Unlike the other posts in our challenges and triumphs series, I (Sam) will be the only one writing this one. The window of time we had to post this didn’t allow Ray enough time to get his thoughts compiled. This is the second part to the post: Triumphs: one year later.
Challenge 1: Adjusting to each others’ schedules
Routine. At times it can be monotonously boring, but most of the time it can be the one thing that makes our lives sane. From the beginning of our marriage we’ve sought to establish routines in various aspects of our lives: goal setting, biblical togetherness, weekend quality time, and so on. Kenya can be an extremely unpredictable place, so as much as is possible, we try to maintain a certain level of sanity by keeping whatever we can nailed down.
When Ray was working in Nairobi city, we lived in Rongai – a sort of suburb of Nairobi, I knew that he would be getting up around 5am so that he could catch a matatu early enough to keep from getting stuck in traffic. A trip that should take 20 minutes can end up being two hours if you don’t time it right. Because Ray knows the general ebb and flow of the city and appropriately planned around it, I always knew he would be in the city all day and come home around dinnertime. Whenever Ray knew something would delay him, he made sure to call and let me know so I could plan accordingly. We had a sweet little system going on.
That was our routine. That kept me sane.
Then his office moved from the city to Rongai which meant he’d be closer, he wouldn’t be away from home as long, and I didn’t have to worry about his safety as much (during that time Kenya was experiencing an alarming number of public attacks by Al-Shabbab, and Nairobi was a major target). Before Ray went to work at his new location, we went over what our new schedule would be and we both agreed that it would be better for us.
For a while it was.
Then the time came when a filming opportunity landed in our laps, and it thrust us into plans for starting our own business. As our home-grown business began to expand and his responsibilities at his other job decreased, he started staying around the house longer.
We share a laptop, and normally when he’s gone I’m on the laptop doing work (writing, transcribing, researching, etc.). Most days when I would wake up, he would still be home on the laptop and either wouldn’t go to the office until the afternoon or wouldn’t go in at all. As far as he was concerned, he was working from home too.
That had me all sorts of screwed up. We hadn’t planned this! That was supposed to be my time! Now because he was home there was an expectation that I would make breakfast or lunch for him and engage in conversation, when I was used to just going to the closest duka to buy mandazi to snack on while I worked. As much as I enjoyed the fact that I could spend more time with my husband, it wasn’t part of the original plan, and trying to balance work and a daily schedule that changed on a daily basis was really frying my brain.
That was a huge point of contention when we lived in Nairobi the first year, but even now that we’re in Kitale and around each other all the live long day, we’re having the same issue. We’re having to come up with new routines. We’re about halfway there. We’ve established when each person is to have their quiet time and when we have ours as a couple, and we also have tried to set times for the laptop so that he uses it until I wake up, and I use it throughout the night (I usually go to sleep when he’s waking up).
As for what happens between that… we’re still working it out.
Challenge 2: Resolving Conflict
Every couple argues, and life in the Wasike household is no exception. We have had our fair share of disagreements. Be the reason emotions, culture, negative attitudes, or just flat out stubbornness and pride, we typically find ourselves coming to the same conclusion: there is no conclusion.
See, what happens is when we find ourselves in the midst of a disagreement, things tend to escalate to the point of me shouting or becoming a little too sharp with my tongue, and Ray shuts down. He hates it when I raise my voice and it hurts him to be on the receiving end of some of the snide remarks I make, so generally when we reach that point he’ll stop talking or I’ll run out of words (it happens sometimes) and we’ll go our separate ways.
A few weeks or even months later, what do you know? The issue is back in our faces and the cycle repeats. We’ve since discovered, closer to the latter part of our first year, that the culprit behind the cycle is the fact that once we cooled down, we never closed the case. We allowed each other to state our closing arguments, but we never agreed on a verdict.
Truth of the matter is, our arguments don’t have to reach a fever pitch in order for us to forget that the issue hasn’t been resolved. Even if it’s over something small, sometimes we both share our opinions and we mistake the other person’s “Yes, I hear what you’re saying; that does make sense” for “Yes, you’re right. You’re always right. Let’s do what you want.” Then when the time comes for the matter we argued about to come to fruition, we realize that we both came away from the conversation with different ideas about our game plan.
Even in our second year of marriage, we’re still finding this to be an issue, so we have to make sure that after an argument, once we’ve both cooled down, one of us comes to the other and says, “Okay, so what are we going to do about this? What’s our conclusion?” Usually I let Ray be the one to state the final conclusion because frankly I do enough talking during arguments, and he needs to feel like he has a voice and the final say so in matters.
He’s really good about coming up with the resolution based on what we both brought to the table, so he usually gets no objections from me, but even if I have objections, I’m learning how to know when to let go. I don’t always have to win, the humble voice of the Holy Spirit is whispering “Actually, you never have to win.” I’m recognizing that sometimes I can be so concerned with being right that I can beat a point to death and do a number on my husband’s emotions as well.
What matters is that we’re in agreement, and the more I learn to humble myself, the better chance we’ll have of that being a reality in our marriage.