Compromising for marital harmony
list of lists really isn't meant to
expedite getting things done. Instead, its primary purpose is
marital harmony and promotion of relaxation. Here's what my world
looked like before my obsessive lists:
Saturday morning, I woke up steaming
mad. All week, I'd tried to steer Mark toward the truly important
farm projects, but he'd smiled vaguely and wandered off to do chores
that struck his fancy better. I now figured that if I wanted the
lawn to get mowed, I had to do it myself, so I headed outside and ended
up swearing at the machine when I couldn't even get it to start.
Mark was lounging around inside, listening to the radio, while the farm
was falling down around our ears....
Of course, our world
looked very different from Mark's point of view:
I woke up late and was thrilled to realize
that I'd left the rat race behind. Anna and I are making up our
own hours and building a farm together --- it feels great to be
creating our own infrastructure rather than making someone else
The only problem is that Anna can't seem to relax. I can hear her
out there mowing even though it's Saturday morning, which makes me feel
guilty for resting. But I didn't leave the rat race to work seven
days a week....
The major flaw in our
early relationship was that I am obsessively type A while Mark is
relentlessly type B. I now know that this combination makes for a
very well-rounded team, but then it just meant that we fought a lot.
Part of the solution was
my list of lists, but the other part was to
clarify our expectations and compromise right up front. I'd
gotten used to working seven days a week and had forgotten what
holidays were, while Mark knew that the real value of life comes from
taking the time to embrace the world's beauty. After months of
discussion, we settled on a weekly routine where we work from 9 to 4
Monday through Friday (with an hour lunch break), take the weekends
off, discuss which holidays to honor and which to skip, and also take
(increasingly frequent) random days and afternoons off.
Taking time off was
difficult for me at first. Rather than enjoying the time to read,
write, and wander in the woods, I spent many weekends chomping at the
bit and feeling guilty that I wasn't getting anything done. I
hope that very few of you are as problematically type A as I was, but
just in case the idea of doing nothing constructive all weekend fills
you with dread, here is the solution I settled on --- Friday afternoon,
I write down the week's accomplishments and draft next week's list of
chores, then release everything on the list from my head until Monday
morning. I'll even admit that Mark is right --- we do get more
done by giving ourselves weekends and vacations to recharge and think
outside the box, and I've loved having free time to embark on my own
course of independent study about permaculture and homesteading topics.
In the modern world,
most couples spend no more than a handful of hours per week working and
playing together. I've noticed that many couples who move back to
the land as a unit are shocked by how difficult it is to work with
their mate, and a large percentage of them aren't willing to put in the
time to compromise and turn into a team. Even couples who have
been together a decade longer than we have look like newlyweds when I
see them hashing out their differences on the farm.
Although working together can be tough at first, the payoff is
huge. Lately, I've noticed that Mark and I are the happiest
couple I know. If anyone asked me whether it's worthwhile to go
back to the land as a couple, I would say an unconditonal "yes!"
If you don't kill each other in the first few years, you will
definitely live happily ever after.
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