5 Things To Do When Everything’s Falling Apart
“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin nailed it. But I think he forgot one more inevitability… change.
Change will undoubtedly happen multiple times throughout your life. Some changes are planned, like taking a new job or moving. Some changes are unplanned, like losing a loved one or a job.
When unexpected change hits hard, we often feel like life is falling apart.
The idea of life falling apart in and of itself is very subjective and personal. There’s no standard for what it looks like. I have felt like everything was falling apart several times, whether in my marriage, work, or family dynamics. My experience may not reflect yours, though. Everyone’s experience is unique.
Even though your world falling apart may look different from mine, certain things can help us cope.
Here are five things you can do when everything’s falling apart:
1. Take a break.
Hear me out; I don’t mean give up on your responsibilities and walk away. Just take some time for yourself. Once you identify what makes you feel like everything is falling apart, can you step away to clear your mind? Maybe you’re caring for a sick loved one. Can someone else step in and give you a weekend to rest and refocus? Maybe work is chaotic. Can you take time off? Perhaps your relationship is in distress. Can you spend some time with a friend to decompress and enjoy some activities together?
Sure, you have responsibilities that you can’t give up on, but what would happen if you took a couple of days off to focus on your mental and emotional health?
2. Embrace the present.
Pain from the past or worries about the future often leads us down this path. It’s so easy to be dominated by these two time periods and lose the present. I get it. But you know what? The present is a gift. It’s where life happens. Unfortunately, we can’t change the past and we have no control over the future. However, we can live in this moment.
If you’re seeking help in navigating the chaos, I applaud you. You’re strong enough to make it through whatever you’re facing. In the wise words of Ted Mosby, “Sometimes things fall apart to make way for better things.” (I love that guy!)
3. Connect with others.
There is power in community. It can be tempting to retreat and insulate yourself from others, but you need people. The weight you carry isn’t meant to be carried alone. Maybe you only feel comfortable being completely vulnerable with a small number of friends or family. Connect with those people and ask for help. Help may look like a cup of coffee or a shoulder to cry on. Help may look like wisdom from someone who’s fought the same battle you’re fighting. Either way, you don’t have to walk this road alone.
4. Evaluate what you can control.
When everything is falling apart, the one thing you may desire most is beyond your reach: control. If we’re honest, we probably all want control. When life is spiraling, control is often unattainable. Maybe the lack of control is what led to everything falling apart.
Some things are simply out of your control.
Step back and ask yourself, “What can I control?” The health of others, the people you work for, or your partner’s emotional state are just a few examples of things you can’t control. You can control how you react to people and what you focus on.
5. Practice self-care.
Self-care is a common buzzword. It can be easy to brush it off as something unimportant that you don’t have time for. Sure, self-care is trendy, but that’s because more experts have recognized that paying attention to your needs can improve your well-being.
So take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Self-care is also subjective, so you have to find what works for you. I run for self-care. It heals me and is a necessity. On the other hand, my wife loves to craft, whether that’s painting, drawing, or creating with her Cricut.
Don’t get discouraged when something doesn’t work. Keep trying until you discover what is beneficial for you.
It’s not easy to get life back on track when it feels like everything’s falling apart. It may seem daunting, but you can do this. You’re strong! The most extraordinary journey begins with a single step.
Other helpful blogs:
What to Do When Everything Feels Hopeless – First Things First
5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time
What to Do When You Feel Compassion Fatigue
How To Stay Grounded When Your Life is Falling Apart
The Only Thing That Matters When Your Life is Falling Apart in 2022
What To Do When it Feels Like Your Life is Falling Apart
What Introverts Married to Extroverts Need to Know
We’re all wired differently, and the differences are never more evident than in marriage. While navigating differences in relationships can present challenges, you’ll go deeper as your relationship grows and you become a student of your spouse. Couples often encounter differences when one spouse is introverted and the other is extroverted. This can be a pretty noticeable difference based on the individual’s personality, but these types are often misunderstood. Let’s dive a little deeper into understanding them.
