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Two Things: 

1. This is a common thing in marriage.

Sometimes the culprit is busy schedules that have you going in different directions. Sometimes your spouse might be in a funk or preoccupied with a project at work. Maybe you had a spat. Feeling disconnected occasionally is totally normal. Marriage has ups and downs and peaks and valleys. Don’t sweat this, but be proactive. You’ve noticed it—let’s do something about it!

2. You are going to love courageously.

Maybe you are usually kinda timid, not an initiator, a little passive, or just not one for romantic gestures. (Maybe you’re none of those things.) Either way, this is gonna be great!

Let’s have some fun!

  1. Count how many times you pick up your phone in a given hour or just guesstimate. (I average about five or six times an hour.)
  2. You love your spouse more than your phone. (Right?!)
  3. Your challenge is to do at least that many things to connect with your spouse during the next couple of days. (I’m gonna give you tons of ideas.)
  4. If you’re a heavy phone user, just think of all that romance! 😘

Keep In Mind…

  • You know you.
  • You know your spouse.
  • Some ideas might not be your “style” or their kinda thing. 
  • So what? We’re shaking it up for you to broaden the “bandwidth” of how you connect. We are loving courageously!

Things You Can Say When You Feel Disconnected

  • “Have I told you lately how much I like your _____?” (Pick a favorite body part.)
  • “Tonight, we’re going to bed early. You’re getting a massage.”
  • “Thank you so much for how you _____. I don’t ever want to take it for granted.”
  • “My funniest memory of us is _____. What’s yours?”
  • “What is something around the house I could help you with more?”

*Check out this website for ways to start connecting convos with your spouse.

Things You Can Text When You Feel Disconnected

  • You’re the best mom/dad ever!
  • Meet me tonight. 8 pm. Our bedroom.
  • I’m grateful for how hard you work.
  • I want all of you, forever.
  • Tonight: No kids! No undies! No rules!

*Check out this website for more connecting texts.

Things You Can Do When You Feel Disconnected

  • Send them a link in the middle of the day to a song that makes you think about them.
  • Walk up to your spouse and give them a long hug.
  • Get naked and invite them into a hot shower with you.
  • Do a chore or task around the house that they hate.
  • Start a Couple Bucket List.

Things You Can’t Do

During the next couple of days of connectivity, there are a few things you need to avoid:

  • No complaining about your spouse or criticizing them.
  • No preoccupation with your phone when you’re together. Give them ALL your attention.
  • No sitting at opposite ends of the couch. Snuggle up!
  • No doing any of these things looking for anything in return.

You have your challenge! Feel free to come up with your own things. After a couple of days of this, I’m gonna bet you feel more connected. In the future, fight through disconnection when you feel it. It usually only takes some little things, not grand romantic gestures. Disconnection, left too long, only gets worse. You got this!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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In a time of remote work, remote school, and social distancing, how you communicate with your co-workers is extremely important. Hard conversations with co-workers can cause a certain level of uneasiness. It can often be difficult to know how and when to approach a certain topic or situation. Thanks to COVID-19, stress levels for many working remotely (I’m in that boat), parents uncertain about school (Hey, that’s my boat, too!), and those who have continued to report to work amid a pandemic (that’s my wife’s boat) have been elevated. Some of these “boats” often seem like “sinking ships,” and a lack of or unclear communication can be the iceberg that takes the ship down. 

So how do we approach these tough conversations when we are not all present in the same place? 

First and foremost, we need to identify the issues that we are having

  • Do you feel like someone has unrealistic expectations of you? 
  • Do you have unrealistic expectations of or resentment toward co-workers? 
  • Are you overworked or under-worked? 
  • Do you feel that your co-workers are not sensitive to your particular situation? 
  • Do you feel like others are not carrying the same workload as you? 

All of these can lead to unnecessary stress, and the solution for many of them is communication and clarity.

