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.

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.

Who Are These Bears?

The Lions, Bees, Bears, and Otters are four temperaments explored in Dr. Sandra Scantling’s book Extraordinary Sex Now. Previously we explored the structured, disciplined Bees and the whimsical frolicking Otters. And we have also looked in on the take charge Lions. Now let’s look at the loveable supportive Bears.

A Syed

A Syed

Bears are stabilizers. No big surprises here. They tend to be thoughtful and contemplative types, often shy and retiring. They’re supportive and calming to those around them. They fear rejection the most and want to be liked, accepted, and appreciated. They are good listeners and non-confrontational, unless backed into a corner; then watch out. Bears can attack if provoked. They also tend to hide their feelings, so you will need to gently coax them out of their den. Quite cautious, Bears avoid risks. They prefer to play it safe, so don’t expect them to respond quickly or to take charge of things. They may procrastinate, waiting for a safe time to proceed.

Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind if you are married to a Bear:

  • Be clear about what you want and expect. Bears aren’t mind readers.
  • Don’t expect perfection. Bears are ok with good enough – Bees should take note.
  • Affirm and praise your Bear for positive efforts – Appreciation is important to them
  • Avoid blaming or finding fault. This will drive them into their cave. Bears with hurt feelings stew for a long time.
  • Be patient with your Bear. They will come along, but usually later rather than sooner.
  • Because they fear rejection, be thoughtful how you bring up things for constructive review.
  • Give your Bear space. If they need time to think it over, it will be time well spent.
  • Solve tough issues a little at a time, to avoid overwhelming them.

For those of you who identify with being a Bear, here are some things that will be helpful to you:

  • Make a concerted effort to understand your partner’s feelings. Practice empathy to see it through your partner’s eyes.
  • Listen to your own feelings. This is tough. Reach deep to understand what you are feeling. Then, let your partner know.
  • Work at being more assertive. Express what you think. Take a risk.
  • Open up and share things about yourself that are personal.
  • When you are hurt, be honest and willing to express what has hurt you. Don’t bottle it up.
  • Try to be more adventurous. Make the suggestion for what to do on your next date and have some fun. Learn to be a little more Otter-like.
  • And finally, it’s OK to say No. Don’t agree to do something and then be angry because you really didn’t want to do it. Be honest in the first place.

Be thankful for your Bear. They will be supportive and loyal to you. Appreciate them and don’t try to make them into a Bee or a Lion or an Otter.

Bear with them as they are.

Who Are These Lions?

The Lions, Bees, Bears, and Otters are four temperaments explored in Dr. Sandra Scantling’s book Extraordinary Sex Now. Previously we explored the structured, disciplined Bees and the whimsical, frolicking Otters. Now we’ll take a look at the bold, conquering Lions.

 Gergely Kökényesy

Gergely Kökényesy

Lions make no apologies for being in charge. They’ve mastered leadership skills and boldly take point on most projects. They are strong, confident, and responsible, prefering to do things themselves, finding security in knowing it will get done right. With all of these positive qualities, Lions can also be lonely, insecure, and concerned about being unlovable. While this seems a contradiction, it’s part of the fabric of the Lion’s temperament. They have a tough, take charge exterior, and an insecure, do you still love me interior.

Lions are quintessential extroverts. They speak candidly, then are confused why you think they’re insensitive. You asked what they thought, and true to the nature of the Lion, they told you while firmly lodging their foot in their mouth. They have high expectations and value conquering and attaining their goals. They are generous and see value in helping the less fortunate.

Here are some other qualities you will often find in the Lion:

  • They like being the initiator, the leader
  • Generally prefer to lead on their own as opposed to being a co-equal team player
  • Quick to anger and let you know their upset, but get over it quickly and move on
  • They can be short on patience and frustrated with someone who takes too much time or reflection
  • Can be intense, focused, overbearing, and pushy to get things moving
  • Appearance is important and they take pride in looking well dressed and groomed
  • They can be arrogant, self-serving, and out of touch with the needs of others

If you find that you are married to a Lion:

  • Remember they enjoy a challenge. If your relationship is  stale, try to engage him by considering together what will move your relationship from a 4 to an 8 or a 9.
  • They like to be in control, so challenging their leadership will be unwelcome. Make suggestions not demands.
  • Understand that they want to know that they are loved. Beneath the tough exterior is often insecurity.
  • They appreciate a forth right approach. Don’t beat around the proverbial bush. Get to the point.
  • Be clear when they have hurt your feelings. Lions are not the best mind readers, so you’ll have to come right out and say it. They appreciate the direct approach.
  • Lions thrive on verbal affirmations and physical shows of affection.
  • Don’t harbor hurts. Get things resolved sooner rather than later.

And some suggestions for you Lions:

  • Lions would do well to remember to be more flexible and understanding. Remember that when you reach the goal, you’ll want us with you.
  • Temper what you say and how you say it; not everyone desires to hear it like you see it.

Next time we will visit the cave of the stabilizing Bear.

Housecleaning 101

Every now and then we need to do some house cleaning.  Usually, due to life’s ever expanding busy schedule and just because things pile up, we need to stop for a few minutes and clean up.  We need to put things back where they belong, wash the dishes, mop the floor, clean off the clutter from the kitchen counters, put the gardens tool back where they go in the garage, and throw away all the mess that has been accumulating around the house.  Ah, doesn’t it feel good?!  Just cleaning up a little here and there can make the heaviness go away!  It even feels good just writing about it. 

