for you and your partner (and kids if applicable) to set a time for all of you to connect. This could be over dinner, or while preparing dinner or set aside an hour after the kids are in bed. This time is designated for you and your partner to complain, whine and share your day’s events.
The key here is balance. Since you both (or all) may need to get some things off your chest, be respectable with your time, meaning don’t hog it all. Hit only the highlights of the day, ie. how your boss treated you poorly, the co-worker that hijacked your entire lunch hour with her own personal issues or the client that you just couldn’t please. Then allow your partner to vent as well. It may be that on any given day one of you will need more support than the other.
End the conversation with something positive so that you can set the precedent for the rest of the evening. And thank your partner for being supportive and allowing you to vent.
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