A few years ago, I did one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done: I stayed behind in a house, fixed it up, and sold it while my partner moved cross-country for a new job.
It wasn’t the first time that I’d relocated. No, this was the second time. But this was the first time I’d thrown home-selling stress into it. And when I relocated in 2011, I had about 6 months to prepare for the move.
In 2019 I had about a month to get my partner settled cross-country and all of our possessions packed for the movers. And another six weeks for all the renovation (the house was in rough shape), landscaping, and home-selling stuff as well as other loose ends (like transferring a car title to a relative, which shockingly turned out to take the longest of everything due to bureaucratic hell).
He Wasn’t Used to Living Alone Anymore
Anyway, as stressful as that time was for me, it was also very stressful for my partner Justin. Living alone was a big shock for him. It’s funny because when I met him, he was a very independent person with a full life. He had his own house (the one I was now selling) that he’d bought at the bottom of the market as an investment because the mortgage was close to what he was paying in rent. (It was never supposed to be a forever-home.) He had two cats and two birds that he doted on. Not only did he work full time, he also ran a non-profit.
He was pretty much the adultiest person I knew. And while he had lots of friends (and a housemate he rented a room to), he was very self-contained and solitary. Definitely set in his own ways and his own routines.
Meanwhile, when we got married, I was fresh off a divorce. I had been used to living with someone else for about a decade. It was still a big adjustment for me — since he was very different than my ex-husband. But honestly, it was easier in just about every way since Justin and I were much more compatible and similar.
Prior to that point, I’d always had roommates or family or friend’s families to stay with. I’d never lived on my own before. Justin had done that plenty.
So I was surprised that he was struggling, too, when he had to live without me while I sold the house. But he was.
We Take Turns Being Stressed Out
Anyway, the most interesting pattern formed — as we navigated this stressful time. We were both frequently stressed but almost never at the same time.
Usually when one of us was having a down day, the other was having a neutral or even up day. Without meaning to, we basically took turns struggling. Took turns being stressed out.
And it was frankly marvelous.
I’ve noticed the same thing now — with everything stressful that happened this past year. (In addition to the pandemic, economic crisis, and political unrest affecting everyone, my father passed away, and one of our cats was diagnosed with diabetes — feline diabetes is not the end of the world but definitely something logistically that was difficult to throw into the mix.)
Any time one of us gets stressed, the other steps in and is the “strong one.”
It’s like something within us reaches out to the other person who is struggling and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll get this one. You’ll get the next.”