After a month long road trip, my family arrived back home just 24 hours before learning we were being evacuated due to Hurricane Irma.
We spent a week running from the storm and returned physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Though our Miami neighborhood was relatively unscathed, getting things back to normal took a lot more out of us.
I desperately wanted some kind of refreshment, a reset after everything we’d been through, but I knew a getaway was completely out of the question. Not only were my husband and five young kids sick of being on the road, any financial reserves we had had already been spent on escaping Irma’s path.
Both our road trip and the evacuation caused some undesirable cracks in our marriage, but the daily reality of living out of our van, eating the same fast food over and over, and finding enough gasoline didn’t allow us the time we needed to sit down and discuss them.
That’s when my husband came up with what I now realize was a brilliant idea. “Let’s write out a list of our needs and share them with each other.” He suggested. To be honest, at the time it felt a bit like homework. This isn’t what we need, I thought to myself. We need a night away, just the two of us with fruity daiquiris on a kid-free beach. But, despite my reluctance, I obliged. We ripped a piece of notebook paper in half and began.
It was difficult at first. As the primary caregiver in our family I don’t often think about what I need, but as I began writing, a sense of calm and relief came over me. Seeing on paper how simple and yet profound my own needs and the needs of my husband were helped me to see that even though it felt like we were barely surviving, barely keeping our heads above water, we were actually much better off than I thought. And the needs we did have were possible for us to meet.
My list included him being more fully present when he’s home, us having fun together as a couple and family, and more conversations around parenting so we can be on the same page with our kids. What my husband needed most from me were words of affirmation. We decided to focus on meeting one need at a time.
It has been helpful to check in with each other on one specific need rather than vaguely wondering: Hey, how am I doing as a spouse? Plus, working on one thing at a time doesn’t feel overwhelming, it feels like something we can both do.
It will likely be awhile before we get that daiquiri on the beach, but being intentional about our needs—to the point of listing them out and honing in on them one at a time—has refreshed us in a real and surprising way.