It’s been a challenging month at LemonAid HQ…constant arguments, bickering, both of us mired deeply in our respective positions and unwilling to step out of them for more than the briefest of times. You could say our experiment in living together has started with a bang…but not of the best kind!!
After a particularly stressful week that included multiple “Should we just end it?” conversations and only very brief respites in between recurring arguments about the same things over and over, on Sunday morning we happened across this article on how to make your relationship amazing.
Fortuitous timing since only the night before we’d attempted to have a conversation about establishing some ‘rules’ to try and improve how we handle the ongoing conflict in a more loving and adult way between us. The rules we’d come up with looked like this:
- Maintain an open physical posture. No arm crossing or sitting in the precipice of the bed/sofa as far away as possible from each other.
- Hold hands or maintain other physical touch, throughout difficult discussions.
- Agree what we’re trying to achieve, and keep coming back to this.
- No name calling.
- No meanness.
- No eye rolling.
- No absolutes e.g. “You always…”, “You never…”
- No interrupting – use the talking stick to let each other speak uninterrupted.
- Try the following technique:
Person 1: “I feel…” – for 1 minute.
Person 2: “I heard you say…” “What was the most important thing you want me to hear? And why? What can we do about it?”
- Agree themes still to discuss even if there’s no immediate resolution.
Naturally we did so well following our own rules while making them that we ended up in yet another argument!
So back to the article…in a nutshell, here’s the summary based on a TON of research:
- Positive emotion beats problem-solving: Good feelings come first otherwise you’re solving problems with… someone you don’t like very much.
[We’d both got into a very negative cycle of thinking the worst of each other, focusing on the negatives and generally wondering why we were together].
- Avoid The Four Horsemen: Less criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. And no contempt.
[Becky does criticism, we both do defensiveness, Lea does stonewalling, we both can descend into contempt].
- Perpetual problems don’t get solved: You can walk fine on a trick knee if you understand its quirks and don’t let it frustrate you.
[There are recurring issues we argue about; the children’s dynamics is a key one which may never be fully resolved].
- Soft startup to conflict discussions: Ladies, complain but don’t criticize. Conversations that begin negative almost always end negative. [Becky’s the mistress at criticising!]
- Time-outs beat stonewalling: Guys, don’t tune out if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ask for a 20 minute break. [Lea’s the master at stonewalling!]
- Don’t resist — repair: Laughing, being nice or acknowledging what was said doesn’t mean you immediately lose the argument. And it might stop you from losing your partner. [Becky’s far better at this than Lea].
Reading the article in bed together on Sunday morning helped reset us; we managed to get back on the same page, or at least in the same book and are agreeing new rules which look something like this…
The New Rules
- If we can, in the middle of an argument, list 3 things we love about each other, using our ‘love time-out’ signal to initiate and remind us of this.
- Use time outs instead of silence (Lea especially!), to take a breather and gather our thoughts.
- No name calling (Becky), eye rolling (Lea), sarcasm (Becky), and mocking (both).
- Agree which issues we’re going to park, that aren’t fully off the table but that aren’t going to be resolved just yet. And once we’ve agreed, let’s not keep bringing them up.
- Start difficult conversations positively and gently…we’re not yet sure exactly what this looks like but we’re working on it!
- Keep trying to reconnect throughout an argument…both of us (especially Lea).
- Maintain high expectations of each other!
- Agree what we’re trying to achieve and keep coming back to it.
- Remember the good times!
Wanting The Same Thing…
Fundamentally, we both agree that we want the same thing: That we want to create an amazing relationship for ourselves, and that we want to create and head up a loving blended family with our little wolf pack of 4.
And that means we agree…
On working towards the same hopes, dreams and goals of home educating all 4 children together, of multiple extended travel fun both with and without the children.
That we want to live together as a family, and that at the moment this means a fairly minimalist lifestyle when it comes to stuff (including – especially – the children’s stuff), it means figuring out how to juggle working from home, while home educating 4 children on part-time hours, it means figuring out how to prioritise ourselves alongside work, family and running the household.
It means figuring out how to handle navigating through our own emotional journeys, with the help of our therapists, and without playing out our stuff with each other (too much!).
It means expecting the best of ourselves and each other and not the worst, and staying willing to explore the hard stuff.
It means that if we want this, we commit to this, no matter what. All in!
That’s a scary proposition for both of us…but as we keep reminding each other:
What if what we most want is on the other side of what feels like the most dangerous precipice or behind the thickest wall? Do we dare jump ?