What’s the difference between introversion and extroversion?
The common perception of the difference between these two is that one is shy and the other is outgoing. While that can be true, it isn’t the rule. Psychologist Carl Jung (the father of this whole conversation) classified the two groups based on where they find their energy. Extroverts are energized by the external world. Introverts are energized by alone time.
So, are they polar opposites?
Jung discovered that people aren’t necessarily one or the other. Instead, look at it as a spectrum. There can be varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. My wife and I fall on different points of this spectrum. And it can fluctuate.
What does an introvert married to an extrovert need to know?
There are differences in how these two are wired. So, for the introverts out there, here are some things you need to know and some tips to help you navigate your differences:
Navigating social settings.
As we discovered earlier, extroverts are energized by the external world. They are often the life of the party, and they love it. They live to meet new people and experience new places. “Stranger” is a foreign word to them.
For the introverted spouse who likes to be alone, this can be a struggle. If they do go out in the crowd, they often want to be out of the spotlight. But if you know that your spouse is energized by being around others, you should talk about this. It’s not fair to prevent them from being in social settings, but it’s also unfair to always send them alone. It’s possible to find a balance that meets your needs and your spouse’s needs while strengthening your relationship.
Talking about their problems.
Extroverts usually find it easy to talk out their problems with others. They’re often more than willing to express their feelings, thoughts, and issues.
On the other hand, introverts tend to internalize and think through things. They dislike conflict and will withhold their thoughts to avoid confrontation. For the health of your marriage, it’s essential to talk through issues and manage conflict together. Introverts may need to step out of their comfort zone and discuss issues with their spouse. They don’t have to talk to all their friends about it, but need to express it to their significant other. Remember, if you don’t discuss problems with your extroverted spouse, they will find someone to discuss them with. And the best place for marriage work to be done is in the marriage. (Read https://firstthings.org/should-you-tell-your-friends-and-family-about-your-marital-problems/.)
Extroverts aren’t afraid of risk. They may be more apt to engage in risky behavior than an introvert. Some studies have shown that they are wired this way. Their brain rewards them when risks go well. One study found that risk-takers are rewarded with dopamine, a “feel good” chemical associated with pleasure and reward. So for extroverts, risk-taking brings about a rewarding sensation. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Introverts are more inclined to weigh the pros and cons of any risk. Whether diving into the stock market or diving out of an airplane, they think it through and process it. Their extroverted spouse just jumps. The introverted spouse needs to express their desire to process to their spouse. You can’t hold them back from taking the risk, but you can be their cheerleader, so look for opportunities to support healthy risk-taking. Remember, they are wired to have a natural desire to take risks.
These are just a few ways that introverts and extroverts differ. Remember, this is a spectrum, and you both may find yourselves at varying degrees on that spectrum. But most importantly, you need to recognize who you are, who they are, and who you are together. Marriage is about learning from each other and growing together. Be who you are and encourage your spouse in who they are.
Neurobiology of the Structure of Personality: Dopamine, Facilitation of Incentive Motivation, and Extraversion
How Does Dopamine Effect the Body?
Extroverts, Introverts, and Everything in Between
7 Strategies to Help Your Child Deal With Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Children, like adults, were struck with a sudden bombshell when COVID-19 arrived on the scene. Everything changed abruptly. Think about it. One day, they’re at school and seeing their friends. The next day, they’re home for an extended period. They’re isolated. Their world changed: masks, loneliness, increased family time, canceled activities, etc. The structure, predictability, and consistency kids need to thrive: gone. That’s a tough experience for a child to live through. It was even hard for adults.
As kids come out of the pandemic, it’s no wonder that so many are experiencing anxiety. Recent studies suggest the pandemic may be having a more adverse effect on adolescents than on adults.1 According to Dr. Bradley S. Jerson,2 your child may be dealing with post-pandemic anxiety if they are…
- Spending a lot more time alone
- Sleeping a lot more or less
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Not interested in their favorite activities
- Having changes in their overall mood
- More irritated or angry
- Stuck on negative thoughts
- Hopeless about the future
As their parent, you want to help them manage their anxiety and adjust to normalcy.
