Thoughtlessness, snarkiness and inattention- tactics to damage your marriage

We all usually start well, going out of our way to think of our new love, to please & surprise and enjoy them. But living together and having to sort out differences, juggle work (and traffic, chores, family, pets & bills)- all these cause normal arguments and deadlocks. How many of us learned how to have a good disagreement where we really listen to the other person’s complaint, understand their feelings, even consider that maybe I too have some faults?

The most basic pattern I see in couples starting marital counseling is that of defensive countering. That is, one person brings up a complaint and the other responds with his/her own complaint. (“would you take the trash out, I’m sick and tired of having to remind you” and the counter is “well you don’t ever….”). Nothing gets resolved and the end result is that both people feel totally unheard.

The better dance is rather obvious, but still, we all fall into this at times. If infrequent, it may not build into a problem. But a regular conflict like this begins to cause resentment and distance. Often, there’s underlying unresolved anger or hurt beneath this conflict.

So the better dance is: first person says (in a nicer way) “Would you take the trash out? And I’d like it if I don’t have to keep reminding you” Response could be “ok, sorry., I will be better about remembering”. Even when there are grievances building up, dealing with those will be easier if the defensive tactics are dropped.

This pattern applies to everything.
(I want…. to play loud music,
you want… it quiet
I want… to watch sports all Sat afternoon
you want… to go hiking
I want…the kids to do chores
you want….them to not have to do chores and study more and play
I want…to shop often, buy new clothes and furniture
you want….to save for college, live frugally
I want…to go to my mother’s every Sunday for the afternoon
you want…to have time at home, especially on the weekends

These are basic differences and values that require thoughtfulness, flexibility and compromise.
But if you add more serious factors like excessive alcohol or drug use, over-spending, depression & anxiety and low self-esteem, the problems intensify. Extended family and stepfamilies all add more people and more negotiations. These frequently cause people to end up in opposite corners, dug in and hurt as they feel increasingly unappreciated or misunderstood.

To start improving arguments, take out the snarky, defensive responses, the inattention, the disrespect for the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Consider getting professional help for the really complicated problems.

(reading sources: John and Julie Gottman’s Seven Principles of Making Marriage Better)

Stop Snoozing! how snooze alarms are ruining your sleep

Good sleep is extremely important for physical health but also to help decrease anxiety, depression and stress. If you look at symptoms of all three of these states, you will see sleep disruption as one of the prominent symptoms of depression and anxiety. Sleep routines and sleep “hygiene”- that’s a ridiculous name for the planning/structure you use to get good sleep so I’m banning that term- often seem inconsequential until you experience disrupted sleep or insomnia. Trying to focus, drive and work or study when exhausted is quite miserable.

If you want an overview of how daylight, dark and sleep are all intertwined, read up on circadian rhythms. (https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/what-circadian-rhythm) I will highlight a few important points as basics to getting decent rest.

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What I Really Want for Christmas is to Have Things My Way. And Not Have to Share.

The seasons of peace, love and generosity are often filled with conflict, bitterness and selfishness (and yes, even greed). This is particularly evident in many families who have been through divorce and now have to adapt to dividing the holidays between two (or more) extended families. It all begins with intense longing to have a wonderful, joyful family experience. One that may help alleviate some of the pain of the divorce or of past childhood losses. Each parent (and grandparent) has their own personal image of how this should look and feel. And traditions are a deep part of these wishes. But the reality of two families means they have to figure out when the children will be with which parent on what days. And that reality re-ignites the sadness and guilt about the their children having to experience divorce.

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“It’s Not Just About Food”

Eating or not eating in reaction to stress creates health and weight problems and doesn’t solve the emotional, behavioral and relationship problems underlying your eating patterns. It’s actually not as complicated as it sounds to start changing how you eat and to get off the “on a diet-off the diet” pattern.

  • Do you eat out of boredom? Or tension?
  • When you are not hungry?
  • Do you frequently go on diets to lose weight, then regain the weight?
  • Feel self-conscious about your body?
  • Find yourself constantly thinking about food and weight?
  • Skip meals and under eat because you are afraid you will gain weight?
  • Do you sometimes eat compulsively (especially junk foods), then later berate yourself?

Podcast: Stepfamily Holidays

From the Stay Happily Married web site:

No matter how many “Happy Holidays” wishes you receive, the season can be just as stressful as it is enjoyable, and that stress can be even greater if you’re part of a blended family. Does shuffling the kids from one home to another feel too disruptive? Does it seem impossible to meet everyone’s vision of that perfect Christmas morning?

Click here to hear the podcast

Podcast: Newly Blended Stepfamilies

From the Stay Happily Married web site:

If you’re a part of a blended family, you know how complicated things can be, especially when you’re starting out. Are you having trouble relating to your new stepchildren? Do you just not feel as much like a family as you expected? Barbara Keyworth joins us to discuss the things that can cause tension in a newly blended family, and shares tips for making the transition a smooth one.

Click here to hear the podcast