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.
Don’t confuse being discontent in your marriage with falling out of love. Being discontent means that there is an issue that can be worked on and fixed. Falling out of love means that you gave up on your marriage and chose not to love your partner. Discontentment stems from anger with your spouse. Anger usually stems from a build up of many little annoyances that grow into big annoyances.
Problem: He won’t take the garbage out unless I ask him to.
Thought: I’m not doing his laundry until he starts pitching in and taking out the trash.
Words: “Are you going to take out the trash or do I have to do it?”
Problem: She stays on her phone texting the majority of the evening.
Thought: “I’ll turn the football game on loud, that will get her attention”
Words: “ I’m just going to watch the game since your busy texting your friends.”
Problem: She leaves the sink full of dirty dishes every night.
Thought: “I’m not cleaning those dishes, it’s her job.”
Words: “Did it ever occur to you that germs grow on those dirty dishes!”?
Problem: He frequently stays late at work.
Thought: I’m not making dinner for him, he can make himself a sandwich.”
Words: None. Silent treatment
The thoughts that you dwell on eventually begin to control your words, your actions and your behavior. When you become critical and condemning of your spouse, what’s essentially happening in your mind is that you’re breaking down the respect you once had for him or her.
You hold the keys to whether you will continue to love and respect your spouse or not.
Take a look in the mirror. Be mindful of your own shortcomings, and failures. When you look at life through a clear lens, it will be easier for you to let go of your spouse’s past mistakes, shortcomings and failures.
Communicate. Secretly thinking revengeful thoughts or making snarky comments does not let your spouse know what is really wrong. You and your spouse need to find time to sit down and calmly discuss what is annoying you and what can be done to fix that. Examples:
“Honey I feel like you don’t care about our home when you don’t bother to take the garbage out.”
“Sweetie, I look forward to spending time with you in the evening and when you stay on the phone texting, I feel like you don’t want to spend time with me.”
Polish your spouse up. Start using encouraging words and actions. When you do this, your heart towards them will start to grow softer and the respect you once had for them will start to develop again.
This will help your spouse feel your respect and it will help you to dwell on the good in your spouse. If you continually do things like this, your spouse will start to move closer towards you and become more attentive towards you.
Communication is one of the most vital aspects of an intimate relationship. When communication breaks down or becomes almost non-existent, this big signal that something is wrong in the marriage. 50% of couples that divorced claimed it was due to the inability to communicate with each other. What are the 2 big culprits?
- When something happens, you assume you know the reason.
You and your spouse had plans to meet at that wonderful Italian restaurant near his office for dinner. He arrives late and you feel angry and disappointed. You assume that meeting you didn’t mean much to him or that something else was more important and sit in silence through the entire dinner.
What really happened?
You bought into your assumption instead of asking that he didn’t care enough about you to be on time for dinner rather than ask him calmly what delayed him. Traffic could have been bad, an important meeting at the office could have run longer than expected, or any number of things. Asking why he was delayed allows him the chance to explain things.
You did not communicate your feelings. Your spouse cannot read your mind and will not know what is bothering you if you do not calmly explain. “ I am annoyed that you were late because I was really looking forward to spending time with you tonight and I feel like you may not have been looking forward to spending time with me.” Expressing your feelings allows him the chance to understand why you are annoyed and make it right.
You did not make a clear request. In the future, if you are not going to be able to arrive at the agreed upon time, please excuse yourself and call me to let me know so I don’t worry.
Neither one of you spends time listening to the other.
Deep, positive relationships can only be developed by listening to each other. If there is no communication in your relationship, maybe neither spouse is truly listening.
Here are the most common listening mistakes:
- Daydreaming or thinking of something else (even something as simple as your list of groceries) while another person is speaking;
- Thinking of what to say next;
- Judging what the other person is saying;
- Listening with a specific goal/outcome in mind.
At last twice a week, try this listening exercise together.
