For most, regional stay-at-home orders have created an opportunity for unprecedented amounts of time at home with our partners. This scenario will unequivocally yield to more time to interact with one another. Interactions vary in some degree. Perhaps there is more emphasis on completing household tasks together or engagement in mutual hobbies. One thing that is certain, there will be an increased opportunity to converse with your partner. It is important to be aware of a few aspects before addressing heavy hitting topics during this time. Let us discuss why and how to go about this:
The other day, the price of oil broke a historic record (and not in a good way). For the first time in history, the price of oil was negative. Negative. Think about that. That means, technically the gas station should have paid you money if you filled up your gas tank. The state of conditions in which we live is truly unseen! It is important to remember the current crisis when interacting with your partner. You may be familiar with the ways your partner manages his/her emotions or distress; however, it would be ideal not assume how your partner is managing during the current crisis. Make a point to emotionally check in with your partner before diving into an emotionally-charged topic of conversation. It might be beneficial if you also engaged in an emotional self-check in. If either party are not feeling their best, important conversations will not be productive.
Pace the conversation
Prior to the current pandemic, there were probably topics of conversation with your partner that were taboo or highly emotionally charged. Proceed with care and consideration when/if you and your partner need to discuss a very sensitive topic. For instance, finances are typically a big point of contention for most couples. Conversations about money are inevitable given the current climate. If/when you and your partner need to talk about your finances, identify ways to facilitate a healthy conversation. The following are some aspects to consider:
1.) Identify an ideal day and time to talk. Consider the day of the week you choose to have the talk. Perhaps Sunday is ideal because the stressors of the week have not kicked in. Also consider other external factors like children in the home. Consider scheduling the talk for after the children are in bed so as not to balance their needs in addition to discussing heavy topics.
2.) Set an end and start time. Allot a time limit for discussion. Maybe set a timer. When the buzzer rings, talk concludes. The benefit of having set parameters during a discussion of this nature is to contain the outcome. Setting boundaries pertaining to difficult topics will help to create less interpersonal tension.
3.) Have supporting documents on hand. Come prepared to the conversation so that it can be productive. For example, if your discussion pertains to finances — have all bank accounts and statements queued up on a lap or printed out.
4.) Confirm message received. Take time to describe your perceptions of the current challenge at hand. Be mindful that your perception is your reality and not necessarily how your partner views the situation. Once you have expressed your point of view, ask your partner to summarize what he/she/they heard and what they garnered from the things you shared. Be sure to do the same with your partner. Have your partner share and then you take a turn summarizing what you believe he/she/they expressed. The act of confirming one another’s messages will make a world of difference and ensure that your partner felt heard!
When in doubt, shelf it!
In the event that a topic is too emotion laden to make progress, postpone the conversation. Plan to reconvene at another time or consider adjusting some of the elements from pacing the conversation section.
Learn to self-soothe
Psychological self-soothing is a great tool to utilize when you feel distressed or anxious. More importantly, it is autonomous —meaning you do not need to rely on your partner in order to “feel better.” If you and your partner are unable to achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome to your conversation, there is potential to feel distress/angry/disappointed/and so on. Home isolation does not afford the ability to leave the home but there are many ways to achieve an improved mood within the comfort of your home so that you can reengage with your partner and still function. Consider some fo the following options to soothe yourself if your are feeling distressed from a conversation that did not quite go as planned:
- Plug in AirPods and listen to a beloved playlist, podcast, or audiobook.
- Put on some noise-cancelling headphones.
- Wrap yourself in a weighted blanket and watch a movie.
- Take a long walk around the neighborhood.
- Go on a bike ride.
- Chew gum.
- Take a warm bath.
- Drink a warm cup of tea.
- Cuddle a furry friend.
- Download a stress management app.
- Have a good cry.
For questions or if you are seeking support in improving your marriage or relationship during this time, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714. Telehealth services are available.