The first week was manageable, but the longer we’re in confined quarters juggling work pressures and children at home, the harder it is to get along. Here are four tips for healthier relationships from Palo Alto therapist Linda Miller, the Bay Area’s most-experienced certified Gottman Marital Therapist, who employs principles developed by psychologists John and Julie Gottman and their 40 years of breakthrough research on marital stability.
1. Make time to be mindful and to reflect on what you appreciate in your partner. Write down both personal and qualities that your partner does that you appreciate, even if only occasional or mundane, like “I appreciate you putting the toilet seat down.” Notes Miller, “The things we appreciate are idiosyncratic. It’s often the flip side of things that get on your nerves.”
2. Define expectations for each person's time. Be clear about who’s doing what, and when. “In talking with people, I’m hearing that everything is upended, and so if you’re working from home, some people don’t even have a separate room to work in—they’re in the kitchen or the dining room,” Miller says. “Try, I’m going to be sequestered away and I’m going to try to keep a workday schedule; maybe we can have lunch together at 1 pm, but I’m going to knock out four to five hours of work.’”
3. With our routines shattered, experiment with new things for fun and connection. Watch movies together or take walks together. Find jokes to share and ridiculous memes. Silliness and laughter is important right now.
4. Make appointments to talk. Set a time to talk. Avoid blame, criticism and impulsive rants. Miller advises saying, “There’s something going on for me that’s causing me frustration. When would you have a few minutes?” Broach the topic positively: “I want to tell you that I'm feeling tension about the dishes left in the sink and I don't want that to get in the middle between us. When I see the dishes, I start feeling yicky. I was hoping we can figure out some way to make me feel better.”