Sue went over the schedule with the babysitter one more time while her husband, Jake, waited in the car for their date night. “I still can’t believe we are paying her this much,” Jake muttered under his breath. “Well, you could have helped to come up with a better option! We both agreed we wanted to spend time together,” Sue said as she slammed the car door. Jake and Sue once again found themselves arguing while trying to find time to connect. “Why can’t we just have a nice time together?” Jake asked. “I guess because we keep stepping on our issues,” answered Sue.
Can you relate to this story? You and your spouse set out to spend time together only to get stuck arguing, seemingly sabotaging your chance to connect and have fun. During these times, couples often think their love is fading or their relationship is deteriorating due to these constant fights.
Why? Often unresolved issues, hurts, disappointments, fears and vulnerabilities accumulate and become rubble in your relationship. Sometimes you need to ‘clear the rubble’ so to create a clearing where you and your spouse can connect, enjoy and have some fun.
Couples often say that when they are on vacation they are able to leave behind their accumulated hurts, issues and ‘rubble’ and have a good connecting time. But when at home, they feel as though they are walking on rocky rubble easily getting triggered and slipping into an argument.
The rubble of most couples is around finances, kids, in-laws, how time is spent and division of chores. And the dragons, or pain and fears concerning the rubble varies from feeling not good enough, inadequate, your efforts are not seen, feeling like it is all up to you or you are abandoned and alone.
That’s what happened to Jake and Sue. Their argument ‘topic’ might have been over the rising cost of a babysitter. But the rubble they tripped over was their concerns, fears and sensitivities around finances. Jake’s daily stress and worry about finances bubbled over in a critical manner, while Sue felt blamed once again for trying to take care of their family.
Often couples need to first clear the rubble off their relationship floor before they can enjoy each other and connect. They need to deal with the hot issues intruding on their relationship before they can have a sweet time together. To save the evening, maybe Jake and Sue could’ve paused, turned to each other and said, “We know finances are a struggle right now, we are both trying hard even though we don’t agree on it all. But let’s put it aside our hurts for now so we can spend an evening together, without kids, and connect.”
How do you clear the rubble to make a clearing
so you can connect with your spouse?
1. Identify! Identify what is making you and your partner get stuck. In the example above the couple has continual fights about finances due to their financial stress and differences in spending.
2. Understand! Take time independently to understand what is going on underneath the surface for you. Do you have fears, worries or anxieties that are a driving force for you? For the couple above the husband has daily stress and worry about their financial state, while the wife feels she cannot do right by her family.
3. Go Slow! Identifying the topic might be easy for some but the next step is where we all can get tripped up. Slow yourselves down since both of you can be easily triggered in these moments. When couples get in a rut of a fight cycle it is easy to fall back into the familiar cycle. It takes intentionality to change your habits by slowing down and reminding yourselves not to get caught in your old cycles.
4. Take a New Stance! Instead of blaming, becoming critical or avoiding the topic altogether, risk to open up and share your fears and longings. “I feel ashamed I am not making more money in this season I have anxiety everyday about our financial state.”
Sharing your softer side will be risky, but this new way of relating will give you a new stance, a new position in your relationship. Which will help your spouse understand you, and draw you closer.
Clearing the rubble can be difficult, especially if you have been stuck in your argument cycle for years. To help you understand the Safe Haven Model and your specific argument cycle, join us for our upcoming webinar.