An Odd Sort Of Magic Words

Donnie and I have the typical arguments many couples have about semantics and attitude. I know they’re typical because when I’ve written or talked about them I hear a “Yep. Been there, done that…” from many people. It was a lot worse when I didn’t work, but it’s a basic frustration I feel for not being appreciated. Or – ACTUALLY – for not feeling like I’m appreciated. Because, as Donnie points out, just because he doesn’t verbally recognize the things I do, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate it.

We’ve talked about this a lot, how a simple acknowledgement sometimes of the things I do would go a long way. When we fight about it, it’s because I’ve let frustration and resentment build up until something little goes unnoticed and breaks the camels back – so to speak. So I end up freaking out about the fact that no one noticed I washed the dishes (again) when in reality I’m still mad that my solo efforts on getting the family ready for a trip out of state didn’t get noticed last week.

Well, the other day? Donnie said the most perfect thing. I didn’t even realize how perfect it was until I felt the entire shift in my stress level.

It’s been hectic around here. If you just look at the theatre stuff I work on, we’re 9 days away from opening the Best Christmas Pageant Ever, rehearsals have started for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which I’m co-producing) and we just had our first meeting for West Side Story (which I produce) which opens in March. Add that on top of my general hectic life with work/family/training and I was a bit frazzled the other morning. As I was probably mumbling about production teams and long runs Donnie looked at me and said, “I think maybe you’re doing too much.”

Now, he’s said things similar before but with a tone of accusation. Something like, “You don’t have to do all of that, you know.” Which, if you’re trying to do it all? Is the worse thing to say to someone because…we know we don’t have to do it all…we want to. No – this time? He phrased it with sincere sympathy that paid tribute to what I was doing.

“I think maybe you’re doing too much.”

Here’s the thing…I’m not doing too much. It’s just my to-do list on some days is a little more stressful than others so I have moments of high anxiety. And he picked the perfect time to recognize the work I do and it was crazy…it was like it gave me a fuel! There was a burst of energy and a narrow of focus and suddenly my anxiety attack just stopped and I was able to finish making breakfast (and lunches) with a smile on my face.

I often tell Donnie, more than help around the house? I need recognition. Now, he helps a lot lately too – seeing that I’m busier than usual – but that little sentence acknowledging how much I’m doing? Was better than taking over laundry for a month. Because I like doing everything I do, but if no one in the house notices it, especially when my outside life gets crazier, then I tend to get anxious and bitter about it all.

But yesterday? I had such a great day of productivity. I was focused. Not bitter. I got things done with a smile on my face and it was like taking a Xanax and a Steroid at the same time. Anxiety gone…Motivation increased.

The magic words.

I told him how much I appreciated that tiny gesture because I wanted him to know how powerful those tiny moments are to someone like me. A small gesture of acknowledgement goes a long way.

As does taking the garbage to the street – which he also did this week. He’s on a DAMN ROLL, y’all.

5 Comments

  • Cara

    Oh yeah. I really appreciate it when Alex comments, too. The funny thing is he seems to get self-conscious when I do. The other night he cleaned up the kitchen while I got the munchkin in bed. We split this chore in a who gets to it first kind of way, but recently he’s been swamped at work and exhausted so its mostly been me. So, I was pleasantly surprised to walk in and find it all clean. But, when I said “wow, thanks” his reaction was “I live here, too; I don’t think you have to thank me for doing the dishes.” It was kind of funny to me. I did explain that I was thanking him because it looked nice and I appreciated him getting it done, not because I felt like it was my job that he’d done. (We are really clear that, even though I’m a SAHM, my job is to take care of our kid. The ability to take care of the house and run errands is nice, but my job is the kid and the house is still a shared responsibility even if I do most of it.)

    For my side: He regularly comments on my patience with our daughter or that he ‘doesn’t know how I do it’ keeping up with her all day, but almost never on the house. So, when I put a lot of effort in to cleaning or something, I tell him. He literally gets an email at work that says ‘today would be a good day to notice how great the house looks’ or whatever it is I’ve done. He’s no dummy, so he does look around and notice appreciatively when he gets home. I know asking for praise sort of defeats the point, but it works for us.

  • Jules

    Way to go Donnie! It is funny how sometimes something that husbands say can totally change your day! He obviously had no idea how much of an impact it would make which also makes it somewhat better. I feel the same way about the recognition thing–you are not alone. I lost my mind on my husband the other day about something totally ridiculous (so trivial actually that I don’t even remember what it was) Looking back on it later in the day I realized that I was feeling frustrated he was not helping (or commenting) with my awesome meal planning and budgeting that I was working really hard at. Anyway…big ups to one of those days where you just love your spouse to bits!

  • Fraulein N

    I think it fulfills a basic human need to be recognized for the work you do, especially by people who are supposed to love you. It’s extra nice when it’s unexpected.