Being Present

Karl has a demanding job. Even when he’s on vacation, work slips into the vacation. With two young children, his wife Ashley gets irritated when he’s not present with the kids. They are planning a trip out west, and even though Ashley understands the demands of Karl’s job, she wants this vacation to be different.

Karl understood and they agreed to talk during the vacation about finding a balance. Then Ashley talked about Karl’s making movies during the vacation. He said, “They’re about the kids and I send them to the family.” Ashley agreed but said, “Your movie editing takes time away from being with the family.”

Now Karl was feeling frustrated, and said, “What about all the time you take editing photos.” I could sense Karl was trying to get back at Ashley, so I said to him, “Do you really care about her editing photos?” He said, “Not really. But it’s not fair that it’s okay for her, and not okay for me. It’s a double standard.”

I said to Karl, “It’s not about things being equal or fair. In relationships, it’s about bringing up issues that bother you. If her editing photos doesn’t bother you, save it for things that really do. She just wants you to be with her and the kids during vacation, and is letting you know what gets in the way of that for her.”

They agreed that Karl would instead take videos of the kids on his cell phone and send them unedited to the family. He told Ashley that it was fine for her to edit her pictures, since it didn’t really bother him, and then said, “I want to be there for you and the kids.”