Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not Getting On Each Other's Nerves

A few weeks ago, one of my students told me that she had a fight with her husband and went off on an extended bike ride to cool off. I asked her what the argument was about and she described a situation to which I could very much relate. She said she wanted to talk about something she was interested in with her husband after he came home from work, but he was tired and not in the mood. She persisted and he got angry, then she got angry.

Like me, this particular student works freelance from home, though unlike me, she actually makes a full-time living from it. Her husband, like mine, works outside the home and puts in some pretty long hours. One of the things you find occurring when you're home all day and your partner is out working in a box somewhere is that he comes home overstimulated and tired, wanting nothing more than to zone out and be left alone while you want to talk about whatever has been floating around in your head all day. There's a big difference in your energy levels and how much stimulation your nervous system has had or needs.

When I first quit my full-time job (about 3 years ago now) and had no or few private students each day, this was a bigger issue because I was sitting at home most of the day and only talked to my sister or my friends very early in the day (due to time zone differences) and spent the rest of the day in relative isolation. When the CH got home, I was ready to pounce on him with a conversation and he was in desperate need of a decompression session. He spends all day talking to people so this is no small surprise, and spends the half hour before he gets to our door on a crowded train or station being bombarded with noise and buffeted around by other people who don't look where they're going and expect you to move to accommodate them.

In short order, we worked out a system whereby he came home and I left him in peace for about 15-30 minutes until he was ready to talk. Generally, I just wait until he starts talking to me of his own initiative. I imagine that this arrangement would not have been worked out so quickly if we hadn't been married for so long or didn't have experience identifying and working out solutions to such things. It also helps that we're both confident about our feelings for each other and don't take the need for a certain arrangement which excludes the other personally. Of course, the exclusion isn't a physical one. I don't have to leave the room or anything. I just have to leave him to recover from the stress of the day and the commute for a short time before engaging him in conversation.

I wonder at times if this may be a bigger problem for couples in Japan than those back home because having a larger house makes it easier to find a place to "escape" to areas where conversation can be avoided without necessarily making it clear why you're doing so. In fact, I wonder if people may develop patterns to adjust to their need for isolation without even being aware of why they're doing it in a larger home. In our apartment, the only rooms sufficiently isolated from one another that one can't hear a conversation or be spoken to are the bedroom and the bathroom.

Since I now have more students and freelance work compared to when I first quit, this is far less of an issue than before. I spend several hours talking to people so I don't really need to pounce when the CH gets home. However, one thing I take away from this experience (and my student's situation simply reminded me of this) is that there's usually an easy fix for the problems that arise from people living together if both parties communicate and surrender their neuroses and willfulness and just address the issue at hand.


Emsk said...

Did you ever see the episode of Sex and the City when Aidan moves in with Carrie? Whenever she came home he'd bleat "Hey! Where you een? Whaddya do?" the minute she got her foot in the door. At first she thought it was cute, then it grated and then they had a row and she told him to shut up and stop talking all the time!

Carrie and Aidan did come up with a great solution, even if they didn't end up staying together.

I can't imagine how I would cope with a chatty man in my life, 'cos my day is all about talking to people, helping their English, talking to my co-workers, socialising with students. If I'm not cycling home after taking the students out then I'm on a crowded bus full of arseholes blethering on their cellphones about things they should be discussing in private. My head is busting! I get in that door and just zone out.

A husband who came home and needed to zone out too would be just my cup of tea.

Orchid64 said...

I'm afraid I wasn't a Sex and the City type of person. All the obsession with shoes, shopping, and multiple partners was something I couldn't relate to. I've seen episodes on occasion when I was channel surfing and needed some sort of background for housework (and was too lazy or indifferent to fish out a DVD), but it was very spotty viewing.

I should note that my husband is neither chatty nor quiet and he didn't need that period of rest when he was a househusband and I worked full time. During that time, the tables were turned, but I think I didn't obviously need to "decompress" in the way he did - usually, I sat on the sofa with my feet up while he gave them a rub and that was plenty good for me. It's not about his personality or an intrinsic need but just about circumstances. Both the CH and I are relatively talkative people, but not really "chatty". That is, we don't tend to talk about empty topics so much just to fill the air with noise, but we do like to discuss things.

When we're in the same circumstances so our energy levels are at the same point, we're pretty much perfectly matched. This was one of the things that really brought us together early on and made us realize that we were a really good match for one another.

Kelly said...

I can't say i've ever had that problem. Yasu has always worked long hours and i've always stayed home ever since we got married, and if i pounce on him when he gets home he doesn't mind at all, even if he's tired and worn out.

However, being married a while you certainly pick up on how the other person is feeling without having to say anything and if i do sense that Yasu needs his own space I don't bother him, he's the same with me.

I wonder if that Japanese woman has been married long enough to "know" her husband like that?

Girl Japan said...

Darling DH gets home, but when I am out working or doing a project, I am not there to greet him, I would most of the time I do-- he needs to decompress though, usually he has dinner in hand and our mouths are chomping away. Sometimes I am all ready for a convo- cause I am a catterbox..he, being the opposite which irritates me sometimes-- I have to say "huh", well, and "right" a lot.. sometimes he is a true talker and other times... he just wants to unwind after work.. when I get home from work, I am hyper, opposite of him.

I am a SATC fan as well, HARD core-- for the fashion behind the scenes, and for Samantha making it okay that is is OKAY for women to WANT sex, and want it often.

I like little things in each of their characters.