We live in politically divisive times. And those
divisions even find their way into our marriages.
According to one study, 29 percent of Americans who were either married or in a relationship said today’s political climate causes tension with their partner.
If you and your husband disagree politically,
you might feel like you’re trapped in one of those cable news shows where
ideological rivals just keep shouting over each other. Or you might be
simmering silently, aghast and puzzled at his opinions.
Either way, your diverging beliefs may be creating distance between you. And that can lead to deeper problems if you don’t find a way to manage your differences.
You can still have a successful marriage if the two of you argue over politics sometimes. Political conflicts become a problem only if you handle them in ways that are detrimental to your marriage. It’s especially important to never show contempt for each other when you’re disagreeing over politics — or anything else, for that matter. Contempt is one of the biggest red flags that your relationship is in trouble.
Instead, handle political disagreements in your
marriage the same way you would other types of conflict: with respect and love.
Don’t bring up points of political disagreement when you are
tired, irritated or feel like you can’t control yourself — or when you can tell
that your husband is experiencing one of those states.
Pause, hold hands and make eye contact when you’re disagreeing.
When you are in touch with the humanity of your partner, you’ll be less likely
to say things you will regret later.
If things get too heated, take a timeout so you can both get to a
Conflict With Positivity
You can counteract some of the damage that political conflicts in your marriage cause by actively making an effort to remember all that is positive about your partner and your marriage. I’ve written before about how John Gottman discovered that spouses in successful marriages share more positive interactions than negative ones—a lot more. Happy, long-married couples have 20 positive interactions for every negative one. Even when they’re in conflict, their ratio is still five positives for every negative.
That’s something to keep in mind if politics are
a source of negativity in your marriage. When the two of you are regularly
kind, respectful and appreciative with each other, political conflicts will be
easier to navigate.
Reducing Your Overall Stress
If political differences with your husband are
pushing your buttons more than usual lately, remember that your marriage is
being affected by outside forces. In other words, your problems aren’t solely
caused by issues between the two of you.
First, it’s not your imagination that the overall political climate has grown more polarized and divisive. The society that we live in always has some influence on our relationships. And, in this case, that impact is turning up the heat around political differences we might have glossed over in the past.
Then there’s everyday stress. In a 2018 survey by the American Psychiatric Association, about 40 percent of Americans said they had grown more anxious in the past year. When we’re more stressed, we tend to magnify the negative traits we see in our partners. So, as an experiment, try focusing on reducing your stress and see if that affects how you feel about your political differences.
perfectly fine if the two of you just decide to agree to disagree about
politics and not discuss the issues that get you heated.
That’s what’s working for one of the couples in a New York Times article about partners with opposing political beliefs:
The next morning (after
the 2016 election), with tears in my eyes, I told Nisim we were going to have
to get divorced because I could not live with him for the next four years. He
said, “Honey, we’re not going to get divorced. We’re just not going to talk
about politics for the next four years.”
Get Curious and Listen
For other couples, though, it can be beneficial to try to better understand each other’s beliefs. We tend to assume an awful lot about other people, even our spouses, based on how they vote. But just because someone supports a political party or official on one stance, doesn’t mean that they wholeheartedly embrace everything in that party or official’s agenda. Having the courage to get curious and to listen deeply can help you get past any assumptions you are holding about each other’s political opinions. It can also help you decide whether your spouse’s beliefs are ones you simply dislike or whether they violate your deep values (in which case the issues with your marriage probably go beyond the scope of this article).
Remember That Facts
Don’t Change Minds
Right now, you might be thinking, “That’s
great and all. But it would be even greater if he could just change his mind
and agree with me politically!”
Varol writes that facts don’t sway our opinions
because “we tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and
overvalue evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments
on the opposing side.”
The article also explores how no one likes to
admit they were wrong. And sometimes people just dig in harder when we try to
convince them of the error of their political ways.
It’s more effective, Varol says, to give the
other person an out that lets them save face.
Finally, I want to leave you with a quote from the minister Joseph Fort Newton: “People are lonely because they build walls, instead of bridges.” I hope this article inspires you to build a bridge over the political differences between you, rather than a wall, especially if other parts of your marriage are going well.
You might be worried about the flu and other physical ailments that start circulating this time of year. But a contagion of a very different kind was the subject of a recent story in the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune took a look at how divorce can spread through social circles. It cites a study that found you’re 75 percent more likely to get a divorce yourself if a friend has divorced. Even a friend of a friend getting a divorce raises your own chance of divorcing by 33 percent.
Why does this happen? In the article, relationship expert Helen Fisher says friends’ divorces prompt us to reassess the condition of our own marriages.