One spouse gets 10 minutes to talk about their day, while the other spouse listens actively and with a genuine interest. The other spouse can ask questions to clarify but cannot interrupt the first spouse.
After 10 minutes), the other spouse gets to talk for ten minutes about their day as well, while the same listening rules apply to the first spouse.
You will be surprise at how much you learn about each other. Watch the quality of your relationship and your communication improve. It is an intentional way to practice active listening to each other.
Marriage takes a lot of hard work to keep it working. There will always be some topics of conversation that are more difficult to address with your spouse than others. Issues like sex, finances, and in-laws are hot buttons for many couples. Many people try their best to avoid these topics because they fear that it can escalate into a fight. At some point though, you need to develop the skill of talking about your concerns together as a couple. Without communication and discussion, you cannot share the same vision.
Topics you cannot avoid talking about:
When you are first married, you look for every opportunity to have sex. However, as the marriage progresses, sex becomes less frequent as jobs and life commitments begin to take up time. You and your spouse need to be able to talk about how often, when, and what type of sex you like in order to keep the flames of love burning.
Financial stress is a primary cause of divorce. Money can be a very sensitive topic for many couples as each spouse likely handles their money differently. One spouse may have been raised in a frugal family and taught how to mange money, while the other spouse may have been raised in an affluent setting where money was usually available but rarely discussed. As you pool your finances together, you and your spouse need to be able to discuss how much money you have and how you will budget, invest, take on debt, and spend your money. It may require getting some advice or education about money together to be able to make these decisions
In many marriages, one family can dominate spending time with you and your spouse, especially around special occasions, when a child is born holidays etc. You and your spouse need to be able to talk and set some boundaries so that you both can enjoy each other’s families and say no when you need to.
3 Tips to make talking about sensitive topics easier
Start the conversation on a positive note. Pay your partner a compliment like “Thank you for taking time to sit down and talk about our finances.” State the issue calmly and don’t assign blame. “Somehow we seem to have gotten off track with our finances and I am hoping we can get back on track together. “
Keep the conversation centered on the topic. Try not to let the conversation veer off into your relationship’s past or other issues. Stick to the topic at hand. If you attack the problem rather than the person bringing it up, you’ll create an environment that is conducive to sharing your feelings and opinions.
Throughout the conversation, respect your partner. Don’t interrupt. Stop and listen when they begin to talk. Don’t be so intent on getting your point across that you don’t allow your spouse a chance to voice their thoughts on the issue. Your relationship should always take priority over the issue.
Having a conversation with your spouse, even the most sensitive topics of conversation, bring you and your spouse closer together. You are more likely to be on the same page and share the same visions for your future.
Why do people remember such classic movies as “An Affair to Remember”, “Titanic”, “The Notebook”, “The Vow”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, or “A Star is Born”?
Those movies make you feel the butterflies in your stomach when two made-for-each-other people meet, the yearning for that first kiss, an obstacle that pushes them apart, and a rescue or chance encounter that sends them back into each other’s arms for a passionate embrace.
Sure, it never happens in real life, but most people want it to. There is no reason you cannot stir up the butterflies, the yearning, and the passionate embrace in your own marriage. Try out one of these 25 Romantic “I Love You’s” on your spouse this Valentines Day and feel the heat rise.
- Say it in a note and slip it inside their briefcase, lunch tote or purse.
- Say it in French in a text message je t’aime.
- Say it on a Skype call to them wherever they are.
- Say it with a bouquet of favorite flowers delivered to their house, office or in person.
- Say it in a love letter you mailed to them days before.
- Say it with a homemade cake with “I Love You” spelled out in the frosting.
- Say it with chocolates in a big heart shaped box.
- Say it with a pre-arranged baby sitter and dinner out.
- Say it with a lipstick kiss and message on the bathroom mirror.
- Say it with nothing but your underwear or nightie on.
- Say it with tickets to a sports event.
