Doing Life Together

argueFive years ago, there was no conflict. Renee and Jerry decided to have children. At the time, both felt it was best for Renee to stay home with the children while Jerry worked outside the home.

Recently, Renee was having a tough day, complaining about the children and feeling left out of adult life. In a moment of anger, Jerry said, “Why are you complaining about your day. You are at home with the kids. How hard can that be?”

Renee couldn’t believe what she heard and was deeply hurt. When Jerry saw Renee’s reaction, he was surprised. What was he missing here? Actually, a lot! Jerry and Renee started to fight.

1) Jerry wasn’t paying attention Renee’s needs and emotions. He didn’t know her inner world and how to respond to it. Just because she agreed to stay home didn’t mean the adjustment was easy.  A deeper issue was at work—the need to be validated for a job that doesn’t have immediate benefits and is often devalued in our culture. Renee had willingly given up a lucrative career because she believed being a full time mom was important. Instead of minimizing her struggles, Jerry needed to listen and validate them. Strategy 1: Stay attuned to your partner’s needs and validate them.

2) A one time agreement may have to be renegotiated as a couple lives out their decisions. Reality often looks different than an idea or plan. Flexibility is needed. Were there ways Renee could reconnect with other professional women upon occasion? Could the couple plan a regular night out to reconnect as husband and wife? Should Jerry and Renee do a regular check to see how this arrangement is going and decide if adjustments were needed? Strategy 2: Remain flexible to change and make adjustments along the way. 

3) Many homemaking tasks are menial and not exciting, but required when two people live together and create a family. The couple could approach some of those menial tasks together; get them done so they can have time to do fun things. When they share responsibilities and mutually support one another, this brings satisfaction. Strategy 3: Balance the workload in order to spend time together strengthening yourself as a couple.

4) Couples need to do “weather” checks. A weather check is asking the other person, on a regular basis, if things are cloudy, getting a little stormy, or maybe sunny. How are we doing today? Okay? Is there anything we need to talk about? Strategy 4: Show concern for each other’s well-being by regularly asking how the person is doing.

Relationships need constant attention and discussion in order to keep conflict at bay. Otherwise, problems build, explosions happen and no one is feeling the love. If you can add these 4 strategies to your relationship, conflict is less likely to happen.

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