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10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Practice Listening to Improve Your Marriage While Quarantined

I hope you have received help through this series. I have enjoyed writing it, but I am concerned that I am not focusing on what’s most important right now. I don’t want to miss the fact that life has shifted for everyone of us so quickly. Many people are hurting right now. Some couples are scared and worried about their future and their families. There are many couples grieving due to loss. Everything has been turned upside down in only a few short months. How many of us have seen so much change so quickly. Even for those who have not been hit hard, it’s still be shocking and thrown us off in some way. The reality and gravity of the situation has still not been fully grasped. But I do know one thing, we need each other more than ever at this time. We need to be CONNECTED.

This opening brings me to my topic for this week. How can we practice listening to improve our relationships? I fully believe that learning to listen is one of the most important skills a couple can build. Most couples I work with have a listening problem. In fact, I think we all do! I would never leave myself out of that group.  Some couples have even said about their spouse, “He/She doesn’t listen to me.” Have you ever heard that? I have definitely thought that a few times. In most of my relationships I have thought that at some point. Sorry Mom, Dad, friends, and family! But it’s true. If we are honest with ourselves, we would say at some point in our lives we felt unheard. If most of us have felt unheard, then the opposite is true: It’s likely most of us have not listened well at times also. If you KNOW that you are not so good at listening, or maybe you just want to learn how to listen better, let’s dig into how we can all PRACTICE being better listeners, especially in this time of change and unpredictability, so we can increase CONNECTION.

My 4 tips to listening can help all of us connect better in our relationships and decrease negative interactions. During this tough time, emotions may run high. Increased stress, hurt and pain may lead to quick reactions. Unfortunately, all to often, we are unable to stop these quick reactions. It is more important than ever to learn how to avoid these negative interactions, otherwise we double our pain and stress.

  • My first tip: Remind yourself that your spouse loves you and has REAL, UN-IMAGINED emotions that have a reason! I can’t count the times I have told my wife, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I disregard her feelings all together when I say that. If you think this thought or say this to your spouse, then you have your first sign that you are not listening. So, assess your tendency to disregard your spouses reality.
  • My second tip is to TUNE into their feelings and the meaning behind their feelings. This step requires a little practice. It may help to practice even when you are alone. Say to yourself, “They have feelings and they are important. I need to understand them. Be curious and ask them to help me understand their meaning.” I try to repeat this phrase often. It’s not a full-proof method to decrease reacting out of defensiveness or disregarding someones feelings, but that old cliche keeps coming back to my mind, “Practice makes perfect.” Tune into your spouses feelings by intentionally seeking understanding.
  • My third tip is to KNOCK OUT DEFENSIVENESS. Ahh, I have a boxer mindset. My way of boxing is to wait and sneak in a DEFENSIVE jab or two. I will go on the offensive at times, but usually after the other person swings first. I am the defensive one in my marriage. My wife asks, “Are you breathing?” My reaction: “Who me? Why would you think that? I was just over his smelling some flowers and being all innocent and stuff…” Okay, that is a little exaggeration, but you get my point. How do you feel when you are trying to explain how you feel and they defend themselves instead of listening to you and not attempting to understand you? THEY DON’T CARE! THEY ARE MORE WORRIED ABOUT THEMSELVES THAN HOW I FEEL! And you might be right! Or, they might be fearful or feeling attacked or they just don’t want to upset you. Unfortunately, their missing you. They missed the whole point. They had a chance to connect with you and help you build their trust in you that is longed for. Yet, you chose to defend yourself instead of put aside your own concerns. Remember: Defensiveness is NOT LISTENING. Knock it out by taking responsibility for where you messed up even if you don’t FEEL like you did. Apologize and tune in to their feelings. You will be surprised at how close the connection becomes once you do that. Defensiveness is distance. Listening is connection.
  • Finally, my fourth tip is to MAKE TIME to go deep. Sometimes we are “too busy” to stop and hear our partner. We have the time right now, at least some of us do. Make time to ask how they are doing. Then listen! Ask tough questions. Then Listen! Be intentional to get off your phone and start a conversation. Then LISTEN! Then make it a habit to do this at the same time, or times, every week. I assume you get my point.