These strategies can help your child deal with post-pandemic anxiety.
1. Be aware of your own mental health.
The Child Mind Institute states “that dealing with your own anxiety can be the most powerful way to make sure your kids feel secure.”3 Your children take a lot of their cues from you. So do whatever is necessary for you to be in a good space mentally. Practicing good self-care will equip you to help your child.
2. Give your child space and freedom to talk through their emotions.
What young child can do that by themselves? Not many. Try to ask questions in a gentle, non-judgmental way. Try, “What do you feel when we make plans to go to the supermarket or back to school?” This lets them know that whatever they’re feeling is acceptable and even normal. Studies show that after an event like a pandemic, mental health issues such as anxiety are common.4 Child expert Dr. Gene Beresin recommends that parents consistently listen and validate their child’s thoughts and emotions. This can help them transition to post-pandemic life.5
3. Create some routines, predictability, and consistency.
Children thrive when they know what’s coming. And it helps them adjust and know who to turn to for the things they can’t foresee. Morning or nighttime routines are helpful. Picking them up from school at a consistent time is also good. Several studies have shown that eating family meals together is beneficial for kids’ mental state.
4. Ease them back into their norms when possible .
Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May and Dominique A. Phillips recommend taking smaller, manageable steps to move forward.6 Instead of going to an indoor birthday party, have your child choose a friend for an outdoor play date. Pick people and places that are most comfortable for your child, and use those spaces to help them overcome the paralyzing effects of their post-pandemic anxiety.
5. Talk them through what’s being done to keep them safe.
Young children look to their parents for security, safety, and protection. Asking your child what would make them feel safe can help them address their anxiety. Explaining what makes a situation safe helps build their trust in you as their parent to protect them.
6. Get support for your child.
If your child continues to struggle, talk to their pediatrician, a school counselor, or find a therapist. Don’t hesitate to ask your child if they’ve had thoughts of self-harm. **If they have, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 (24/7).**
7. Celebrate the positives.
Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, encourages parents to look for anything positive they can celebrate.7 Sometimes, we spend so much time focusing on what our kids won’t do. Instead, highlight the good stuff they’re doing: the family time you’re spending together, the books they’re reading. This can help shift their mentality and calm their uneasiness.
Each child responds differently to change. Your love, compassion, and care in walking them through their challenges are often the most crucial ingredients to helping your child deal with change, fear, uncertainty, and post-pandemic anxiety. You got this!
1 The psychiatric sequelae of the COVID-19 pandemic in adolescents, adults, and health care workers.
3 The Child Mind Institute Anxiety and Coping With the Coronavirus
4 Life in a post-pandemic world: What to expect of anxiety-related conditions and their treatment
5 Gene Beresin, Executive Director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, Full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
6 Here’s How to Help Your Kids Break Out of Their Pandemic Bubble and Transition Back to Being With Others
7 Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute
How to Help Your Spouse With Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Let me state the obvious and say it’s been a rough year or so. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, reality has come the closest it’s ever been to a sci-fi novel. And it’s literally messed with our heads. Society as a whole experienced a significant uptick in relationship and mental health issues.
And let me just speak for us all when I say thank goodness we seem to be on the downswing of it all. (Of course, we’re not entirely over the hill — many are still dealing with health concerns.)
Despite this downswing, fear and anxiety are still lingering in the air. Many are experiencing what scientists call “post-pandemic anxiety syndrome.” It’s a condition marked by continual worry about re-entering life in the post-pandemic era.