Just as physically ill people are hit harder by sicknesses like the flu, your marriage can also suffer from a weakened “immune system.” When your marriage is compromised, you may find yourself fantasizing about leaving, especially if a close friend has already taken that step.
Here are a few tips so you won’t unintentionally fall victim to the divorce contagion. It’s all about strengthening the health of the emotional connection between you and your spouse.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s hard to emotionally connect with anyone when you are running yourself ragged. Sleeping enough, eating well and managing stress make it more likely you will have the bandwidth to connect with your partner. Don’t forget to also make space for the people and activities you deeply enjoy. If you’ve been neglecting hobbies and interests, take some time to renew your passions. Have you lost touch with a dear friend? Reach out today. This can keep you from feeling that you’ve “lost yourself” — and that you need to leave your marriage to find yourself again.
Get Deliberate About Being Positive
Research shows that marriages stay strong when spouses share far more positive interactions than negative ones. But when we’re busy and stressed (which, for most of us, is always!), it’s easier to notice all the negatives. This week, try to intentionally look for and tell your husband how much you appreciate his good qualities. Be affectionate, playful, and compassionate to increase the positive even more. Keeping your “emotional bank account” full with positives prevents it from being overdrawn in difficult times.
Seize Every Moment
Juggling the responsibilities of adulthood can make it hard for you and your husband to even “se” each other. When we focus exclusively on what we need to get done, and not on our partners, that intimate connection frays, little by little. You don’t need a two-week romantic vacation to rekindle your intimacy. (Although I’m very much in favor of taking one if you can!) Instead, take advantage of the small moments in your day — like when you both come home after work — to connect. Investing even a little bit of time each day strengthens your relationship. Check out the Gottman Institute blog for a great resource on this topic: “6 Hours a Week to a Better Relationship.”
The reality of contagious divorce is alarming, but it also serves as a powerful reminder to take care of your relationship. If you’d like a total “wellness guide” for your marriage, I invite you to check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
I don’t know you, but I’m willing to bet that both you and your husband have an extramarital involvement that’s affecting your relationship.
I’m not talking about other people (or at least I hope that’s not happening!). I’m talking about your phones.
There’s even a name now for ignoring your partner so you can pay attention to your phone: Pphubbing (partner phone snubbing).
And researchers are starting to look at the effect of pphubbing on relationships. Two marketing professors from Baylor University published a study on the phenomenon last fall.
“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” James A. Roberts, one of the researchers, explained in a news release about the study. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”
As Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and the author of Alone Together put it in a 2012 TED Talk, we’re prone to using technology to hide from each other or keep each other at arm’s length.
So how can you keep your phone from coming between you and your spouse?
First, pay attention to whether you’re engaging in any of the behaviors that participants in the Baylor study identified as pphubbing:
Placing your cell phone where you can see it or keeping it in your hand when you’re with your partner.
Glancing at your cell phone when you’re talking with your partner.
Checking your cell phone during lulls in conversation with your partner.
See what happens when you commit to avoiding those behaviors and being more present with your partner.
To keep your phone use from affecting your relationship, you may also have to look beyond your personal habits. It’s not your imagination that demands on our time are greater than ever before — and our employers’ constant access to us via our phones is part of the reason why. If it’s possible in your work situation, try to set some stronger boundaries. For example, let colleagues know that they should call you instead of texting or emailing if something urgent comes up so that you won’t feel compelled to keep checking your messages. You could even work together with your colleagues to try to change your office’s communication culture so that all of you can get more restorative time away from work.
Finally, remember that your phone isn’t inherently good or bad for your relationship. It all comes down to how you use it. So as you look for ways to curb your pphubbing behaviors, also look for ways to use technology to enhance communication with your partner. In our busy lives, it’s easy for couples to put deeper communication on the back burner as your conversations become limited to what needs to get done that day (“I have a late meeting, so you’ll need to pick up the kids after soccer — oh, and did you call the bank like we talked about?”). Using technology to add some moments of connection — for example, sending a sweet (or sexy!) text message or sharing an article you know your husband will like with him on Facebook — doesn’t take much time but has big payoffs on the overall health of your relationship.
We get the most from our relationships we give our full attention to each other. Don’t let the siren’s call of your phone imperil that. You’ll find more ideas on staying connected in our busy lives in my book Strong Women, Strong Love. You can even read it on your phone — just not while your partner is talking with you
I admit it: Those dog-shaming posts do crack me up. But otherwise this trend toward shaming is a cruel one that’s dangerous to our relationships.
It doesn’t take a viral social media post to hurt someone with shame, either. Have you ever criticized your husband while the two of you were with your kids, with friends and family or out in public?
