I came into the kitchen one night and told my wife we were playing a game from our past, Space Invaders. It was one of the earliest video games you could play in the late 1970s and she remembered the game. At that time, my wife and I had been happily married for almost 40 years and we had a wonderful relationship, but the reality is even good relationships can get stressed too. In our case the friction came because we were unexpectedly around each other more than we were used to because I was working from home. Today, working from home is more common than it was many years ago and we weren’t ready for it.
I was at home because I was in a job transition, so my job was looking for a new job. My preference would have been to be “back at the office”, not at home. She worked part-time outside the home and her days off were often spent with our grandchildren. What a blessing for them and for her; I’m glad she does it. But our life had become one of Space Invaders. Our worlds were clashing, because we were both in each other’s space and it was causing conflict between us.
By working from home, I had entered her world and her space, one I knew about but rarely saw. At the same time, my wife had entered mine. I became frustrated with a lack of space and privacy in my home “office,” something that never happened when I worked. It seemed to me that she and the grandchildren were always around at the very time when I needed or wanted to get something done. This was a double stress for me because I loved having the grandchildren in the house, so I was always in a quandary of play or work. My wife would tell you I got way too involved in her world by asking way too many questions and offering too many opinions on how she operated. I should have learned to keep my mouth shut, but I didn’t.
We each had unexpressed expectations and frustrations. Nothing intentional was being done by either of us, it just happened. We were both frustrated causing the stress to increase, which often showed up in how we talked to each other.
If you’re working from home, or maybe both of you are, learn from our experience. Make some time to have a conversation about sharing space. I recommend you have it over a meal and outside the home if possible so that it can be on neutral ground. Share with each other from the heart—the good, the bad, and the other stuff that’s happening. Talk about your needs and especially your expectations. Develop some ground rules on how to address problems when they come up. As you talk to each other, don’t read, or assume “intent” into any part of the conversation, doing so will only put an obstacle in the way of coming to a resolution.
One final bit of wisdom is when one of you does something that causes stress (you know it will happen), deal with it right away and “put the fire out.” Never let anything fester, it’s never helpful.
Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting. Proverbs 18:13 (GNT)