"Boy, am I tired."
"I thought my workday would never end. It seemed like every phone call and every memo just dumped another problem on my desk."
"I know what you mean. I must have dealt with 25 angry customers since lunch."
"At least you don't have productivity quotas to meet. You have no idea what a headache those are."
"No, I just have to figure out ways to keep the customers happy without giving away all the company's profits. No pressure there."
"Talk about pressure! Jean called in sick today, and she was supposed to do the month-end reports, so I had to do them."
"That's nothing. We just found out there's going to be a special inventory review starting next week. Do you know what it's like to get ready for that?"
"It's not anything like trying to meet productivity quotas and do the month-end reports at the same time; I'm pretty sure of that. I'm exhausted. What are we doing about dinner?"
"Don't look at me! I'm too tired to fix anything."
"So am I. Guess I'm not all that hungry anyway."
"I'm going to the gym."
"I'm going to walk the dog."
Does this conversation sound like:
- two contestants battling it out for the title of Hardest Working Person in the House?
- spouses who both desperately need each other to recognize their efforts?
- a couple who are both feeling overwhelmed by the combined demands of work and home?
It's all of the above, of course. At the end of the day, when workplace frustrations are still fresh in their minds and the evening's domestic tasks are looming, the setting is ripe for The Contest to begin—or to resume where it left off on a previous night. If one spouse begins describing how hard he or she worked today, the other spouse may feel a need to balance the scales with a similar recital in order not to feel lacking in industriousness or worth. If allowed to go on very long, this unhealthy competition can cause hurt feelings, growing anger and festering resentments that may take years to repair.1