Hey, I Need Help! Part 2

Last time we looked at how chores around the house can cause major stress in your marriage. If one spouse feels they do a majority of the chores while their partner relaxes, this can lead to resentment and anger.

So how do you divide these chores up so  no one is feeling  they are doing an unfair percentage of the work load?

First, do either or both of you need an attitude change?

Photo by Rachael Ball

Photo by Rachael Ball

Maybe you do most of the work…. But do you have expectations of your spouse that cause you to demand things your way? Have you lost your servant heart in all the resentment? Fix your attitude and get in a place where you can forgive and start a new discussion with a servant heart.

And if you suddenly realize that you are the one relaxing, then it’s time for you to think through why that is. Do you notice when things need to be done or your spouse is exhausted? Do you wish he or she was more relaxed? When you think of helping out with chores, how does that make you feel? Maybe you are OK with messiness, or maybe you just don’t want to help out. Figure it out and make a decision to be a servant to your spouse and take part in keeping your household orderly.

Now you can have a discussion to clear the air and start fresh. Listen to understand each other. Forgive if needed. Bend if that helps. Throw out any unrealistic expectations.

List all of the tasks that you both do around the house by frequency.

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Decide which tasks you each prefer to do on a regular basis. For example: One may prefer to cook. That’s great. You’re probably better at it and don’t mind doing it. Narrow the list this way.

The rest you need to creatively work at dividing up.

Maybe neither of you want to vacuum. But you can trade off every other week. One may decide to do the vacuuming if the other spouse mops. You can horse trade. I’ll do this if you do that. Try to work through the list with this give and take cooperative attitude. Be creative. The goal is to equitably share the chores.

If there are items left on the list still, you could agree to do those together. Four hands work faster!

Every family is unique. Your situation may determine who does what chore. If only one spouse is working, the other spouse will usually have more on their list. Find a way to work at sharing the work load around the house so that no one feels they are doing an unfair amount of the work.

Hey, I Need Help!

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

How many have fights and arguments about who does what chore around the house?  Who’s responsible for each chore and do you divide up responsibilities equitably?  What if you feel that you’re doing more than your fair share?

You get up at 5:30 in the morning, work an eight-hour day with an hour commute each way, arrive home, start dinner, then you clean up the dishes, get the kids ready for bed, and put in a load of laundry, get a quick shower before collapsing in bed around eleven, set the alarm and get ready to do it again tomorrow.  If your spouse gets home from work around the same time you do, eats dinner, watches the news, plays a few video games before his favorite sport on TV, then manages to arrive in bed about the same time you do and asks if you got the laundry done today because he’s out of clean socks, you would probably feel that something is wrong with this picture.

Since every family situation is unique, there is no right answer to how to divide up the chores that we do every day.  Unless you have the luxury of 24/7 maid service, most families share the common chores around the house.  We have to shop, clean, vacuum, laundry, yard work, the trash, feed the dog, pay the bills, cooking, caring for the kids, and more day to day tasks.

If there’s an imbalance, one spouse will feel resentful that they are doing more of the work.  What do you do with those feelings?

Some may internalize these feelings, play the martyr, and not voice the frustration they feel.  It will seem unfair and unloving, and cause them to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and resentful.  When that request for clean socks comes at the end of the day, it is easy to act out the resentment that has been building. A simple discussion balloons to a big fight over fairness.

Others will express their feelings, but come across as nagging. When they constantly badger their spouse, it puts a guilt trip on them.  And if the spouse does the chore, they may feel resentful about being forced into it or not having a choice of timing or method. It is not a good feeling to be forced into doing something so some  may just refuse and that provokes a fight.

Either dynamic will be a major source of conflict and separation in a marriage.

So how do you divide these chores up so that no one is feeling that they are doing an unfairly large percentage of the work load?

Next time we’ll take a look at some solutions to this age old problem.

Weekend Away

How important is it to have a scheduled weekend getaway with your spouse? Should you try to sneak a time in once a year? Would that be enough? After all, we are so busy and it’s really hard to get a full three days away. Who will take care of the kids? And what about all the projects that we need to get done? Who has the time?

Do the excuses sound familiar? Why is it that we schedule other things but time away together gets pushed into the “maybe someday” category? Let me ask you this, in the past three or four years has “someday” ever come? Or are you like so many couples who never take time away. Life and circumstances determine your schedule.

Here’s an analogy: your laptop. How long can you use it on battery alone? A full day, or maybe several hours? Before long, you need to plug it in and get recharged. It has used all of its reserve power. It is running on empty. And what if it just kept running, but very slowly. It would take forever to process. (I know; it sounds like your laptop even when fully charged!) But think about it. How long would you tolerate it running so slow? And after running slow for so long, you would begin thinking that’s normal.