With our world turned upside down, now may be a better time than ever to turn your marriage back right side up. Don’t waste this time! Don’t waste the opportunity to fix things while you have more time. The world will get back moving again, probably sooner than we think. It already is in some ways. Don’t regret intentionally taking the time to learn to listen and connect to your spouse.

If you want to learn more about listening, visit this PAGE.

If you want to read the other blog post in this series, here is the first POST.

If you want help with your relationship, please call me at 706-955-0230 or CLICK ON THE ORANGE BAR AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE TO SET UP AN APPOINTMENT OR FREE 15 MINUTE CONSULT!

Next Post In Series – Rest

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Staying home due to COVID-19? Are you finding it hard to manage your relationship, the children or working from home? The combination of those three can increase stress if you don’t know how to manage them well. It’s like the movie, The Perfect Storm. Please forgive me if I get this wrong, but if I remember correctly, in that movie 3 different storms come together and create a super storm. Sound familiar?

Having to work from home while the kids are home schooling and trying to keep from getting bored, and your spouse is home all day everyday, sounds like 3 stressful “storms” coming together to create a super storm. What are you going to do? How are you going to juggle it all?

Unfortunately, there may be more storms. If you are like me, I get cravings. The usual ability to get out and have fun or see different scenery than your own familiar walls is a very missed luxury during this time. Humans need newness, excitement and experiences outside the norm. I heard one person say recently, “There is a reason they use solitary confinement in jails and prisons.” We may not be totally isolated, but the combination of the changes that have come upon us so suddenly can cause intense amount of stress, especially when combined with the anxiety around COVID-19.

So, I want to try to help. Hopefully, this series of posts will provide some ideas on how to keep your relationship on track while working through the changes. Here are my 10 tips to improving your marriage during quarantine.

  1. Practice patience and kindness
  2. Bring back your creative side
  3. Share duties and give each other time to reboot
  4. Learn about grace and forgiveness
  5. Get outside
  6. Be playful
  7. Practice listening and understanding
  8. Rest
  9. Relax
  10. Focus on teamwork

These 10 tips are almost self explanatory, but I will expound on them in the next few blog posts. They may not seem like they are ways to improve your relationship, but if you are practicing each of these daily or weekly, I can assure you they will help. Please stay tuned. If you are having trouble in your relationship, please don’t wait to call me or email me so we can talk about how I can help you. Sometimes people just get temporarily stuck. Sometimes there are deeper things going on. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. Whatever it is, let me help!

Call 706-955-0230 to make an appointment or schedule through the patient portal.

Next Post In Series – Practice Patience and Kindness

 

Tips to not fighting in marriage communication

5 Tips to not “Fighting” in Marriage Communication

Last time I talked about how the instinct to fight or flight affects marriage communication. Today, I want to discuss  ways to keep from “fighting” back when that fight instinct wants to rise up in you. When I ask clients how they deal with their frustration or anger when communicating with their spouse, many them say, “Well, I just try not to say anything or react.” Does this help? Maybe once in a while it does. Most of the time, your emotions will get the best of you, especially the longer you go without a solution. Couples who struggle with arguing and can’t seem to change their pattern of avoider/distancer or fight or flight, need help. So, I want to give you 5 tips to try to keep this instinct from ruining your conversations.

 

Know thyself!

Do you really know yourself? Are you aware of your tendencies, triggers or emotions? Do you know what makes you upset? Do you know what your “buttons” are? If not, you need to grow awareness of yourself. Most of us think we know ourselves, but I wonder how many of us could give details to the questions above.

