In truth...the two words I'll offer as the "crushers" of your marriage are most likely not the thing hurting it. The root of why we use these words is really the thing to address...the disconnect we have with our spouse is the real fire we need to extinguish. These words are just the gasoline we pour on an already smoldering mess.
In a previous Blog on marriage I wrote that when couples come to me for marriage counseling and are near divorce, it's RARELY because of one instance or event...typically, folks I talk to want to divorce because of 1000's of emotional paper cuts, year, after year, after year...and these two words are part of the reason you feel so helpless. Are you ready for them? Drum roll, please....
"Always" and "Never"...these are two words that you need to stop saying to your spouse. Yes, it's true sometimes one partner in the relationship does more around the house, or the yard, or with the kids, or does most of the shopping, or wants to have sex less than the other, or add any number of things that frustrate you about your spouse but to say to them in the heat of your frustration (not that Kari and I have ever said these to each other) :) that;
"You never help with the kids..."
"You always leave your dishes in the sink..."
"You never want to make love anymore..."
"I always do everything ("everything" is the cousin to never and always) around the house..."
"You never support me in what I want to do..."
"It's always a mess whenever we get together with your side of the family..."
Two things about these statements:
1. If you are already disconnected with your spouse, try using one of these statements and your spouse will immediately do the very thing you say he/she never does or stop the behavior you say they always do...you know why? So they can make the statement false AND add it to the horde of arsenal to pepper you with in your next fight.
2. It's just not true...it may feel like you are carrying the weight in an area of your relationship and that you do far more in an area (cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, outside yard work...) than your spouse, but to say they "never" or "always" is simply false. (sadly, some of you are saying right now, "No, Rhyan...He/She "never" helps") You are missing the point, my friend...
The goal in your marriage is not "winning" (although Charlie Sheen may disagree, #winning) The goal is constant growth in all the ways you publicly made vows to each other on your wedding day. I know that thriving in your marriage is tough...especially when it feels like you are barely surviving. But I guarantee you, if you talk to each other with these definitive statements, it won't get better...your spouse will most likely resort to just proving you wrong, and the cycle continues...
Step 1. You get mad. Step 2. You say an "always/never statement. Step 3. They work to prove you wrong. Step 4. They keep tabs of things you do so when you come back with your "always/never" again, they can shove it in your face with all the ways your wrong. This is not marriage, this is middle school.
So here is one idea for you to consider as you are frustrated and trying to figure out how to approach things that frustrate you with your spouse.
Never (see what I did there), try to correct/challenge/address something you are frustrated about when you and your spouse are disconnected. Do we really think we are in a good space to work on our differences when we are already disconnected? (this is the case in parenting too...but I'll save that for another blog). Ask your spouse if you can talk later about something that is frustrating you...give them the permission to set the time/date to work it through. If it goes south while you are "working" on it (aka...fighting), take a time-out...again, the goal is not winning, the goal is growing, thriving, flourishing, for the long haul.
Kari and I had to make a rule...we realized that the majority of the times we fought after 9pm, it would not end well. You know what we did? We stopped working on things that frustrated us after 9pm...which is hard, because it's often the only time that we really saw each other after getting home from work, driving kids to and fro with their activities, dinner, homework, bedtime routines, etc...but if we fight after 9pm, it most likely will end poorly because, we are tired, we most likely haven't connected much for the day, and so we often say, "When would be a good time for us to talk about this?" and we set the date. The trick will be to consider this a good thing, not acting like a frustrated 12 year old toward your spouse until you finally talk it through.
Lastly, here are some phrases that you might try instead as you embrace and look each other in the eyes..."We are on the same team!", "I am sorry.", "I love you very much.", "I want to keep working on this.", "I don't wake up in the morning thinking of ways I can frustrate you."
Keep going my friends...it's worth it...you are one the same team!!