TIPS FOR TALKING TO YOUR SPOUSE WHEN YOU’RE NOT ON THE SAME PAGE
- Assume that they have your child’s best interest at heart. That way, you’ll see them as someone on the same side rather than as an enemy.
- Try to see things from their perspective. Not only will that help you find a compromise, but it will increase the likelihood that they will see things from your perspective.
- When you explain your perspective, don’t blame them for doing things differently from how you would. Doing so will only make them immediately defensive and unwilling to hear you or focus on solutions.
Here’s what this looks like:
Paula and her husband Jon are discussing the kids’ after-school routine. Paula is saying that she’d like their son Charlie start his homework 30 minutes after he gets home. Jon is insisting that Charlie needs more “down time” after school.
Paula: Jon, I know Charlie needs downtime. That’s why I give him 30 minutes.
Jon: But 30 minutes isn’t nearly enough! He’s sat in school all day and needs to relax.
Paula (wants to defend herself, especially since she’s the one at home with the kids. But she knows that Jon also knows and loves the kids, so she decides to hear him out. She counts to 10 and says): What do you mean?
Jon: When I was a kid, I could NOT have gone through a day of school and then come home and do work. And we both know that Charlie is exactly like me!
Paula (chuckles lightheartedly): You STILL don’t want to come home from work and do more work!
Jon (because she is clearly making a joke and not attacking him, he laughs.): That is true. (Turns serious.) I just worry that we’re asking Charlie to do something he can’t do.
Paula (thinks for a moment about what Jon is saying): You really think he can’t do that?
Jon: I really think he can’t.
Paula: OK. I hear what you’re saying. Can I tell you the problem I’m having?
Jon (is willing to listen since Paula listened to him): Sure.
Paula: If he doesn’t do it 30 minutes after he gets home, then he gets involved in something else. And pulling him back to homework later is really tough.
Jon: How so?
Paula: He needs help going from playing to his homework if we wait too long. But especially if I’m making dinner, I can’t give him that help.
Jon (even though he feels he doesn’t have that problem with Charlie himself, he tries to see the situation from Paula’s perspective instead of his own): Yeah, I can see how that would be tough.
Paula: So I’m just not sure what to do.
Jon: OK, if he needs more than 30 minutes…and he has trouble coming back to homework later… I wonder if there’s another way to help him transition?
Paula: Well sometimes a timer helps… IF he sets the timer himself… and IF he’s not playing video games. Then timers only make him more mad.
Jon: What do you think of making a deal with Charlie — if we give him extra time and allow him to set the timer, then he can have more free time after school?
Paula: I’m OK with that. But I also think we need to build in the promise that we’ll revisit this in a week if it doesn’t work.
DEALING WITH RESISTANCE
Your spouse refuses to budge
What it may mean: Your spouse is in Yuck — either related to your relationship, related to this topic, or related to a stressor outside of this situation.
What you can say to yourself:
“Not being willing to even hear what I have to say is a sign of Yuck. Instead of getting sucked into Yuck, I need to either address their Yuck or talk about this at another time.”
What you can say to them:
“Hey, let’s put this aside for a minute… Are you doing OK?”
“Do you think it’d be better to talk about this at another time?”
(Note: Your tone here will make all the difference. If they sense that you are on their side, their Yuck will reduce. If they sense that you are against them, their Yuck will increase.)