It seems it’s easier to get along with a spouse when you’re not tied down to the same space all day, every day. But you can stay happy and keep your marriage healthy. These tips might help.
Spending extended time with the same person 24/7 would be stressful for anyone – even in the best of times. Throw in financial worries, pre-existing relationship issues, and a bunch of bored and kvetchy kids – and you’ve got a marriage tsunami in the making.
So how do you keep your marriage sane, intact – even joyful and connected? Stay tuned for some tips!
1: What You Focus on, Grows
Bad news: When you get stuck on the things that your husband is not doing – or the things he’s doing that drive you up the wall – you actually end up reinforcing those very things that you don’t like. Why? Well, for one thing, your brain searches for evidence of the statements you feed it. Even worse, when you (directly or indirectly) communicate those feelings to your husband, he will live up to your (negative) expectations.
So how can you get more help, attention, or fun? For starters, try this tried-and-true tool: Appreciation. Yes, I know you learned about hakoras hatov in grade school, blah, blah, blah – but here’s the secret: It really works. Especially with husbands.
Why? Because your husband is wired to be a Mashpia (I’ll loosely translate here as “provider”, although it’s really much deeper than that). And what really charges his batteries (and primes him to repeat that behavior) is your enthusiastic appreciation for what he does. Even (or especially) the regular, everyday things that you’ve been taking for granted.
Spice it up! You can say “thank you for…” “It made my day when…” It made me so happy…” “I loved it when you…” You can also try a note or a text. Remember the smile (or the smiley emoji)!
2: Ditch the Criticism and Complaining
You’ve probably heard this once or twice, but criticism is bad for your marriage (shocker, I know). The thing with husbands is – it doesn’t actually work to get you what you want. Not in the long term, and often not even short term.
So if you can’t criticize or complain, how can you get what you want?
Well, you can try… asking for it. Try these on for size:
- I want…
- I would love…
- Would you please ______ for me? (Yes, use “would”, not “could”. Trust me on this. And remember the “for me” at the end. Mashpia, remember?)
- When would be a good time for….
3: Short-circuit Conflict
When the inevitable disagreements come up, keep them low-key. Don’t take things personally – remind yourself that he (like you) could be overreacting because of stress. Commit to not raising your voice – even if he does (it’s hard to fight with someone who is not fighting back).
If you sense that you’re spiraling down to conflict, you can try these tools to reset:
- Rewind: If you said something that started the downhill decline, say – “I’m sorry that this is becoming so negative. Can we rewind and I will rephrase what I said before?” Then re-state the phrase in a more respectful way.
- Pause button: When things are out of control or you are both too emotional and/or exhausted to have a productive conversation, ask for a time-out. Make sure to agree on a specific time and place to continue the discussion.
4: Take Care of Mom
That’s you, by the way. Isn’t it amazing how you’re so often last on your list of people to take care of? Let’s get real here: You can’t keep giving and giving if you are depleted. And if you’re an exhausted, wrung-out washrag, you’re not going to be your best as a mother – or wife.
You may feel that your options are limited, with the kids home and nowhere to escape. But even if there are no manicures or latte-dates on the horizon, you can give yourself, your husband and your family the gift of a (mostly) cheerful mom and wife, just by prioritizing your most basic self-care needs:
- Nutrition and hydration
When it seems like the starving hordes are eating you out of house and home, it’s easy to forget that your body needs sustenance, too. And by sustenance I don’t mean the jumbo bag of nacho chips you bought for the kids – and not their cold leftover scrambled eggs, either. Spend a few minutes planning your daily meals – easy, healthy foods you will enjoy. And remember to eat them!
Don’t forget the water! A dehydrated mom is a cranky and short-tempered mom. If you have trouble remembering to drink, try filling a water bottle (or a few) and leaving it where you’re likely to notice it.
If you used to think a full night’s sleep is overrated, this may be a good time to dash that myth. Hate to break it to ya, but few of us can function fully without 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. If that just ain’t happening at your house, take a step back and see what it would take for you to get there:
- Figure out what time you want to go to sleep – and start your bedtime routine 1 hour before that.
- See what you can cut out from your daily routine to help you go to sleep earlier.
- Schedule in a half-hour nap – and get your husband or an older kid to hold down the fort.
- Move your body
I won’t even call it exercise – does that make it less scary? We’re not talking here about intense cardio for weight loss – bottom line is that moving makes you feel good, and when Mom feels good, everyone’s happy. Even just 10 minutes a day will work wonders – so find a friendly workout that you enjoy, and schedule it in. (Little kids in the picture? Invite them to do it with you!)
- Get some time alone
Yes, you are still a good wife if you need some time away from everyone – even your husband. (It goes without saying that you need some time away from your kids, right?) So find what works for you and get some alone time to recharge your battery, even for a few minutes. You can read in bed, take a long bath, or take a walk around the block – and you’ll be a lot more pleasant to be around when you get back!
With so much stuff going on, it can be hard to remember to reconnect as a couple. You can keep the spark going in your relationship with some simple hacks:
- Smile! Even when you don’t feel like it, try to smile at your husband a few times a day. It can be a “glad to see you” smile, or an “isn’t this crazy” smile or even an “I’m at my wits’ end” smile – but just that little act can make a huge difference!
- Couple time. Always important, and now more than ever! Try for a few minutes daily – a walk around the block, a schmooze on the couch, a check-in in the kitchen. Aim for a weekly date night – after the kids are asleep (or with bigger kids busy elsewhere), spend some fun time together and do a project, play a game, bake together, or order takeout.
- Try some connecting affirmations. These may feel vulnerable, but they pack a powerful punch for ratcheting up the emotional intimacy: “I appreciate everything you do” / “I’m glad I have you to lean on” / “There’s no one I rather be locked in with than you.”
- Keep your sense of humor. Share funny texts or memes, have your own private punchlines, even play a (loving) practical joke. Start planning your scrapbook or collage of lockdown moments. Remember that we will get through this – and the best way to do it is together.
Alisa Avruch teaches frum women to bring emotional intimacy and connection to their marriage, through her workshop series The Secret Spark. To get your free mini-ebook “4 Steps to get the help you need”, visit her website TheSecretSpark.com. You can follow her on Instagram @secretsparkmarriage