How do we apply the House Cleaning 101 lesson to our relationships?  Do we build up messy issues that tend to clutter things up?  Do we leave unresolved sticky problems that, well, we just don’t want to get in to?  Clutter in your relationship is worse than clutter in the house.  In the house, you can just step over it.  No harm no foul, right?  OK!  OK!  Some of you ladies are not agreeing with that one.  But my point is that clutter in your relationship is way worse because it robs us of the ability to be close and intimate with someone special that you really love.  Clutter keeps you at a distance, alone and lonely. 

So what clutter do you have in your relationship?  This takes courage.  Take some time and do some self-assessment of issues that you may have buried and need to discuss.  What are some hurtful things that have happened in the past that aren’t fully resolved? 

One simple exercise is to ask your spouse to honestly let you know the three or four things that you do, maybe out of habit, laziness, insensitivity, or whatever, that really bothers her or him.  The person asking has to be vulnerable and open to hearing about themselves and they must have a willingness to try to understand the other person’s perspective.  This is not a time for self-defense, but rather a time for self-appraisal:  how do the things I do irritate you?  How do they bother you or make you upset?  I really want to understand how my actions make you feel.  Then, ask your spouse what you can do to help improve the situation.  What can you do to change?  This is a very important part of a maturing relationship, when you can exercise personal growth and work at changing those things in your life that are having a negative impact on your spouse.  By beginning to change these things, you can remove some of the relationship clutter and allow your relationship to become closer and more intimate. 

House Cleaning 101.  Try it!  You’ll like the results.        

More Making It Count

So ladies, now it is time for us to make it count!

Did your husband ever do or say something that really made you feel special?  To have his undivided loving attention is like a refreshing shower, energizing your whole being. I bet you felt important to him, indispensable and cherished.  And you probably really liked that feeling!

So it is not hard to imagine that your husband would like to feel special too… that he is your hero, and you admire and respect him for his qualities.  Making each other feel cherished adds to the positive relational bank account that protects our marriages from the effects of negative, draining interactions that happen every now and then.

One major hindrance is busyness.  When I am working my way through an endless task list to keep the house running efficiently or get ready for an event, I tend to put relational needs on the back burner.  A few years into our marriage, Alan challenged me to think about putting him on my task list!  That was a big wake up call for me—just because there are tasks to be done doesn’t mean the people in our lives can be put on hold.  Tasks can wait.

We need to have an attitude of gratitude also.  Discontent saps our ability to see the positive in our husbands and the circumstances we’re in, causing a negative focus.  When we are thankful we are able to see what is good and true about people and situations.

So armed and motivated to make it count, what do we do?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Every man wants to be admired, especially by his wife!  Verbalize what you like about his character, his body, what a leader or father he is, and the good work he does.  It costs nothing and your man needs positive affirmations from you.  Most men don’t know what you think unless you tell him, so say it, on a regular basis!
  2. What kind of affectionate touch does your husband like?  Maybe he likes to be massaged or scratched on his back, or neck.  Or a hug and kiss with a whispered promise for more later! Spontaneous touching is soothing and conveys love and acceptance.
  3. Write your husband a note now and then, expressing something you are thankful for about him.  Give it to him in his lunch or mail to his office.
  4. Pray for him.  He may not know it but what better way to support him in all he does than to bring him before the Lord daily.  It will help him and keep you thankful and humble also.

It is not very time consuming to give a hug or tell your husband he’s an incredible father.  If you have a hard time doing it, search your heart for resentment, ingratitude, or selfishness that causes you to withhold positive affirmations.  Pray about it.  Ask Jesus to reveal what holds you back and to help you break through.  Your own personal growth will contribute so much to your marriage.

 Remember it takes 5 positive deposits to your relational bank account to counteract 1 negative withdrawal.  Keep adding deposits, every day, and you will be making it count!

Be Thankful For Struggles

Are there struggles in your marriage that never seem to go away in spite of many times talking it through?  When struggles happen over and over without getting resolved, we often try to bury the issue  and avoid the triggers.  Obviously nothing is solved and those issues have a way of popping up again at the most unexpected or worst times.

I think there is a better way to approach marital problems in general, and especially the recurring ones.  Let’s look at a verse from Romans that you have probably seen before…

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope… Romans 5:3-4 (NASB)

For me, being thankful in struggles is difficult!  I may feel angry or sad and thankfulness is far from my mind.  It is important to feel those emotions though; to analyze where they are coming from and what from our past prompts them.  The point is to learn from them, decide which feelings make sense and which don’t, which square with the facts and which to let go of now that we are adults.  In the process we learn about ourselves and our own personal issues.

Struggles are a constant part of life and we need to keep up the self-evaluation and discussions with our spouse to get through them.  This is perseverance.  Dictionary.com defines perseverance as a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”   Keep your purpose forefront in your minds- a better marriage with this person to whom you have committed your life.  Your course of action is to keep chipping away at the issues that plague you individually and together.  When a problem recurs for the nth time, that is the time to persevere all the more.

When we develop a habit of persevering through struggles with our spouse we have developed our character!  We have fought for a closer marriage.  Our intentions to honor our marriage vows are proven over time.  Bit by bit issues are resolved, we understand and empathize with each other, we cherish and love with greater depth.

And with proven character we acquire hope.  From Wikipedia: “Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair,

  • which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in one’s life.
  • the feeling that …events will turn out for the best
  • looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.”

It is a good thing when you really believe your marriage will get better, that all will turn out for the best, and that we have confidence in each other!  That is hope. And it is worth the persevering to get it.

Let’s go back to thankfulness now… When you have persevered through a few issues and come out with a closer relationship on the other side, then thankfulness starts to make more sense.  You begin to see that struggle is an essential part of the path to a soul mate marriage and should be accepted with gratitude.

When I hear older couples say they love each other more all the time, I think that they must have thankfully practiced perseverance over many years!  In the midst of struggle, try to remember what you have to look forward to and be thankful.