Signs1 of this syndrome tend to mimic other mental health issues like anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome. They include:
- Increased stress
- Excessive worry
- Difficulty returning to a full engagement with society
- Avoiding work or social interactions
- Constantly checking symptoms despite not being in a high-risk scenario
- Perceived threats that aren’t necessarily there
Some of these symptoms are pretty normal after a global pandemic. Most of us experienced at least one of these at some time or another. But for those who cope in a healthy way, these signs should gradually taper off.
However, symptoms that persist or get worse might indicate a bigger problem.
So how do you help your spouse with post-pandemic anxiety?
There are two important things you can do right now.
1. Exercise a great deal of empathy and understanding.
You may not have the same anxiety your spouse does. You may even wonder what all the fuss is about. But it will help if you understand that’s not their reality.
Consider this: We now know that our brain can train itself to think toward a certain way over time.2
We’ve had over a year for our brains to adjust to new and sudden precautions, rules of social distancing, and risk management during extreme uncertainty. That’s stressful.
And now, we’re experiencing an almost equally instantaneous shift back to pre-pandemic life. For many, that’s stress multiplied.
Knowing this, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Let him or her know you’re there, walking with them through this. Allow them to vent and share feelings, no matter how irrational it sounds to you.
Anxiety isn’t something that can just be quickly “fixed.” It’s a process that takes time. So you’ll have to be patient.
2. Encourage your spouse to seek out a professional counselor that works well with them.
A counselor can provide useful coping tools and help your spouse monitor their progress. It may even be a good idea to attend counseling together because anxiety affects your marriage3,4. You may also need to learn new skills to support your spouse. Couples therapy is very effective for treating a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety5.
Your number one goal in marriage is to show unconditional love and support for your spouse, for better or worse. And that takes a great deal of understanding. You may not know the particular skills they need to cope and overcome the anxiety, and that’s okay. (That’s one reason a professional counselor is so important.) But the greatest presence they have is you. Let them know you’re on their side and you’re not going anywhere. Post-pandemic anxiety is real, and it’s scary for those going through it, but it’s no match for the support and understanding you can give your spouse.
1Nikčević, A. V., & Spada, M. M. (2020). The COVID-19 anxiety syndrome scale: Development and psychometric properties. Psychiatry Research, 292, 113322. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113322
2Hunter, R. G., & McEwen, B. S. (2013). Stress and anxiety across the lifespan: structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation. Epigenomics, 5(2), 177–194. https://doi.org/10.2217/epi.13.8
3Zaider, T. I., Heimberg, R. G., & Iida, M. (2010). Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples. Journal of abnormal psychology, 119(1), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018473
4Darcy, K., Davila, J., & Beck, J. G. (2005). Is Social Anxiety Associated With Both Interpersonal Avoidance and Interpersonal Dependence? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29(2), 171–186. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-005-3163-4
5Lebow, J. L., Chambers, A. L., Christensen, A., & Johnson, S. M. (2012). Research on the Treatment of Couple Distress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), 145-68. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.lib.utc.edu/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00249.x
What You Need to Know About Disenfranchised Grief
Grief is a response to loss. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, depression, numbness, anger, and guilt. The goal of successful grief resolution is to reestablish emotional balance. Not everyone grieves the same things or expresses their grief in the same way. And then there’s what we call “disenfranchised grief.” (You probably know what it is, and you may have even felt it, but you might not know what to call it.)
Recognizing that loss comes in many forms has been one positive thing we’ve taken away from the pandemic. For example, loss of:
- A prom or graduation
- A dream wedding
- Funeral attendance
- Family reunions
- Other gatherings
People are more aware of “disenfranchised grief” now. Still, it’s helpful for us to think beyond the pandemic to other commonly overlooked losses. That way, we can support those suffering from them.
Understanding Disenfranchised Grief:
- Grief that isn’t typically recognized by societal norms and/or lacks cultural expression.
- Grief that is often minimized, invalidated, stigmatized, marginalized, or misunderstood.
★ Disenfranchised grief (DG) leaves individuals to process their loss on their own or in secret. They lack the supportive benefits available to people whose losses are more socially accepted, expected, acknowledged, or understood. Often, people tell those in distress, “You didn’t even know them that well,” or “Move on,” or “Get over it.”