Why Shame Hurts
Shame erodes the very things that are essential to the health of your marriage. Relationships need respect to thrive. Dr. John Gottman has done extensive research on what leads marriages to fail. He identified what he calls “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in marriage. Shaming summons two of the Horsemen: criticism and contempt. Contempt, which is at the heart of shaming, is Gottman’s No. 1 predictor of divorce.
When you shame your spouse, you are robbing him of his dignity and taking away his sense of safety in the marriage. A shamed person feels rejected, which is profoundly painful to us as humans — it even activates the same parts of our brains that get triggered when we feel physical pain.
Make it a priority to preserve dignity and respect in your relationship. Distinguish private conversations from public ones. As you keep shaming out of your marriage, I also want to encourage you not to share or like social media posts that shame others. If you haven’t already, watch the powerful TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky (someone who knows firsthand the pain of shaming) about our “culture of humiliation.” Is that really the kind of culture we want to participate in creating? Take a stand against it by communicating with empathy and respect, both in your marriage and online.
Be honest: Has the holiday weekend left you refreshed, or are you exhausted right now?
The Labor Day holiday seems like an appropriate time to take a closer look at how much women work, how tired it’s making us, and the effect of all this “laboring” on our marriages and families.
Let’s start with a few important facts that provide clues about why you may be finding yourself so tired these days:
–Data from a CDC survey shows that women actually do report feeling exhausted more often than men do. The difference is most pronounced in the years that most of us are raising families.
–Women’s financial responsibilities in the family have increased significantly in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, in 40% of the households that have children under 18, mothers are the primary or sole breadwinners.
–Although men are certainly doing more domestic chores than in the past, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that working women are still carrying more of the housework burden.
–This probably won’t surprise you, either: A study published in the American Sociological Review, found that women multitask more than men, spending 40% of their waking hours doing at least two activities at once. Most of the juggling is with household tasks and childcare, two areas in which women are often judged by others if they don’t do them well.
–A study by the University of New Hampshire found that when kids were sick, 74% of mothers missed work to stay home with their sick child compared to 40% of men. Many families find that demands made by employers make it difficult to fulfill other important responsibilities, thereby constantly increasing work stress (and exhaustion).
All of this takes its toll on our relationships. We get snappy and impatient with our kids, and it’s hard to have emotional or physical intimacy with our partners when we’re so tired and stressed (See blogpost on “The Science of Flipping Your Lid”).
Speaking with the Washington Postabout the topic of exhaustion, author and researcher Brene Brown notes that fear can be a barrier to fighting constant overwhelm. People in her studies have told her: “If I really stopped and let myself relax, I would crater. Because the truth is I’m exhausted, I’m disconnected from my partner, I don’t feel super connected to my kids right now.”
If you see a lot of yourself in this statement, consider these ideas for dealing with exhaustion:
1. Remember you’re not alone. First, it’s important to realize that it isn’t “just you.” Economic realities are having a huge impact on life for American families. Brene Brown reminds us that we’re also up against cultural norms that tie our self-worth to our productivity and make being constantly busy and exhausted a status symbol of sorts.
2. Do one thing at a time when you can. Make every effort to curb multitasking. Although it may seem like you’re getting more done, did you know multitasking actually reduces productivity? Not only that, it’s mentally and physically exhausting!
3. Stop saying, “yes.” Although some reasons for our busyness and exhaustion can’t be avoided, others can. As women, our default answer when someone asks us to do something tends to be “yes.” We don’t want to disappoint anyone, but we’re much more effective, and happier, when we set stronger boundaries. Limit how much you have on your plate, and you’ll have more time and energy for the people and things you love.
4. Choose you. Everyone needs time to refuel. Take time to rest, play, and do things that energize you. Taking time for you is not being “lazy;” it’s absolutely essential to your health and well-being.
5. Work together. Finally, and most importantly, work together with your partner. Instead of stewing about what your husband isn’t doing, ask for more help with housework and child care. And don’t stop him and take over when he doesn’t do things exactly your way. (See blog posts on micromanaging) Instead of trying to divide all your household tasks 50-50, look for ways to share responsibilities that play to your individual strengths. If he loves cooking and you love Quicken, for example, let him handle meal duty while you take care of your finances. All of this takes negotiation, of course, but it’s worth the effort. With all of the overwhelming demands on our families, you’ll both feel a lot better facing them as a team.
So in honor of this Labor Day weekend, make a vow to labor less, and to rest, play, and reconnect with your husband and kids much more.
The lists of winners and finalists will be highlighted on our website. Please go to www.indieexcellence.com to see your name and book cover among those of the other proud winners and finalists.
The entire team at the National Indie Excellence Awards sincerely hopes your participation in our contest will serve you well in creating the success your book deserves. You have our sincerest congratulations.