A few nights ago my husband and I were discussing the new routine we will have to put into place in the fall, once I transition from being a full-time stay-at-home mom to being a full-time student, as well as a part-time stay-at-home mom. It won’t be easy to manage the child care, transportation, and finances of it all. But what started out as a team pow-wow, our usual “how are we going to make this work?” conversation, became a tense stand off. But why?
When my husband began to express doubts about whether or not we could afford a nanny, as opposed to daycare, I became very angry. The conversation ended with me cutting him off and growling, “This has always been the plan: for me to return to school and put the baby in care. I’ve cared for this child for over a year, and it’s my turn now. You will support me, and we will find the money to pay for a caregiver with whom I am 100% comfortable. End of story.” Not my most mature moment.
I know I should not have cut off my husband’s very reasonable questions about how we would pay for someone to take care of our son. It’s a decision we should absolutely be making together. When I had time to step away from the situation and think about what had triggered my reaction, I realized that it came down to trust.
When we hear about “trust issues” in a relationship, we often assume that sexual faithfulness is in question. But according to couples researcher, John Gottman, the issue of trust – or the lack of it – extends to every aspect of the relationship. Gottman has worked with thousands of couples and has found that across the decades, couples of different ages, races, and classes all experience problems relating to trust. Gottman says;
“I started to see their conflicts like a fan opening up, and every region of the fan was a different area of trust. Can I trust you to be there and listen to me when I’m upset? Can I trust you to choose me over your mother, over your friends? Can I trust you to work for our family? To not take drugs? Can I trust you to not cheat on me and be sexually faithful? Can I trust you to respect me? To help with things in the house? To really be involved with our children?”
It’s been said that anger is not an emotion in and of itself – it is, they say, the outward expression of another, harder to cope with emotion. I feel like a lack of trust in your partner works the same way; when we express anger with our partner we can usually identify a lack of trust at the root of it. At least, that’s how it happened with me.
When I thought about my anger towards my husband about the child care situation, I realized that I was having trouble trusting him to support me fully in my long planned endeavor to go back to school. And to be frank, I do still worry about whether or not he will fully be in my corner when the rubber hits the road later this year. But now that I can approach our next discussion and frame my concerns as a matter of trust, I am confident that my husband will take my concerns more seriously than he did when I phrased them as an angry outburst. And I hope he will be more confident that we can come to a solution that leaves us financially and emotionally secure.