Even if we don’t understand it or agree with it, it doesn’t make the pain any less. The pain is REAL.
Examples of losses that are frequently disenfranchised include:
- death of an “ex,” an absent sibling or parent
- loss of someone who was not a “blood relative”
- loss of a co-worker or pet
- an adoption that fell through
- loss of possessions, loss of location due to a relocation or move
- loss of mobility or health, loss of a body part
- infertility, miscarriage, stillborn child
- incarceration of a friend or family member
- deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, suicide*, or overdose
- loss of personality due to dementia, etc.
Frequently, the loss itself may not be disenfranchised, but the manner in which an individual grieves may be.
Those around them may criticize the length of their grieving process or the form their grief takes. Societies and cultures can have “unwritten rules” when it comes to grief. People often question, criticize, or invalidate expressions outside those “rules.” These things can complicate the grieving process.
For many circumstances that individuals experience, there is no “race for the cure,” support group, lapel ribbon, hotline, celebrity fundraiser, foundation, or “public awareness” campaign. There may not even be a Hallmark card for it. This doesn’t mean that feelings of grief are invalid or illegitimate.
Often, people don’t even know they are experiencing DG, let alone know how to work through it.
Instead, people have a tendency to minimize or invalidate their loss by comparing it to what a person (or society) believes is a “legitimate” loss.
Disenfranchised Grief. They say if you can name it, you can tame it. It might begin by being honest with yourself, admitting you’re grieving, and not feeling guilty about it.
Stop faking smiles. Then find some support. The people around you are probably more than willing to help you. They just might not recognize your “outside the box” loss.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help or to utilize resources like The Grief Recovery Method.
For those of us who may know someone experiencing DG, support might begin by expanding our definitions of “loss” and “grief.” We can follow up by making ourselves available to those who are hurting and grieving. We can listen and empathetically validate their sense of loss.
About 2.5 million people die in the United States each year. They all leave an average of five grieving people behind. Not all those grieving people grieve the same.
If we can expand our perspective on grief, we can expand our support to those who are grieving. People are hurting, and we can help.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
OTHER HELPFUL BLOGS:
How to Help Your Child Deal With Grief
6 Things You Can Do to Help a Child Who Is Grieving the Death of a Parent
4 Ways You Can Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Loved One
How To Help Your Spouse Deal With Anxiety
For me, it often happens in the evening (though not always). It feels like a sudden Visitor at your door who comes in unannounced and spreads an uncomfortable, heavy, warm, wet blanket over you, gradually but quickly covering your whole body, and I feel it mainly in my chest. As soon as I feel myself covered, I’m very aware of the sense of unexplained dread that’s overcome me. Often my vision narrows and it’s difficult to concentrate on what people are saying. I can feel my heart pounding. My breathing is shallow. And it’s hard not to just sit there, paralyzed, and feel intense fear for something that I don’t know how to define.
Sometimes it takes a long while for the feeling to gradually dissipate. Other times, it just sort of leaves quickly, like it wanted to slip quietly out the back door without anyone noticing. It’s exhausting. And the most frustrating part, every time, is the nonsensical, illogical way the Visitor just comes and goes, without any sort of reason, at least none that I can think of.
Anxiety attacks are a beast, and I’ve experienced them for years. Every time I’ve had to deal with anxiety, my wife, Kristin, has been there right beside me, walking the road. She can tell when the Visitor is at the door because she can hear me trying to catch my breath.
She’ll gently ask me this, and I never find it threatening nor snarky. This is in large part due to the fact that we’ve had some very open and real discussions about what I experience. What I appreciate the most is her understanding, even though she hasn’t felt what I feel when I have these attacks.
If you are married to someone who struggles with anxiety, you may feel powerless to help them. Kristin and I want to offer you some tools and concepts to help you be a support for the one you love most when anxiety comes bursting through the door.
