Why Can’t My Partner (Friend, Child, Colleague…) Cope With Small Obstacles?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Tom Cornille

We’re currently on holiday in the Loire region of France. It’s a beautiful area, we’re staying at a lovely old water mill and the weather’s warm and mostly sunny but not too hot. I had plenty of expectations for this holiday, many of which I wasn’t exactly aware of (and I should’ve been, since I wrote this post about it only last year). One of the things I paid special attention too, though, was making sure that we’d followed every covid-19 measure to make sure that there wouldn’t be any surprises. And then, the day before we left, the rules changed.

Last night, as we were planning the day ahead, a line atop one of the websites suddenly popped into view: All cultural monuments require a sanitary pass before entry. After some extra searching, we found out that, indeed, we’d need to get tested here in France before we could visit pretty much anything that required a ticket. Since the main appeal of this region is the many castles, and I had promised this to the children, there was no way around it: we’d have to find a way to get tested twice in the middle of our one-week trip.

For my partner, this news presented an inconvenience, for sure, but he wasn’t going to let it ruin the holiday. For me, the experience was slightly different: somehow I felt as if the whole vacation was falling to pieces. The wonderful, laissez-faire, relaxed vibe of the first day had somehow vanished. I could only worry about what would happen if I told the kids we might not be able to visit something, or if we couldn’t get a test, or what about being tested and not being able to understand anything they said… My head was instantly filled with everything that could possibly go wrong.

Now, for me, that’s not such an unusual turn of thought. My brain is very good at spotting (possible) problems, and I’m really great at jumping to worst case scenario’s in a matter of seconds. I am, what is called, a mis-matcher. There are advantages to this: foreseeing possible problems helps me prepare for things. It’s why I pack plenty of activities when we go on long drives. It’s why I put reminders in my phone so I don’t forget things or why I pack extra clothes for the kids when we go on day trips near rivers. Apart from the advantages, though, it can also be really difficult to deal with, and it can stop me from being able to fully enjoy the moment.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a Brené Brown audio session in which she described something we do that’s related to this: In moments of great happiness, many of us suddenly found our minds jumping to great disaster, like when you watch your children sleep and get an image of something really aweful happening to them. She calls this ‘foreboding joy’, and it describes the inability to feel joy without jumping to the immediate opposite. We do this, because joy is in itself a very vulnerable emotion. When we are joyful, we are not defending ourselves or attacking anyone, instead we’re fully living life with our hearts wide open, and we are very well aware of the fact that joy is fleeting, like every other emotion. Joy will, eventually, turn to something else. (Of course this is exactly why we should make the most of it when it comes along!)

When the news of the new test policy came along, there was definitely a bit of that joy being crushed which led me to feelings of anger, sadness and fear. I heard myself thinking ‘I should’ve known this would happen. It was stupid to travel and think we wouldn’t be affected in any unknown ways anymore. Why didn’t I wait ’til I was fully vaccinated?’ Note that none of these thoughts really made me feel better. The fact that my partner went to actively look for ways to deal with this hurdle (he’s a matcher), didn’t make me feel better at that particular moment either (though I was very grateful for it today, when we did go to a pharmacy to get tested before visiting our first castle). What I needed was for it to really suck, just for a little bit. I needed to grieve over the lost dream I’d had for this holiday, in order to make room to enjoy its new reality.

So what seemed like a small thing to my partner, took me a couple of hours to come to terms with. I needed to feel all the feels that went with it, I needed to grieve a bit and I had to let this new reality sink in.
The tests today took time and money, but they also went smoothly and (most importantly) were negative. It took some calling around to make appointments for the next one in two days, but my partner managed to do that as well. All in all, it forces us to look at our planning in more detail, and to take things slowly, both of which are good to do either way since both my son and I thrive on limited outside input.

I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who looks at life and only sees what goes right. We need people who see the issues that are there (global climate change anyone?) and the problems that could arise, but we also need people who can look at what IS working to bring about more of that. We really need each other for balance and for thought-out deliberate action.
I’m happy I’ve found the up to my down, the because to my why, the sun to my moon. We balance each other out, and have come to see that reality is really, always, somewhere in the middle. It takes the two of us, to make that balance a reality in our family.

3 thoughts on “Why Can’t My Partner (Friend, Child, Colleague…) Cope With Small Obstacles?

  1. When I read the title, I thought you were going to talk about the fact that your family can’t cope with obstacles, but then I read the text and I saw that it’s you. My husband is like that big time, anything will ruin an outing for him. Consequently, I rarely travel with him these days. I take my son, and/or friends who are “good sports”. If this doesn’t work out, we do that other thing. I had to learn to be more open to disappointment though. When I was younger, I wasn’t very tolerant when the unexpected happened and would ruin everyone’s good time with my bad mood about what I could not control. Good that you seem to be aware of the issue and working on it. Life is short.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s also a matter for me of letting myself go through the emotions, so that I can get to the other side. Once I’ve felt the negative feelings I can move on to the positive ones just like a regular person 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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