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Bad Day at the Office

Bad Day at the Office

Are life's daily frustrations slowly eating away at your marriage?


We all know the stereotype -- man has bad day at the office, comes home and loses it with his wife and children.

We all recognize how inappropriate that behavior is, how absurd this redirection of misplaced anger, aggression and pain.

But are we immune from such action? Is it possible that there's a little of this in all of our marriages? And that if we're not careful, the small daily erosions will take a larger toll?

There are many situations that we find frustrating: from a nasty exchange with a co-worker to a frustrated morning waiting for a no-show repairman. From the weariness of a long commute to the impatient driver honking and yelling obscenities at us. From being treated dismissively by an employer to overseeing too many arguments between small children. From rushing to complete a project by its deadline to rushing to make dinner by its deadline, with all sorts of "trivial" interruptions along the way.

The list is endless, the potential for frustration infinite. And I didn't even mention the bills, the dishes, the laundry, the obligatory PTA evening and charity banquets...

We all experience many stressors in our daily lives, and it's all too easy to take out our frustrations on our spouses. (We generally exercise a little more self-control when it comes to our children, although not always.)

This may occur in direct ways: handing them dirty, crying children as they walk in the door and stomping out of the room. Or indirect ways: constant sniping and criticism; the anger you feel at your boss all being misdirected towards your mate whom, you feel confident, won't fire you.

Life presents us with many challenges. We can face them with our spouses as a united front or we can do battle alone, from opposite sides of the ring.

These are the kinds of behaviors that slowly eat away at a marriage. These are behaviors that are habit-forming, that we must catch before they do.

We may be completely unaware. We may think we're justified. The kids have been bratty; he does need to do his share. Her behavior has been annoying, objectively! Truth is no defense. The goal is a strong healthy marriage, not proving you're right. And we would probably have dealt better with these behaviors had they not come at the end of a trying day. Once again we are writing to the wrong address.

Life presents us with many challenges. We can face them with our spouses as a united front or we can do battle alone, from opposite sides of the ring. Our struggles can unify us, or they can, God forbid, destroy us. We can finger-point and blame, or we can band together in solidarity and determination.

You'd think that unity would be the easier choice. A glance around the world suggests otherwise. If we respond by constant nit-picking, complaining, demanding and attacking, then we are engaging in the most self-defeating behavior of all. We are destroying our one refuge from all of life's vicissitudes. We are destroying each other.

It takes a very confident and self-aware partner to recognize that the attacks and anger are indicative of deeper -- and unrelated -- issues. Most of us just feel hurt and defensive. Possibly we fight back. They respond in kind. And we're off.

We need to stop ourselves before things spiral out of control. We need to find a gym or a journal; another outlet for our tension. We need to find a friend, a teacher, someone to give us perspective on our situation.

In our frustration with others, we don't want to hurt the one most precious to us, the one person upon whom we can rely. Take a deep breath. Refocus. Remind your self of what really counts. Ask the Almighty to help. Pour out your pain to Him (His shoulders are broader!) and turn back home with a smile.

November 18, 2006

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Neria, November 30, 2006 2:15 PM

Thank you Mr.V. for including single parents

Yes the pressure is more intense for single parents. I stop in a park on my way home and SIT and look at the sky, feel the open space and let in the time I have at home. Would you please write an article for Jewish single parents? I could use more tips

(7) Gisele, November 26, 2006 1:48 PM

Job and family pressures can wreck havoc

on family life- but if one is lucky to be married- it helps to share the burden, and if one is a single parentlike me, it is so much better to do it alone with your child- than live a fighting life with a hubby who is not there in body and spirit for you and your family!

(6) JozefVleeschhouwer, November 22, 2006 8:41 AM

advise: rewrite the article to include single parents.

Life is not always about 2 parents with children. There are many single parents.
Your article describes very well the emotions and what they do to a relationship. But the article is focused on pairs of parents. Your advise holds true for single parents as well, and even more so, because they do mostly not have a daily adult partner to communicate with. The more important for a nurturing relationship with the kids to be able to unload our anger, disappointments or sadness on our children, and NOT let the daily frustrations invade the home atmosphere.

(5) Anonymous, November 22, 2006 2:56 AM

eat something!

Often the cause for lessened tolerance at the end of a long day is an empty stomach! Take along an extra snack to eat on the way home, this way you won't be a hungry monster as you walk in the door and impatiently wait for dinner. It works wonders (especially if your snack is a good comfort food.

(4) LienNairod, November 21, 2006 12:53 PM

my spouse is the one who comes home and verbally challenges me as a stress release mechanism.

This story hit home with me and I felt compelled to share part of it with you all. Iused to work as a Union Carpenter but am now disabled. My soulmate/spouse works in the financial sector in Jacksonville and commutes an hour down I-95 to our home in the Potato and Cabbage Capital of Florida. Evry single day she comes home and finds fault with me and what I have or haven't downe right or wrong. I recognize it as stress relief but it still hurst and sometimes I buy into her anger and get worse than she is. I have learned from yeas of self help groups and in-patient facilities that the only thing that I can change is myself. I have tried to make her aware of what she does but she is mostly in denial about her verbal assaults. My God, as I understand Him, has let me know that ACCEPTANCE is the key to peace, serenity and understanding. I have to accept the truth that my dear Princess is exactly where she is supposed to be on her spiritual journey, right where G_D wants her to be to form her and shape her for HIS own purposes. I too, who have learned this lesson of developing humility or being humbled, must also learn an invaluable lesson that perhaps I couldn't learn any other way. So I try to remember this when she comes home all tied in knots, and unhappy because she must work while I get a small stipend from the gov't. and tutor needy students, grow a garden, read spiritual literature, remodel the house-albeit slowly, and endeavor to follow G_d's will,wherever/whenever possible. So therefore, for all of humanity, ACCEPTANCE IS THE KEY TO ALL OF MY PROBLEMS. There is a chance that peace will come, in my life and in the world, whenever we accept situations as being exactly as they should be at that particulat moment in time. Shalom and Salaam, Peace to everyone.

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