  1. Pick the right timeHow and when we communicate can be just as important as what we communicate. We want to be cognizant of the setting of these hard conversations with co-workers. We may not have the ability to be face-to-face so we need to take extra precautions to ensure we are able to talk whether over the phone or via video. Choose a time that is convenient for all involved parties and sensitive to everyone’s schedules. Make sure you are not stressed, tired, or hungry. ☆ Also, remove distractions as much as possible. (Silence your phone and set it aside. Turn off notifications on your computer or tablet.)
  2. Ask questions and listen. There could be a simple misunderstanding or lack of feeling heard. Listen to your co-workers and ask questions. Be sure you are expressing your perspective clearly and without assumptions. Lack of clarity can lead to many misunderstandings within the workplace, and this time of working remotely can greatly affect clarity. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  3. Be intentional with your conversation. Identify what the issue is and stay on topic. It’s easy to get sidetracked, but the focus must be on addressing the root of the conflict and resolving it.
  4. Don’t assume. As stated earlier, ask clarifying questions. (I am not a mind reader, and I am sure you are not either.)
  5. Choose your words wisely. Express what you are feeling, but avoid doing so harshly. Think through what you want to say. (Something I had to learn was to pause, breathe, and think before I respond or say something that could be harsh.)
  6. Don’t forget the positive. Even difficult conversations have room to share the positive. Praising the work or contribution of team members may be more important now than ever.
  7. Seek a resolution. Work together to resolve the root of the problem or conflict. Come up with a solution collectively. Compromise may be needed, but you will be stronger as a team if you can resolve the issue, learn from the situation, and move forward together.

I have heard it said that we are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same ocean. We each have different circumstances and stresses that affect our relationships. Don’t let your relationships suffer because of misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, and unresolved issues. You have the ability to navigate difficult conversations with co-workers and come out stronger. Difficult times often produce immense growth.

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Do you ever feel like you and your spouse are roommates instead of lovers? Does it feel like your marriage is in a constant state of chaos? Have you caught yourself wishing for the life you don’t have?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you aren’t alone. Truth be told, there are many chaotic marriages out there where both spouses are feeling disconnected and lonely.

When people feel disconnected in their marriage, anxiety, distrust, uncertainty and suspicion often creep in. Couples stop believing they are on the same team and start looking out for themselves. This leads to feeling the need to have the last word, always be right and a “my way or the highway” attitude which certainly doesn’t create an environment where a relationship can thrive and grow.

The first step toward changing the direction of your relationship is to identify what is creating the chaos or disconnectedness. Usual and customary suspects include: children, career, community commitments, busyness and phubbing (otherwise known as snubbing your mate in favor of your smart phone).

Clearly, you can’t ship the children off, jobs matter and it’s unrealistic to think that technology won’t be part of your relationship. However, if you are resolved that something needs to change, it might help you to know what research reveals about how happily married couples keep their marriages out of the ditch.

In her book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn uncovered 12 things highly-happy couples do. Here are a few of them that you can apply to your own relationship:

  • Remember the little things. There are a few small actions that matter a lot to men and women. In fact, surveys indicate that consistently doing these five things will likely make your spouse feel deeply cared for.
    • For women: Notice his effort and sincerely thank him for it. Tell him when he does a great job. Mention in front of others something he did well. Show him you desire him sexually. Make it clear that he makes you happy.
    • For guys: Hold her hand. Leave her messages during the day. Put your arm around her. Sincerely tell her she is beautiful. Pull yourself out of a funk.
  • Believe that your spouse is well-intentioned and truly cares about you. It is unlikely they began their day plotting how to make your day miserable.
  • Sometimes going to bed mad is a good thing. When conflict and anger are hard to resolve, sometimes sleeping on it overnight can lead to a quicker resolution.
  • Boss your feelings around. Highly-happy couples lead their feelings instead of letting their feelings guide their actions.
  • Cultivate generosity. According to the research, generosity toward one another is one of the greatest contributing factors to a happy marriage.
  • Hang out together. In the beginning you were friends. Couples who cultivate their friendship over time seem to have happier marriages than couples who do not.
  • Get in over your head. Highly-happy couples were willing to put it all on the line for the sake of their marriage. The research showed they have dramatically increased security and happiness.

If you are tired of the chaos and feelings of disconnectedness in your marriage, try incorporating some of these habits into your marriage. Although creating an environment for your marriage to grow and thrive may not happen overnight, these habits could be just what your relationship needs.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 30, 2016.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***