Photo by franckreporter

Photo by franckreporter

I think our relationship with our spouse is like the laptop. It needs to be recharged because after a while, it starts running on empty. For many of us, we are so used to running on empty, it seems normal. It would be great if we had an ap with a meter that would pop up and say, “Danger. Danger. Relationship running on empty. Need time away. Would you like me to schedule that for you?”

I believe most importantly, you need to predetermine that time away together is a priority. And you should try to work it in every three months.

Here are some important reasons for time away together:

  • Relax – No phones, noise, laptops, emails – Take a deep breath and relax.
  • Reconnect – You’ll have time to talk. Take a long walk on the beach and talk.
  • Remember – You can share favorite memories together over dinner.
  • Rejuvenate – Focus on making your relationship fresh again.
  • Recharge – Get your energy level back up and feel renewed, ready for life.
  • Reignite – Take time to stoke the flames of passion and let things heat up.

Well, now it’s time to do something. Resolve to make it happen. Tell your wife you want to go out for dinner and get out your calendars and schedule a weekend away. Sure, there’ll be details to work out, but it will be worth it.

More From Dr. Gottman – Stonewalling

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage by John Gottman, Ph.D.  Today we’ll take a look at the fourth and final of the four negative relational interactions, Stonewalling.

When the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness continues for an extended period, one spouse may eventually just tune out and give up.  They no longer engage inthe argument, they stop trying to give an answer, and will usually just walk away.  They stop the back and forth pattern in the

By cal-retroart

By cal-retroart

critical and contemptuous cycles, and give up trying to defend themselves.  They shut down, walk away, and hide.  But in so doing they also walk away from a meaningful relationship.

Stonewalling is avoiding.  You avoid the fights, arguments, bickering, and critical hurtful comments.  You avoid tension, hostility, and anger.  Your defensiveness has found a new tactic as you seek the peace that comes from silence, but it’s at the cost of your relationship.

You avoid the conflicts, but give up hope for being close.

I remember the years of being apathetic in my relationship.  I tried many times to find a way to get closer to Darleen, but something wasn’t right.  After reading books and going to seminars and still not being able to get close, I thought to myself, “I don’t care anymore.”  There would be long periods of stonewalling when I would not engage.  I was distant, cold, and unapproachable.

I look back on these years as the desert years.  I was telling myself a lie that I didn’t care, when I really cared very much.  I wanted a closeness in our relationship but I would get frustrated and distance myself, believing the lie.

After many years, I rejected that lie, and embraced the truth that I loved Darleen very much, and I needed to act on that belief every day by praying for a healing in our relationship.  No more stonewalling.  It was a time to be fully engaged and to pursue removing the barriers that kept us apart.

I was confronted with a choice: that I could remain apathetic and we’d have another 30 years of a marriage characterized by distance and separation, or I could determine to work on it and we could spend the next 30 years as soulmates.

I chose soulmates, and by God’s grace, we are now enjoying years of closeness like we never had before.

Stonewalling kills a relationship.  It signals I would rather be away from you in silence than to be close to you working on being soulmates.

If you see a pattern of stonewalling in your relationship, I hope this has helped you see the need to work through your issues so you can enjoy a soulmate relationship.  You must be willing to take the steps to grow personally.

I truly hope that you choose to grow.

More From Dr. Gottman – Defensiveness

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. Today we’ll take a look at the third of the four negative relational interactions, defensiveness.

We can all think of times when we have responded to our spouse in a defensive way. We point out why something did or didn’t happen that way. We’re saying,

“Hey, it’s not my fault because…”

We go on to explain why we aren’t to blame. We deflect a perceived attack by shifting the blame to someone or something else.

“Yes, I said that, but it’s because you did this and caused me to say that!”

Defensiveness deflects the attack and changes the focus to someone or something else.

Dr. Gottman says that this rarely has the desired effect. The attacking spouse usually doesn’t back down, tending to ignore the excuses and continue the attack. The defensive spouse does not apologize and is trying to shift the focus off themselves. The battleground is set with repeated attack and defend, attack and defend cycles.

Are you thinking this sound a lot like your arguments? You bring up something to your spouse and immediately they’re defensive. They never admit to doing anything wrong, but instead come up with every excuse in the book to justify themselves.

If you have a habit of being in this kind of a cycle, try using the “take a break” approach. When you feel attacked, ask your spouse to tell you what they think you did wrong. Listen and repeat back what you heard. Then ask, “Is that accurate?” Listen only to clarify their perspective.  Ask, “Is there more?” When you both agree that you understand ask, “Could I have time to think and we can talk about it later today? I need time to reflect on what you are saying.”

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Whenever things escalate into a tense hostile exchange, it is usually best to step away so that we can calm ourselves down. Remember that your relationship and closeness is more important than winning a particular argument. Make it your focus to have your relationship win.

