This social distancing process has been extremely helpful for our communities, but via Telehealth I have heard countless complaints on what it is doing to our local marriages.
I have been asked so many times for suggestions on how to deal with being home together with everyone all day long. As a couples therapist, there are SO many suggestions I could make but the #1 idea that comes to mind is INTENTIONAL FAMILY LIVING.
Intentional family living is a boundary setting that sends a message to your children that “Mom and Dad time is crucial.”
You intentionally make time in your day for each other.
You may be thinking, “OK, Melyssa, that sounds great, but what do I do exactly and how do I make this work with my kids home and needing me every 5 minutes?” And maybe others are saying, “Why would I want to spend MORE time with my husband?!”
So I’ll break it down for you.
The time you are having with your spouse currently is probably not filled with connecting, quality time. If you have been drawn to this article in the first place, I am assuming you feel overwhelmed and may need some help. Tension is high, especially when there is so much uncertainty for the future. When stress is high, we tend to take it out on those we love most. It’s awful, but it’s a terrible reality. That doesn’t make it right. We have to change this.
In comes intentional family living.
Block out time in your schedule at least twice a day for you and your partner to have time where you focus on each other. Tell the kids this is the new normal. My recommendation is after dinner, mom and dad are going to stay at the dinner table and drink tea or have extra dessert. Kids are not allowed to come back to the table for 20 minutes. Everyone must respect that. If they come back to the table, they lose 20 minutes of screen time each time (or something else they love). This time is blocked off and is sacred. Worried about the kids? Make sure they are safe of course and that this is age-appropriate.
Obviously, a toddler and a one-year old can’t fend for themselves, so this wouldn’t work for that family dynamic. Your intentional family time might fall during naptime, which is completely fine as well.
What do we talk about during this time? You do not talk about work or the kids. You connect. You talk about interests you have. You act like you are on a first date trying to learn about this person across from you. Date them and show genuine interest. (If you need ideas on what questions to ask, download the free Gottman Cards app and click on “Love Maps”).
Make sure there are two sets of time blocked off for about 15-20 minutes each day. The example you set to your children through this is that “Marriage should be a priority!”
How incredible is that? You will be teaching your children that their future marriage should be important to them, even when things are chaotic and busy.
*If you like the concept of intentional families, look into the book by Dr. William Doherty called “The Intentional Family”.