My husband and I love to dance. At least once during each of our 24 years of marriage we’ve gone to a big band dance where we do our version of dancing. Once we took a Tango lesson. The Tango is not easy to learn. If the man doesn’t know what to do, the woman will turn wrong. If the woman hasn’t practiced, one of her kicks could hit him in … well … she could hurt him. My husband and I realized we couldn’t learn the Tango without an instructor.
Navigating your marriage during COVID19 is like learning a new dance. Remember when you got married? You were so in love! Fast forward to COVID19. Now you’re both under one roof 24/7! Suddenly prince charming is a rude, lazy toad, and the princess has turned into a nagging shrew. How do you keep from losing your sanity or filing for divorce?
You do it by changing your marriage dance. What? You didn’t even know the two of you were dancing? Yes, you have been. Somewhere either when you were dating or early in your marriage the two of you learned a dance. This is your unique marriage dance. Your marriage dance is how you interact or don’t, communicate or don’t, deal with conflict or don’t. It is all the big and little ways that you two are who you are with each other in your marriage.
This marriage dance starts out of love but sometimes becomes a dance of unheard, unfulfilled wants and needs, full of pain, hurt, anger and resentments. Then COVID19 with its social distancing, sheltering in place, layoffs, lost income, fear of dying, and more shows up. This puts a spotlight on all the ways your marriage dance isn’t working. Up until now your careers and normal lifestyle have helped you avoid looking at and dealing with the struggles in your marriage. Not so anymore!
You now have a choice to make. Learn a new marriage dance, continue to be miserable, or file for divorce as soon as the social distancing ban is lifted. Right here, right now you get decide which future you want to create.
I can hear you say: “But you don’t understand. It is my spouse that is the problem!”
What if they aren’t the problem? What if neither of you are the problem? It isn’t about them being wrong and you being right. It isn’t about you being wrong. It is about you being happy. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? You loved them once and you can love them again. Especially when you realize that it is the dance that is the problem!
Good news! It only takes one person to learn and lead a new dance. We never have the power to change someone else, but we always have the power to change what we do. You can choose to keep blaming them or you can choose to learn a new dance. Here is the real magic of learning and leading a new dance: over time your spouse will follow. Because just like you they want to be happy.
Ready to learn a new dance? Here are few steps to get you started:
Create clear communication. There are four parts to communication: A. What you said. B. What you meant. C. What they heard. D. What they thought you meant. You can avoid misunderstandings by asking the person to tell you what they thought you meant and then clearing up any miscommunication.
Use “I Messages” instead of “You Messages” Example of a “You Message”: “I was hurt when you didn’t ask me how I wanted to deal with us both working from home.” Here it is as an “I Message”: “I was hurt when I wasn’t included in figuring out how we both would work from home.” Using an “I Message” gets rid of the word “you” and any blame. It allows the other person to understand how you feel because they aren’t focused on defending themselves.
Take a break and breath. When things get tense, it is ok to say: “I need to take a break a focus on dealing with my own thoughts and feelings. I’ll be back in a bit.” Then you can go to another room. Once there, breath in through the mouth slowly to the count of 5. Hold to the count of 3. Breath out through the nose slowly to the count of 5. This technique takes you out of fight, flight, or freeze and puts you back into the part of your brain where you can become calm, process and problem solve.
Notice your feelings and thoughts. Ask yourself what you’re feeling (angry, hurt, sad, irritated, etc). Ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Your answer is a thought. If you don’t like how you are feeling, you can change your feeling by thinking a different thought. Example: Feeling Angry. Why am I angry? Because he leaves dirty dishes all over making more work for me. Don’t want to feel angry? Try thinking: I will give myself permission to ask him to take care of his dirty dishes.
These steps take practice. Just like my husband and I needed an instructor to teach us the Tango, you too may need help. This is where I come in. I am a Certified Life Coach that specializes in helping people create the marriage of their dreams.
Here is what I know for sure. If you are unhappy, what you’re currently doing isn’t working. It doesn’t have to stay that way. You can learn and lead a new marriage dance. I know how to teach you. Just email me at Cindy@SparkMindsetCoaching.com