Tips of the Month for Couples are regular tips for building strong relationships and healthy families. If you would like to sign up to receive these monthly tips, scroll to the bottom of the page and leave your email address.
In the drama of intimate partnership, asserting a strong “no” can be a show-stopper. Negativity, firmly expressed, seems to have some intrinsic power to squelch what’s in its path, whether it’s a suggestion to purchase a certain piece of furniture, plan a weekend getaway, or try the new restaurant that opened nearby.
Research reported in the Journal of Psychological Science (December, 2010) describes two types of support in a relationship: visible (when both partners notice the supportive actions) and invisible (when support originates outside the recipient's awareness).
Imagine you’re preparing a recipe that calls for two cups of flour. You open your pantry cabinet to retrieve the bag of flour and notice that the top of the bag is half-open. You’ve seen this before: it’s how your partner always leaves the bag, exposed to the air and, in your view, compromising freshness. You feel irritated.
What if we were as generous and forgiving with our partners as we are with young children? Imagine this scene: You collect your five-year-old from school and she is immediately cranky, whiny, demanding and sour. Her face reflects her mood. Do any of these thoughts cross your mind?
If you and your partner were to create job descriptions outlining the roles you expect each other to play in your lives, how many of these boxes would you check?
Haven’t we all experienced a document suddenly disappearing from our computer desktop while working on it? Or a website freezing up and no amount of scrolling or keyboard tapping unlocks the freeze? Those are frustrating moments that can tempt us to toss the computer out the window.
If you and your partner have been sheltering in place during the pandemic, you may find yourselves around one another a lot more than you’re accustomed to. But simply spending time under the same roof doesn’t necessarily translate into meaningful or satisfying connection. Many couples are like two ships passing in the night, in close proximity but not emotionally close. Proximity can create an illusion of connection while feelings of loneliness or aloneness betray the truth.
Quarantining at home these days, it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. We’re not at our best under the strain of grief and sadness over so much loss, fear for our health and the health of loved ones, perhaps the stress of children’s presence 24/7, unwelcome financial hardship and crises as a nation. If at times we “act out” our pain with impatience, short tempers, dark moods and unkind words, it should surprise no one.