I encourage you to sit down with these questions and brainstorm. Think about when you have gotten upset, anxious, scared, sad, angry or irritable. Think about the situation around that emotions. What was going on? Who was there? What time of day was it? What location were you in? What was said? Write all of this down. For every emotion above, go through these same questions for a scenario or two.

Why do I ask you to do this? Because the more you know about yourself and why you do what you do, the more you can control your reactions and make a plan for when you are triggered. Instincts like fight or flight tend to be triggered. By knowing possible triggers, especially ones that make you angry enough to fight back, you can make a plan to stay calm or manage your choices when those triggers arise.

 

Use active listening

Listening seems so easy. We think we listen well, but most of us are terrible listeners. I tell my clients that I can repeat verbatim example what my wife says, but I am not very good at understanding what she is saying at times. Each of us are so different, that we often interpret what others are saying through our own thoughts, beliefs and experiences when what they are actually thinking about is very different.

Some authors call this our “glasses.” Some marriage experts have even referred to a metaphor that says men wear blue colored glasses and women wear pink colored glasses. They are trying to show that we see thing so differently that we may not be able to know what the other person is thinking, even if we heard their words or saw their actions. The lesson here is to not assume anything.

So active listening is a way to take off the blue or pink glasses and try to understand how the other person sees things (ie, putting on their glasses). This can obviously help with not “fighting” back because you can be mindful of the other person’s viewpoint which keeps you from becoming defensive. You now are in an understanding stance and not a defensive stance, ready to attack back. This is not easy, but if you want to learn more about active listening, go HERE.

 

Take a timeout

Have you ever needed a break when you got tired of working, running or cleaning? I do! We take timeouts all the time when we are doing physically active things. So, does it not make sense to take a timeout when your brain gets overworked? Sometimes in stressful conversations, a person may become “flooded” per Dr. John Gottman in his book The 7 Principles for Making Your Marriage Work. Our brains get tired and need a rest sometimes. We can become confused and overwhelmed, especially in arguments. Sometimes conversations just go in circles making us metaphorically “dizzy” in our heads and keep us from figuring out why we are arguing.

Taking a timeout can help to reset, reorganize and clarify a situation or conflict when it is going no where or gets out of control. Timeouts can be easy as long as you set up a structure and both people respect it. Sometimes one person feels like they are about to explode. Well, instead of “fighting” back, take a timeout and cool off.

               

Slow Down!

Literally, slow down! Slow your breathing. Slow your speech. Slow your movement. Slow your everything! Sit down if you need to. If you need to slow down to a stop, then STOP.

Why slow down? As you become increasingly more angry, upset, anxious or irritable, your heart rate and blood pressure rises and stress hormones begin to be released. Other chemical reactions also happen in your body that are signaling you to prepare for a…you guessed it…FIGHT! Slow yourself by actively PRACTICING slowing down through breathing and relaxation. If you can effectively calm the body, you are telling the body to stop preparing to defend itself.

 

Ask questions, don’t assume

As mentioned in the first tip, we don’t want to assume anything. Asking a question of your partner allows you to gather more information. Think about how many times, based off of the information you have, that you assume you know what your spouse is thinking or saying and it upsets you, to find out later that they did not mean it in that way?

I usually call these questions to gather more information, clarifying questions. You want to have the best understanding you can have and the exact information you need to make the best choices. Many of us react negatively and “fight” or “attack” our spouse when we are triggered by what they are saying, especially when we don’t take the time to get enough information to understand the message. Stop assuming you know what your spouse is saying. Slow down, as we said above. Take the time to make sure you know exactly what your partner is saying. This again may take structure and practice. But you can do it!

 

These five tips are just a few of the ways you can keep the instinct to fight from ruining your marriage or relationships. Just using one of them may make a drastic difference in your ability to communicate, listen and connect with your spouse. Take the time to think about how you might implement each one of these, and develop your BEST way of communicating in your marriage. If you need further information or help, please don’t hesitate to CALL ME TODAY.