Keep A Disagreement With Your Spouse From Escalating
Being in the same house or apartment 24/7, with no obvious end in sight, can make it feel like there’s a storm coming just around the bend. As this pandemic stretches on, conflicts will arise. What’s the best way to resolve those conflicts in a way where both people feel heard, but you’re also preserving the relationship?
With this period of shelter-in-place, we can expect a honeymoon period, where people are sticking together and trying to make the best of it, or even enjoying it. Many will have time to get to those projects they never had time for and be able to spend more time as a family.
As time goes by, conflict is going to emerge. There’s no way around it. Some couples may be dealing with a situation where one or both have lost their jobs and money is tight. One partner may be hyper-anxious about the virus and project their anxiety and fears on to others in the family. If you have children, there is the added worry about keeping up with schoolwork and finding ways to occupy their time. In this type of pressure cooker situation, couples will argue, and those arguments can escalate.
How do you resolve an argument without escalating into a full-blown fight?
The Cool Down Period
Ideally, the best way is to go to a separate space to calm down. One goes in the bedroom, and one goes in the kitchen. If you can’t do that, there are things like headphones or earplugs, to create artificial boundaries. The point is to take some time away from each other to calm down and collect your thoughts, so that you can come together later and talk.
What is the Real Issue?
Often times, the thing you and your partner are arguing about is not the real issue. Are the dirty dishes in the sink the issue? Or is it more about asking your partner to please help keep the home clean instead of leaving it all to you. Try to sort out the real issue you want to talk to your partner about.
Approach Your Partner in Love
Sometimes, when you speak to your spouse, you can say hurtful things while trying to get your point across. “You are such a slob! Can’t you even wash a dish?” After that comment, your partner has stopped listening. You, the one person that is supposed to love them, have just wounded them. Never, ever attack your partner’s character. Start with your feelings about the issue. “ I feel overwhelmed when the dishes and cleaning is left up to me. Could we find a way to work together on this?”
Don’t Do All the Talking
Try to understand where the other person is coming from and what their needs are. Give them a good dose of active listening. Then you set the stage for good communication.
Talk it Out
Now that everyone is calm and the issue is out there, you both can talk about ways to resolve the issue. May be each of you cleans up after yourself in the kitchen and the bathroom. Or maybe you schedule alternate days where each is responsible for cleaning particular areas of the house. Whatever you decide to work out, you did it together.
During this period of COVID-19 self-quarantine, it will take more effort than ever to stay calm, work together as a team, and nurture your marriage.Learn more about our Couples Therapy Exercises