Before March 2020, many married couples enjoyed a connected but separate life. Off to work each morning. Dinner and a few evening hours together.
In the words of my favorite shampoo: Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
What was the problem with that? It was easy to keep the health of your relationship as a side issue, and focus on work, fun on the weekends, being with the kids.
Then couples were thrown together in a pandemic “prison”, and we had no training or help in how to deal with that. And any little thing that bugged us about our spouse seemed to be magnified, and all that we noticed.
Why? Well, did you know that our culture lies to us? Yes. It gives us unrealistic expectations of marriage. Here’s an example:
Please complete the rest of this sentence: They got married, and they lived………..
And if you’ve ever read a fairy tale, you know the rest: “..Happily Ever After.”
Is that true? Of course not. Just getting married doesn’t guarantee happiness. (I wish!) You get married, and then you have problems, like car trouble, money issues, someone’s ill….
Or you are suddenly thrown into quarantine, and all the stuff you’d been ‘letting slide’ smacks you in the face, and then what happens? Yes. People can get crazy and angry with each other. So I’d like to ask you, do you like living crazy and angry, or would you like another option?
If you answered “Another option”, Here’s the secret: It’s all in How you deal with it. And of course, this secret holds true for all our relationships, not just with our spouses, although that’s the focus of this article.
There are three tried and true tips on How to Deal With It in a positive way:
Keep Cool, Be Kind, and Check Yourself.
That first tip comes from an old Reader’s Digest story. A woman overheard a friend’s dad tell her, “You’ll find the key to a great marriage on the top of the mayonnaise jar.” And that evening, she saw it: “Keep cool, but do not freeze.”
So true! When someone says or does something that bugs you, the first thing is Keep cool! Take a few seconds to think about it before you react. When the heat goes up to the brain, the brain shuts off. And that never leads to a good outcome. Keep cool instead.
That takes us right to the second tip: “Choose to be kind rather than be right.”
You know how we cut a dear friend a lot of slack when they are having a bad day? Let’s do that for our spouses, too! As the saying goes, when you start keeping score in a marriage, everyone loses.
The last tip is in a phrase I learned from my students: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Ask yourself, “What am I telling myself about this?” You see, it’s that thought that causes you to get angry. We need to chose new thoughts to dump the anger before we wreck our relationship.
How do you do that? First, keep cool. Second, be kind/cut them some slack. And then, Put what that person said or did in the context of the entire person.
In other words, what’s “right” about this person? What do you truly like or love about them? And then, what kinds of things could you say or do that would lead to problem-solving together instead of accumulating anger?
Now it’s in your hands. Wouldn’t it be great to come out of quarantine lockdown with stronger relationships? I agree. Let’s do it!