A lot of couples have come for therapy due to having to spend so much time together this year. Stress that happens outside of the relationship, like work stress or even current events, can end up affecting how well (or not so well) you get along with each other. And when you're both stressed AND you're forced to spend more time together AND the kids are at home, too, well, let's just say it's an opportunity to find out where the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship lie.
The good news is that, in my experience for the last few months, I've seen couples really work through that stress and grow a lot closer. I love seeing couples start therapy using the D-word ("divorce") and ending up in each other's arms, creating a safe, loving place for each other.
Here’s one idea to help defuse the tension that may have arisen in your household the last few months:
Allow each other a little alone time. No matter how much you love each other, every couple needs a little break. There are lots of reasons that tension levels rise between two people when they spend lots and lots of time together.
For example, maybe you’re a social person who loves to be around others most of the time, while your partner is a loner who gets tired after too many hours of socializing. You might feel rejected (or at least bored) while being left alone. Meanwhile, your partner needs some alone time maintain sanity. But the fact that one of you needs more alone time than the other doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t love you.
Try this: If you are the “loner” partner, you know that solitary time is not just a want but a need. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s important to keep in mind that your partner and/or family needs you, too. Perhaps you can get by on a limited amount of time to yourself, and then rejoin the family.
If you’re the more social one, it might help to remember that your partner will be more relaxed and nicer to be around after they get some alone time. Why not find a good use for that time? Catch up on some bills or phone calls, or do a hobby. Keep that positive attitude, too. If you spend the time brooding and thinking about how angry you are at your partner, what’s going to happen when they finally emerge and sense your bad mood? On the other hand, what will happen if you are upbeat and happy when they come out?
Finally, when you reunite for some together time, be truly present. Don’t just be there in body with your mind somewhere else. Have some actual conversation, where you put screens away, look each other in the eye, and find out what is going on in each other’s lives. Do something nice for each other. Think about the things you love about your partner and why you’re happy to be with them.
This blog will be continued with other great ideas!