Danger Hour: (noun) time after work in which most of the arguments between my husband and I ensue.
My husband and I carpool to and from work every day and though it is really great that we can do this, it also means that we always catch each other right at the “I-just-escaped-from-my-office” time.
Thomas works just down the road from me, but our work environments are extremely different. I have a very small office—just me and one other person—and I tend to work by myself. My husband, on the other hand, works in a very busy warehouse surrounded by people.
So, when we get off from work at the end of a long day, we both are tired and drained. However, because our jobs are so different our mindsets and needs are too. If we aren’t careful, our fifteen minute commute home can become a hotbed for arguments.
When Thomas picks me up from my office, I am usually pretty lonely and craving connection with him, while he tends to be over-stimulated, wanting a break from other people. As we sit in the car trying get out of “work-mode” together, I tend to press Thomas for details about his day, and then feel rejected when he doesn’t really respond. He may bring up something from the news to attempt to make conversation, but then I become frustrated when I want a more in-depth conversation.
In those moments, we are both unfortunately seeking something from our spouse that the other person just can’t give at that moment. I want to feel connected to my husband who has been overwhelmed by people all day, and he needs peace and quiet from his wife who has been totally alone for the last few hours. As a result, we both start to feel let down and frustrated. Hence, it is at those times that we are most likely to get into a fight for no reason.
After watching this cycle happen again and again in the first couple months of our marriage, Thomas and I realized that we needed to find a way to get past those moments right after work.
We came up with a couple of strategies:
- Personal Space. We realized that it’s okay to take a little personal time to address our individual needs before we really spend time together. For me, this might mean calling a friend or catching up on social media while Thomas goes for a run or plays a video game. Taking these extra twenty minutes or so immediately after work helps us get out of the rut we’ve fallen into at the end of the work-day. It also makes it possible for us to give our full attention and support to each other when we do eventually meet up.
- Get Out of Jail Free Cards. We have learned to give each other a bit of a pass during our ride home on things that might otherwise be taken as rude or offensive. For example, I have to be okay with the fact that Thomas isn’t always fully engaged with my chattiness during our drive, and he is forgiving of the fact that I keep starting conversations with him when I know he is extra tired. If we acknowledge that the time after work is sensitive and not representative of our relationship as a whole, it makes it easier to not let little issues get turned into unnecessary, full-blown arguments.
- Sacrifice. The most important thing that we discovered is that our difficult time after work is actually an opportunity go above and beyond on behalf of each other and our relationship. When I know that Thomas has had a particularly hard day, I respect his needs by reaching out to hold his hand, but otherwise being quiet and listening to my headphones. Similarly, when he knows that I am feeling particularly lonely, he puts aside his tiredness to talk and tells me that he is there for me. When we both choose to put our partner’s needs ahead of our own, it can turn our “danger hour” into something that is actually really sweet and positive for our relationship. There is certainly a bit of sacrifice involved in this, but the benefits of embracing this time together have been significant.
It is amazing to think that this challenging period in our day has become a source of strength in our marriage.