By Amanda Singer
Being ordered to shelter in place can be difficult for people in thriving happy relationships and even more difficult if you were already fighting and unhappy before being ordered to stay home. While many things can be done to help during this time, having solid communication skills are just as important now as ever. Here are a few ways you and your spouse or partner can have effective communication skills during this difficult time. These tips will also hopefully help you once things begin to return to “normal.”
No One Can Read Minds
First, it’s important to note that your spouse (or anyone for that matter) is not a mind reader, just because you think it’s clear that you’re upset, angry or frustrated doesn’t mean that they realize it and/or understand why you’re upset. It’s essential to communicate to them what you’re feeling and thinking, so they know what’s going on. I know that I often think that my partner should know how I’m feeling and then realize without telling him, how would he know? Letting them know what’s bothering you is the first step to being able to resolve whatever the issue is. If they don’t know, they are not thinking about what can be done to change it or how the situation can change.
Everyone Is Stressed
Second, understand that everyone has A LOT going on in their lives right now, and their anger or frustration that they’re taking out on you may have nothing to do with you. I know that my partner often bears the brunt of my frustration with my clients or parents because he’s the one that’s there all of the time, and a small thing he does may set me off to yell at him when I’m really just upset at someone else. It’s ok to feel these emotions. What’s important is being able to acknowledge that there is something else going on and to either discuss it or be able to let it go.
Recently, my fiancé went to the grocery store for our weekly trip since he’s been doing that for us, and he came home in a bad mood and was very short with me. I asked him what was wrong, and he said “nothing,” but it continued. I told him, “I know you say nothing is wrong, but you’re acting very short with me, and I feel like you’re upset with me.”
It took him a few minutes while we were wiping down and putting our groceries away, but he finally said to me, “I’m sorry it’s not you that I’m mad with.” He explained that grocery shopping with a mask and in the environment that he was in just put him in a bad mood, and he hadn’t even realized it until I brought it up. Once he explained that to me, I was able to understand better that it wasn’t about me and support him as he needed.
Establish Expectations with the Other Person
Third, establish with your partner what they do and don’t want from you in certain situations. Sometimes your partner will want to discuss something, and sometimes they won’t. As someone who often asks a lot of questions (I think it’s one of the things that makes me a good mediator!), I will often ask my partner lots of questions when he’s telling me about something, and sometimes it makes him even more frustrated. I find it’s helpful to ask my partner whether he wants my advice or just for me to listen and to follow whatever it is he asks for. Asking this question can save you both the frustration of providing advice that isn’t followed or feeling like your partner is just trying to “fix” all of your problems and not listening to what you have to say.
Get Some Time Alone
Lastly, with everyone under one roof with couples often both working from home and trying home school children, it’s imperative to make sure that everyone has some alone time, this includes older children. Having time to decompress and do whatever it is that helps you destress is even more important now when you may have lost some of your usual alone time. I would recommend you sit down with your partner and family and put together a schedule of when everyone has their time to be on their own and do whatever it is that they want to do. Additionally, I find it helpful throughout the day to put my headphones in, turn on the noise-canceling option, and just give myself a chance to forget what’s going on around me. While that might not always be possible, especially if you have little kids, you’re watching, but it can be helpful when you do have your alone time to provide you with actual quiet.
If you are having difficulties communicating with your spouse, partner, or family, mediation can help. Contact us, and our mediators can help with improving communication and dealing with issues. Call San Diego Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 today!