Hopefully, your spouse will respond by giving you the time you need and not just continue the attack. Then use that time to truly self-evaluate. Be honest with yourself and take responsibility for your own wrong-doing in the matter.

If you recognize yourself as the spouse who usually is the attacker, I hope you will be convicted that attacking is not a loving way to approach your spouse. When you are in an argument, try asking questions that seek to understand why your spouse responded a particular way.  You may hear new data points that change your perspective.

Seek to understand, not attack. It may be true that they did something wrong, but be quick to forgive and give them space to come to that conviction on their own, not because you railroaded them in to conviction.

Stop attacking and start loving.

Navigating a Life Changing Event

Recently, and fairly suddenly, Alan and I chose to embrace some changes in our life that are having a big impact on us. Alan was laid off his job late last year and was pursuing another job. If that wasn’t enough our church’s leadership team fell apart and urgently needed help to fill in the blanks. Never ever did we contemplate Alan volunteering for the board of directors of a large church, but that’s what he did after we prayed, sought counsel, and agreed together that the Lord was leading him there.

Photo by Andy Stafiniak

Photo by Andy Stafiniak

Within a week he was attending several meetings a week. Evenings, mornings, long meetings, emergency meetings. Lots of phone calls, email and text communications. It was a very different schedule, sort of like when we prepared for our daughter’s wedding. Those last few months were non-stop and we never felt caught up.

We have always been extremely protective of our time alone for dates and intimacy and it took a few weeks to notice that this new schedule was taking a toll. We also felt the effect on our exercise goals that fell to a lower priority. We were tending to eat fast food on the fly. The long hours, less exercise, and poor food choices meant less energy for intimate time and getting everyday chores done.

Though this has been a big change for us, I know that some couples live in this state of busyness constantly and it doesn’t ease up for them. So temporary or constant, how can we navigate these times and keep our marriages fresh and passionate?

There are the obvious things:

  • Is there anything you can let go of?
  • Decide together if you should add something new.
  • Intentionally shut the phones off for time to connect.
  • Stop things that just waste time- TV, web surfing, gaming.

And schedule intimate time if you have to but be open to unconventional or spontaneous times. When a meeting cancels, don’t waste the opportunity! On the other hand, let go and be content if your time together gets postponed once in a while.

Most important are your attitudes. It’s easy to blame and resent your spouse when they change the plans. But that attitude will only hurt you both if you hold on to it. Don’t ever doubt your spouse’s commitment and love. Making assumptions about their intentions never helps. When your feelings get hurt or your hopes dashed, talk about how you feel

Photo by John Nyberg

Photo by John Nyberg

and work together to get the time you need.

And finally, don’t forget to plan for and go on that get-away time where you can relax and enjoy each other without any interruptions!

More From Dr. Gottman- Contempt

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. Today we’ll take a look at the second of the four negative relational interactions, contempt.

Dr. Gottman calls this particular negative interaction the “worst of the four horsemen.” It is characterized by name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mocking, and hostile humor. It can be described as a style of communicating that is sarcastic, cynical, and often conveys disgust. It can have deadly consequences to relationships.

Photo by vladimirfloyd

Photo by vladimirfloyd

Contempt can usually be seen in comments dripping with sarcasm such as, “You’re so lazy. You’re just like your mother. You expect everyone to do things for you.” Or the wife who says “You don’t have enough to pay the bills because you don’t have a job that pays enough. You’re too stupid to get a good job”. Hateful sarcasm like this is intended to deliberately hurt and demean the listener. It’s a direct attack on the person.

In some cases, the attacker sees the argument as a battle to win. The better they attack their spouse, the better they feel about themselves because they are winning. They win by belittling their spouse.

Contempt is a product of long periods of having issues and negative thoughts that are left unresolved. The issues tend to build up like a pressure cooker. This neglect of solving the issues breaks out in harsh attacks directed at the spouse. There are cutting, critical, caustic, demeaning words intended to hurt the other person. They are by nature, a show of deep disrespect.

If you resort to contempt in arguments with your spouse, you need to step back and take a serious look at your relationship. A relationship that is marked by interactions that show contempt is on a course designed for failure.

  • Are you harboring anger towards your spouse?
  • Are there issues that are making you so mad that you have lost respect for your spouse?

You have probably tried to deal with these issues but have lost hope that they can ever be resolved, so you have given up. You may want a better relationship, but you feel that it’s useless because they’ll never change.

Please seek help if you find yourself in a relationship marked by contempt. Resolve in your heart that you want a restored relationship marked by love and understanding. Ask your spouse to go with you to seek counseling. Find someone to help you walk through your issues. Look for a godly couple or counselor who can guide you through the issues that are destroying your marriage.

Humble yourself and pray for God’s grace as you seek to heal your marriage.