What Is Anxiety Exactly?
It helps to have a basic understanding of anxiety itself. Anxiety is actually a natural, normal process the brain goes through to help a person cope with stress. It causes an apprehension or fear of something to come, and this typically serves to protect a person from harm and danger.
However, this process is only made to come and go as needed. It’s not meant to pop up without warning and interfere with everyday life.
This unhealthy anxiety is ambiguous; it can feel differently depending on the person feeling it, and it reveals itself in a variety of ways. Many (like myself) feel panic attacks with no apparent reason. Others may experience a phobia of certain objects or activities. Some have an irrational fear of social situations or worry about their health.
Researchers can’t pinpoint an exact cause of this kind of anxiety. A mix of genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemistry seems to be likely, but this doesn’t exactly narrow it down. Therefore, there are a variety of ways professionals treat anxiety, from coping exercises such as deep breathing and other lifestyle changes to therapy and medication. (The Gottman Institute offers a great article here about using mindfulness to deal with difficult emotions like anxiety.)
This all can seem very complex to you, the spouse, who sees how anxiety is plaguing the one you love. And you might be wondering, what in the world could I ever do to help?
What Spouses Can Do
In fact, you are not powerless to help your spouse who has anxiety. Anxiety isn’t exactly something you can “fix,” but it can be managed. And as someone dealing with anxiety, a supportive spouse is the most important person to have in your corner.
Here are some thoughts on how to help your spouse deal with anxiety:
- Understand that your spouse doesn’t know why they struggle with anxiety. Even if they know what triggers it, such as work deadlines or having to engage with a particular person, the feeling itself just seems irrational. Even more elusive is how to get rid of that feeling. It’d be easy to put the blame of the anxiety on the person feeling it or to say, just stop feeling that way, but this is no help. As a person who experiences this, I can tell you that if I knew what it was I was doing that caused a panic attack, I’d immediately change course. And I appreciate my wife understanding this.
- Be present. One of the worst feelings—over and above the anxiety itself—is watching a person leave the room because they don’t know how to help. My wife’s presence is comforting and reassuring, even if neither one of us knows how to “stop the feeling.” Sometimes Kristin, if she is doubting what she should do, will say, I’m going to stay here with you until you tell me you want to be alone. And I can honestly say I have never asked to be alone during a panic attack.
- Gently direct toward some healthy coping strategies (and away from unhealthy ones). Again, my wife is good at this (she’s had lots of practice). When I feel an attack coming on, she will gently and respectfully steer me in another direction, maybe to watch a TV show with her or to take a walk. She understands the need to redirect my focus. Other good coping strategies include self-care, meditation, deep breathing exercises, physical exercise, eating a healthy diet, aromatherapy (such as using candles, oil, or incense), and spending time outdoors in nature.
- Talking it out helps. When I feel the pressure of anxiety coming on, Kristin will often ask me if I know where it might be stemming from. Sometimes, as we talk, we can identify some possible triggers, such as an impending work deadline or an inevitable difficult conversation I need to have with another person. My wife is really good at helping me think out what’s the worst that can come out of this situation? When I verbalize with her that the worst-case scenario isn’t all that bad, it helps to alleviate the anxiety. At other times, Kristin is also very good at reading when talking may not be very productive. This is usually when I’m in full-on panic mode and I can’t think straight enough to make conversation. In this case, she helps me with other coping strategies.
- Encourage rest. Exhaustion and fatigue are bullies to anxiety management. Getting to bed early or taking a short power nap in the afternoon helps me (I avoid long naps because it interferes with my sleep at night). I appreciate it when Kristin guides me to make rest a priority.
- If anxiety persists despite using coping strategies, it might be good to encourage your spouse to seek professional help through their physician or a counselor.
There are times when I have felt very inadequate because I didn’t know how to fix what I was experiencing. It’s easy to feel that something is “wrong” with you. And even more so, I’ve wondered just when my wife was finally going to be over me and this “problem.”
