This past summer, I was on the verge of asking my husband for a divorce. There, I said it. Spoiler alert: We are now working on making our marriage stronger than ever and I'll share how later in this post.
Because my husband travels for work, I felt disconnected, alone, and at the end of my rope. He was quite literally a paycheck. To protect myself from being on an emotional rollercoaster every time he left, I detached altogether. We were no longer a team.
I felt like I was doing it all.
I was exhausted, really. I had been doing individual counseling for two years, working on various aspects of my life and the conversation always seemed to come back to my relationship with my husband.
A little back history- we've been married 23 years and it was a shotgun wedding. We had only known one another for a few months and honestly, I didn't think we'd make it past a year. But we did.
Not only did we make it past the year, but after our first daughter, we had five more children. He became my best friend, which isn't usually how that works, but for us, that's how it went.
There were good times, of course. We prided ourselves on never having an argument until probably year 5 or so, but it turns out that we were both major people-pleasers so we both could bend really far without breaking.
The years passed and things changed, as they do. Twelve years ago, we moved across the country from my family which makes it especially difficult and then two years ago, we moved to a new town where I am still working on finding my people.
Around the same time we moved to this new town, I also started my businesses, which consumed much of my time and took a lot longer to bring in an income than I had initially anticipated. Stress was at an all-time high.
What I'm sharing with you is hard but necessary and of course, you are only hearing a snapshot because delving into all the deets would fill a book.
Let's fast forward to this past summer when my husband and I trekked off to counseling as a last ditch effort to salvage what was left of our marriage. We decided to see a pastoral counselor from our church and I think I was expecting a miracle because as I mentioned, I was on the verge of hiring a divorce lawyer.
However, there were some hesitations... I had already invested 23 years into our relationship. A long time. Plus, we had SIX children together. I felt like our decision to divorce would literally tear our family apart and I just didn't want to do that. None of our parents were divorced- they made it through tough times and at one point, I thought we could too.
And then there was the fact that I want my kids to have a father in their life. He's a good dad. If we separated, I would be here in Montana, truly alone because there was no way I would move back to Pennsylvania with or without my kids and rob them of their father or their mother.
So, off to the counselor we went. One session, that's what it took. We shared how we met and was advised to do date nights and daily check-ins. Since my default is crying, it wasn't long before I was blubbering, sharing with the counselor the sense of overwhelm I felt.
Enter the tern "Mental load."
I'm slightly embarrassed that I hadn't come across the term earlier, given the area with which I focus on in my businesses. I immediately felt the heaviness lifted as the counselor recounted to me all about the never-ending checklist that had been running through my mind for years. Would you believe me if I said that this said counselor was a MAN?!
Afterwards, along with doing date nights, daily check-ins, and even a marriage retreat with my husband, I started researching about this mental load idea, aka the invisible load. I brought guests who were experts on the concept onto the Moms Without Capes Podcast and started reading blog posts and articles about it.
I listened to other people's podcasts and checked out books on the subject. What I found was super enlightening and I loved having an actual name for what I was experiencing.
Over and over again, I kept finding the advice to make the invisible, visible. I'm a great listener, but a talker I am not. I tend to keep my thoughts and emotions to myself so all the advice of making the invisible, visible wasn't gelling with me.
My husband was usually willing to do what I asked, but the whole idea of asking him (making the invisible, visible) annoyed me to the point that I just couldn't do it anymore. Why do I have to tell him what needs to get done? Can't he see the dirty socks on the floor or that the toilet paper needs to be replaced on the hanger?
I have six children I have to raise, I don't want to raise a seventh! And I hate being a project manager, because that's just ONE MORE THING that falls on my plate!
Then, I came upon the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky and bam! This was what I was searching for. In her book, Eve outlines a system for dividing the labor within the household. Essentially, it is a system to communicate who does what in a family, or in a partnership.
Eve's system, the Fair Play Method, gamifies the labor of running a home and taking care of kids using 100 cards that outline the sh*t we do.
As I read the book, I immediately knew that this was a game-changer not only for my own marriage, but for so many of the super-moms that are in the Moms Without Capes community.
If you don't want to read it, I recommend you at least watch the documentary!
Here's the best part- I'm all signed up to take the training to become a Fair Play facilitator in about a month. In preparation to help other people implement the system, I'm kicking it into action in my own home.
Over the next few weeks, my plan is to document how it's working for our household, so stay tuned.
I am happy to say that our marriage is getting stronger one day at a time. I'm feeling less overwhelmed these days, knowing that I have a teammate again. And I'm working on making the invisible, visible- not just with the mental load, but with how I feel and what I need.