1. TREAT THEM LIKE YOUR BOSS OR CO-WORKER:
Now that most of you are working from home, do you notice a shift in your partner’s tone and language when they speak to people they work with? The tone is kind and patient, they reflect what was said, there is goal setting, follow-up on tasks and planning ahead. We all do this. So why isn’t this happening at home in our romantic and familial relationships?
Societally we often default to the concept of:
BEING COMFORTABLE WITH SOMEONE = UNLEASHING OUR CURRENT MOOD
This happens because we emulate how our parents did it, and they emulated how their parents did it, and so on. How do we correct the pattern and why is it worth changing?
Why is it worth changing?
It is simple. Just like children, adults thrive on positive feedback and feeling heard and understood. Being heard and understood calms the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and soothes anxiety. Second, and even more motivating, if we speak consciously to our partner, the feedback will be positive, supportive and loving. This creates an emotionally pleasant and more joyful environment. Selfishly, it is worth it to YOU because what you put out will come back.
How do we correct the pattern?
The next time you are triggered by your partner, imagine that they are your boss or co-worker. At work, what you say next and more importantly how you say it, can have an impact on how you are perceived, your performance, and whether or not you will have a job in the future. At home, Close your eyes for 30 seconds, take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘What would my work persona say or do right now?’ Use that as a resource with your partner. Do not take it for granted that your partner will either a) Stay with you under any circumstance b) Provide a positive emotional environment with mistreatment. You are in charge of how this goes.
2. ASK YOUR SPOUSE/PARTNER IF THEY ARE AVAILABLE FOR A CONVERSATION. IF NOT, ASK THEM TO GET BACK TO YOU WHEN THEY ARE.
A mistake we often make in relationship, is to make urgent, everything that comes to mind. When we speak to our partner about tasks and planning when they are not ready or caught off guard, most often they will be defensive. This creates defensiveness in the other and it goes nowhere. A simple and easy tip, is to simply ask your partner if they are available for a conversation. If not, ask them to get back to you when they are. Write it down somewhere for yourself to remember later. This shows respect for each others boundaries, recognition that they have their own to-do list going on, and honoring of right time and place.
3. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR PARTNER IS IN A CRAPPY LOW MOOD
Especially in these times when we are working from home, every person is bound to drop into a low mood at least once a day. These moods could be from lack of socialization, fears about job and financial security, keeping the kids entertained and cared for, feeling overwhelmed by too much togetherness, lack of exercise, fears about the future, concerns about family members, you name it.
When your partner is in a crappy low mood, don’t assume how they are feeling. 1) Ask them how they are feeling; 2) Reflect with empathy what you heard them say and; 3) Ask if there’s anything you can do for them. If they say nothing, believe them. It is crucial that we allow our partner to re-center themselves the way they need to, even if it’s not on our timetable. I repeat, even if it’s not on our timetable, or the way we do it.
In the case that they don’t want your help or even your presence, go do your own thing. It is important to be responsible for yourself and create your own calm, positive and joyful mood without being co-dependent with your partner ie. I can only feel good if they feel good, so I need to focus on making them feel good.
Go into another room and meditate, read a book, do a drawing, call a friend, or do some writing. Do what brings you home to yourself, and your own centered way of being. Get back to you without fixing your partner. This strategy has two key benefits. 1) You are role-modeling to your partner some positive self-care, and they will be more likely motivated by role-modeling than directions; 2) Your calm and positive self-care energy will contribute to a joyful household and everyone wins. Emotional co-dependence is often unconscious for couples. Make yourself aware and be autonomous when the time is right.
4. MAKE AN OLD SCHOOL TO-DO LIST WITH CHECK BOXES
While digital is convenient for some things, an old school paper to-do list is a nice way for you both to add items to a list with checkboxes when you think of them. It creates a neutral and visible place for items to be seen, added and checked off. There’s something satisfying about physically checking it off, and seeing progress as a couple. If needed, you could have two lists 1) Red Hot: ASAP items and 2) Green: help us grow and maintain items. These lists are also helpful for kids doing chores or homework.
5. POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOP
Everyone thrives on positive feedback. We have reviews and accolades at work, and hopefully we grew up with positive feedback for accomplishments like homework, grades and sports. As adults in relationship, we silently crave it and need it more than we realize. Recognize when your partner takes out the garbage, makes dinner, reads books to the kids, massages your feet, shops for groceries online or pays the bills. No matter what the task is, and no matter how consistently they have done these things in the past, there is always room for praise, gratitudes and expression of feelings. Some examples: ‘Honey, when you made dinner tonight, I felt so nourished and taken care of.’ ‘Thank you for taking care of our bills, so that I could focus on feeding the kids dinner.’ ‘I am so grateful that you folded the laundry!’ The point is, don’t take anything for granted. You can show this through verbal positive feedback for the smallest to biggest things.
Put these 5 tips into practice and see your relationship not only survive but thrive in these times. Please leave comments and questions here so that we can continue the dialogue and sharing of ideas with each other!
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