Kristin is very quick to put me in my place (in a good way). She assures me that nothing is “wrong” with me, that she doesn’t judge or think negatively of me because of my anxiety, and that she’ll be there no matter what to help me however she can. Without that, no coping exercise, medication, or therapy session would be nearly as effective.
You are in the prime position to be the main support for your spouse struggling with anxiety. You don’t have to “do” anything about it. Simply walk the road with them. Be in their corner. Encourage them. Be understanding. And be assured that your support means the world.
***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship click here.***
Help! My Spouse and I Can’t Stop Fighting!
Marriage is two individuals doing life as a team. You and your spouse will always have some differing perspectives, needs, priorities, habits, and let’s say – idiosyncrasies – that make you both unique. This means ongoing work on communication skills, learning how to handle disagreements and conflict, and doing the intentional stuff that keeps you connected and your relationship healthy.
Sprinkle in anxiety, stress, anger, and sadness, or maybe uncertainty about the future and tight finances. As a result, marriage can go from difficult to disastrous. Real quick. Heavy emotions or difficult circumstances can take a toll on your marriage. Everything gets magnified and intensified. This can lead to constant fighting.
Tensions, disagreements, arguments, and even some fighting should be expected in marriage, period. But they can be framed in a way that drives you toward each other – not apart.
1. Stop fights before they start.
If the best fight is the one that actually draws you together and strengthens your relationship, then the second-best fight is the one that never happens.
Understand Your Current Situation.
Acknowledge that you or your spouse may be experiencing high levels of fear, anxiety, and stress. This produces what marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman, refers to as “Flooding,” which is when the brain is flooded with stress hormones and chemicals that make it nearly impossible for the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for complex problem solving) to function. When you or your spouse are in “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” mode, you can’t physiologically function as you normally would. You can’t communicate as you normally should. This isn’t a fault in you or your spouse – this is your body’s nervous system. Hopefully, just knowing this promotes grace, empathy, and patience.
Be at your best when things are going sideways in your marriage. You each still need your space and need to take care of yourselves and find healthy ways to manage and process the stress you are feeling. Stay connected to your friends and the people that encourage you. It’s okay for you to sit in another room and watch television alone. It’s okay for your spouse to go for a walk without you. If you are both working on being the best versions of yourselves, you’ll both be in a better place when you are together.
Set Up Schedules and Routines.
This will make expectations clear, give your day predictability, and give you stability. Are one or both of you working from home? When and where in your house or apartment will work be done? Do you have children? Designate when you will take turns watching them so the other can work or get some alone time. Who is doing what chores around the house? Divide housework equally and play to your strengths.
Choose A Specific Time Each Day To “Check In” With Each Other.
This isn’t fight time. This is when you ask each other how you are feeling physically and emotionally. This is a time to share needs and ask how you can be helping each other. Take turns speaking and listening. It doesn’t have to be a long or formal time, just consistent.
2. Fight nice.
It may sound strange, but when you aren’t fighting, take some time to discuss and establish some “ground rules” for how you will handle tensions, disagreements, and problems. No bringing up the past. No interrupting. And no raising your voices. How will you call a “timeout?” What is the time limit? How will you signal that the “fight” is over? Use this blog to guide you.
Schedule Your “Fights.”
Set a time once or twice a week (max) when each of you gets to air out one (and only one) criticism while the other is only allowed to listen. Avoid words like, “always” or “never” and try to frame it as an “I” statement. “I get frustrated when it feels like you are being distant,” or “I need more help with putting the kids to bed,” or “I would appreciate it if you didn’t raise your voice at me.”
Respond, Don’t React.
You are both going to hear some hard things, especially if you can’t stop fighting. It is important not to escalate the conversation with the volume or tone of your voice, your body language, or your words themselves. Don’t react by letting emotions take control. As you actively listen, respond calmly, compassionately, and empathetically.
