He said, "She doesn't know how to relax."
She said, "He's so laid-back nothing gets done."
I'm a laid-back, relaxed kind of guy. I don't get stressed out if the house isn't in perfect order; I'd rather Melody take the kids to the beach than stay at home and clean house.
Which brings me to the subject of our free time. My idea of the perfect day is to come home from work, exercise a little and then sit with the kids in the pool singing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" while I shower us with the hose. What could be better than that?
In addition to my full-time job, I paint houses. If I'm not painting on the weekends (some jobs require three to four weekends in a row), I like to sleep in until 10:30, fix a big breakfast and read the paper. At noon, we might head to the beach or stay home and watch movies as a family.
But that doesn't work for Melody. She doesn't know how to relax, and her high energy level makes me nervous. She wants to get up early, eat breakfast and immediately check the to-do list.
Sure, we have home projects that need attention, but we always get to them—eventually. I maintain the cars, the yard, and do housekeeping chores—but my highest priority is family time. Melody seldom considers that I've been at work all week and want to enjoy "down" time with my family.
I've always been high-strung. In fact, when Scott and I were first married, I actually wanted to get up at midnight to iron the curtains. Thankfully, Scott talked me out of that, and his easy-going manner became the perfect complement to my high-energy ways. But after several years of marriage, three children, a larger home and yard, a part-time job and my volunteer hours at school, Scott's laid-back style started frustrating me.
Low-energy evenings I can stand, but low-energy weekends can be too much. It's aggravating to finish breakfast at noon on Saturday and have nothing to show for our day. By 1 o'clock I'm a wreck!
Some of our home-maintenance projects have been on the drawing board for years. Our fence is falling down, the back doors are rusting, and the screen porch needs repair. If I could do these things myself, I'd do them. But I can't, and so I have to depend—and wait—on Scott.
He wants me to relax more, but I need order before I can relax. To me, order means kitchen counters that don't double as an ant restaurant and an unobstructed path through the garage. I want to get a good start on Florida's hot days and accomplish something, but Scott sees my to-do list as a do-or-die list.
What Scott and Melody Did:
Over time, the Schillings realized their problem wasn't that one of them was lazy while the other was bossy, but rather that they were opposites when it came to their energy levels. That realization helped them look for an approach to the weekends, in particular, that would allow each of them to enjoy free time on his or her own terms.
The first sign of progress came when Melody decided to extend her weekday exercise program to include Saturday mornings. "I got up early and went for a brisk, 45-minute walk while Scott slept in," she explains. "It helped me release some early-morning energy."
While Melody was out, Scott eased into the day at a more relaxed pace. When Melody came home from her walk, she and Scott sorted through their plans for the day.
To conquer the mounting chore list and address the need for "down time," they decided to divide their weekends in half. On Saturdays, they get up around 7:30, eat a hearty breakfast and work around the house. In late afternoon, they get ready for Saturday-evening church services.
When Sundays roll around, no one rolls over to turn off the alarm clock. "Our kids are old enough to fix their own breakfast, so Melody and I sleep in," says Scott. "I love the day because we have no schedule."
Scott and Melody find their weekends work better if they stick to their plan, yet their schedule isn't etched in stone. One Saturday they had to attend a wedding, so projects around the house were put on hold. A few weeks later, they finished tiling the kitchen floor on a Sunday rather than leave it incomplete for another week.
"It isn't always easy for me to dive into a Saturday," says Scott. "More often than not, Melody's all pumped up and ready to work while I'm still waking up. But after four cups of coffee, I'm ready to go and besides, I know a rest day is coming."
"On the first rest day, I thought I'd go crazy lying around, doing nothing," remembers Melody. "But after a few Sunday naps, I now look forward to the day."
With a spirit of compromise and acceptance, the Schillings are seeing their chore list shrink, their naps grow longer and the tension that once filled their weekends becoming a fading memory.
If you know a couple with a creative solution to a common marriage problem, let us know. We'll pay $25 for each story that is featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number, and a short description of their problem and solution to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put "Work It Out Marriage Partnership" in the subject line.
Copyright © 1996 by Christianity Today/MARRIAGE PARTNERSHIP magazine.