- Say it with his favorite home cooked meal.
- Say it with music and drinks or coffee.
- Say it in a sexy phone call.
- Say it in a Facebook post all about him or her.
- Say it with a massage.
- Say it with showers of compliments.
- Say it in a hot tub.
- Say it with a picture trip down memory lane.
- Say it with his or her favorite movie and popcorn.
- Say it with a favorite treat and a corny love saying.
- Say it with perfume or cologne.
- Say it with a night of dancing,
- Say it with a recreation of your first date.
- Say it with a hot, steamy shower together.
No matter how you choose to choose to tell your spouse “I Love You”, you really can’t go wrong. Say it expecting nothing in return and straight from your heart. He or she will be over the moon for you.
We measure our physical health by our body temperature. If the temperature rises above OR below 97.8, it is time to see a doctor and determine what is wrong. When our temperature is 97.8, all is well. The same thing is true of our marriage. If you and your spouse spend most of your time engaged in heated verbal exchanges, there might be a problem. When you spend more of your time in frigid silence than in loving, happy conversation, there may be a problem. How do you change the temperature of your marriage?
Research shows that the number one reason for divorce is lack of or poor communication. Here are six tips to improve your communication.
Don’t Nag…Gently Remind. “ I can’t remember..did I ask you to take a look at the tires on my car? It seems to be pulling a little to the left.”
Don’t Complain.., Request a Change. “Would you try to put the toilet seat down after using the bathroom?” You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Asking nicely lets your spouse know that you love them but need them to change a habit.
Don’t Blame.. Assume the best. “ I’m not sure what happened but I saved some dinner for you in the microwave if you are hungry.” Taking an understanding tone with your spouse lets them feel free to open up to you about whatever happened.
Do Express Appreciation. Try to find one thing that your spouse does for you each day to say Thank you for. “ Thank you for taking out the trash. That is a huge help.” Showing Appreciation for something done lets your spouse know that you do notice what they do for you.
Do Apologize. If you do something to hurt your spouse’s feelings or make some type of mistake, be sincere and honest in asking for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I snapped at you this evening.” Apologizing immediately lets your spouse know that you are aware of their feelings and care about making it right.
Do Share. Remember when you were dating and would spend hours sharing your hopes, dreams, feelings and opinions. You did so in a happy, conversational manner. Continue that. “ I’m excited about our vacation to the mountains.” Sharing is what bonds you together and creates intimacy.
The goal in your marriage is to learn to communicate in an environment of understanding and intimate fellowship.
We have all known married couples that seem to have powerful marriages. Both spouses seem to always be in sync with each other. They spend quality time with each other frequently. They are people that others want to be around. Powerful couples have some type of superpower that other married couples want to emulate. How can you determine your marriage’s superpower?
What makes superheroes so revered is that they have some kind of superpower. Superman and Supergirl can fly. Antman and Wasp Woman can shrink. Batman and Batgirl have really cool technological gadgets. Captain America and Captain Marvel are really strong. While we may not be able to fly, or have superhuman strength or ability, every marriage should have at least one superpower.
What is the one thing you both excel at in a unique way?
- Some couples are just a lot of fun to be with. They know how to converse with people and can make you laugh.
- Others may be foodies that always dish up a good meal or can recommend the best restaurants.
- Still others are very organized and are good at planning events or getting a group together.
What is the one thing you and your significant other do well?
- Some couples resolve disagreements really well. They make time for each other and make it a high priority to keep the peace and unity in their marriage, even when it’s challenging.
- Others are very handy and can repair broken things or renovate old things.
- Still others are great parents because they are good with kids.
Spend some time talking with your spouse and determine your superpower. It can bring you closer together and bond you in a positive way.
Believe it or not, communication is not the most important component of a happy relationship, although it certainly contributes to the longevity and overall success of a partnership. Instead, “clarity” and “being deserving” are two fundamental elements of a successful marriage.