It’s not all about not fighting. Make sure you are doing things that help you connect, have fun together, deepen intimacy, create some romance, and deepen your relationship.
Plan Some Fun!
Be intentional and schedule some fun things you can do together. Have a formal, in-home date night. Dress up and make a special dinner. Do something fun and silly like build a blanket fort and watch a movie. Go for a walk together. Have a game night. Don’t try to do any heavy relationship work during this time, just enjoy each other’s company. Generally, men bond shoulder to shoulder by doing things together, and women bond face to face, through conversation. So, make sure you are doing a little of both. Don’t forget why you married your spouse in the first place.
Figure Out What Says “I Love You” To Your Spouse.
Not everyone communicates “I love you” the same way and not everyone hears “I love you” the same way. Some people need quality time together. Some people need words that affirm them. Dr. Gary Chapman dives into this in The Five Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts. You can also go to his website, take a free quiz, and find resources that will help you communicate love more effectively to each other.
What About Sex?
What about it?! Sex is one of the most powerful ways to stay connected! Understand the dynamics of sex – generally, women need to feel connected to have sex and men need to have sex to feel connected. Not a problem! This is the perfect example of how two people have to work to make the marriage work.
Mindset is everything.
When you’re fighting all the time, it’s easy to begin seeing your spouse as an adversary, and then your relationship becomes a contest of winning and losing. Ultimately, you need to remember that your spouse isn’t the enemy; the problem is the enemy. Then you can fight for your spouse and for your marriage.
Don’t be afraid to call in the pros.
Sometimes the problems run deep. One or both of you could have blind spots. You’re too close to the situation and might need a third party who can be objective and see what you’re missing. Get the help you need!
***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
Valuable Relationships Make You a Better Person
Can valuable relationships make you a better person? We’ve all heard someone’s “value” calculated as their Net Worth, but what about cultivating the value of your Network? I’m talking about your true friends, accountability partners, and mentors. People that know your goals and will help you achieve them.
Those valuable relationships don’t happen by accident. We have to be open to them. We have to be intentional. We have to invest. Often, when I need those kinds of people in my life the most, my instinct is to go into hiding. I run the opposite way.
I find ways to build taller fences, not longer tables.
- This isn’t where I point out that according to recent research, Americans report being more lonely than ever – but they do.
- This isn’t where I point out that social media Friends, Followers, Shares, Likes, and Upvotes aren’t the true measure of your Social Capital – but they aren’t.
- I’m not even going to say that old-fashioned, healthy, Rugged American Individualism has often changed us into unhealthy, Radical American Individualists – but it has.
- I’m just going to quote something my father drilled into me: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” He was onto something.
It’s easy to surround yourself with people that always agree with you or always take your side. I get it. I do it. That can feel good. It also feels good to have people in your life that you can have fun with and be yourself. But who in your life is helping you be the best version of yourself?
Who is truly helping you be the best spouse or partner, the best parent, the best person that you can be? Who in your life has permission and is willing to confront you and say the hard things? (You know, those things that sting a day or two, but you know they’re true.)
Community, true Social Capital, is more important than ever:
- I never once got a job solely based on an application. It always involved someone I knew and built a connection with before I even knew a new job was even a possibility.
- My wife taught me the value of finding married couples deeper into the season of life we were in or heading toward and risking getting real with them.
- The best thing we did as parents was to connect with other parents for coffee or dessert just to talk about parenting stuff – especially parents with kids heading out of the stages that our kids were heading into.
- I’ve never regretted cultivating relationships- real friendships- with a couple of guys that I could be honest and transparent with, knowing that in return they would ask me the tough questions about the kind of husband, father, and man I am.
These kinds of people and couples and parents that become valuable relationships can be difficult to find. Maybe the best way to find them is to first work at being that kind of person for other people.
I could not begin to tell you my Net Worth. It probably isn’t much. I’m positive it isn’t much. My Network though – priceless. Where are you investing?
Looking for more resources for healthy relationships? Click here!
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