The clutter has cleared, the boxes disposed and everything is in it’s right place (Kind of like that Radiohead song). Thrilled to spend our first 4th of July in the new house grilling out if the Music City Hot Chicken Festival is rained out, granted it doesn’t rain here, as well.
In an attempt to reduce conflict before it arises between us, I googled how to coexist peacefully (sad, but true). But I wanted to dig further than the “discusses finances, compromise and fight fair” advice. As a Social Worker constantly mediating conflicts between couples, I understand the basics.
Here is what my research revealed:
Tip #1 Protect your relationship against the Cohabitating Effect
The Cohabitation Effect goes something like this: Nearly half of young Americans in their 20’s would agree with and believe if he or she lived together with their partner before marriage, they could find out whether or not they really got along. Unfortunately, this belief is disputed through evidence which suggests couples who cohabit before marriage actually tend to be less satisified with their marriages, more likely to divorce. The negative outcomes lead to the Cohabitating Effect.
What can you do?
Safeguard your relationship! Don’t “slide” into living with one another, such as staying the night with each other more and more frequently until suddenly you realize one day “Wait, are we living together now?” Discuss intention and detail the outcome you hope to create. Make sure each agenda leads to the same visualized ending. Do you both hope moving in together will lead to marriage? What do each of you expect out of the other and yourself after living together for a year?
For additional information regarding the Cohabitating Effect, click here.
Tip #2 Recognize the betrayal of disengagement
Brene Brown, renowned TED Talk speaker and vulnerability advocate, so eloquently describes the betrayal of diengagment in her new book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. While Brown explains the most familiar betrayals such as lying, cheating and other major let-down moments, she advises recognizing the most insidious form of betrayal…disengagement.
After lacking the willingness to try for an extended period, couples tend to grow apart and give up on making the effort of satisfying each other’s needs. Brown strongly encourages readers to face the truth and point out feelings of disengagement. Warning signs include a lack of caring, paying attention and desire to fight for relationship, while concrete examples may include not listening, remaining glued to your smart phone and failing to engage in the other person’s interests.
Brown references author John Gottman who wrote The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples as he argues,
“What I’ve found through research is that trust is built through very small moments, which I call “sliding door moments” after the movie Sliding Doors. In any interaction there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner”.
How often do you seize the day and not only allow yourself to feel vulnerable but actively take risks to turn towards the one you love?
The idea of watching my boyfriend play a show in Clarksville (about an hour and a half away from our hometown) filled me with anxiety, because the last thing I wanted to do was embrace a room full of strangers, and the possibility of rejection is hard to deal with. Yet, instead of making excuses as to why I couldn’t make it, I decided last minute to put my feelings aside and step into the unknown. It’s not all about me; it’s about supporting my boyfriend (plus learning how to make new friends was part of my new years resolutions for June anyways.) Luckily for me, a close friend of mine named Caitlin coincidentally lived 5 minutes down the street from the event and showed up to keep me company. What a win-win: I had a great night with my boyfriend and still had a girlfriend by my side most of the night whom I hadn’t caught up with in months.
Brown suggests disengaging behaviors lead to both partners feeling shame, unworthy of love and belonging. Once you begin to feel shame and embarrassment from being let down after you tried to connect with your partner, the issue becomes even more difficult to discuss. Don’t wait until the awkward tension boils over and all hell breaks loose; actively attend to your relationship with compliments, acts of kindness and a conscious effort to make things work. Click here to learn more about trust and betrayal on behalf of John Gottman.
Tip #3 Leave 3 Things Unsaid
The most straight-forward piece of advice? Stop nagging! Unless the situation presents itself repeatedly or warrants a major threat to the relationship (yes, please nag and complain if your partner’s debt is sending the mortgage into foreclosure), allow the issue to go unnoticed. For example, when my boyfriend leaves the ceiling fan on with the light off, I get annoyed reaching up in the dark on my tip-toes struggling to find the string to turn on the light. Yes, it’s frustrating, but is it worth mentioning? Sure I could make a big deal about the clothes and wet towels strewn across the bathroom after he showers or I could rememeber that he worked 2 jobs that day and choose to let it go. Leaving 3 things unsaid each day reduces conflict in our cohabitating relationship. One blogger suggests analyzing your partner’s intentions and appreciating differences, versus assuming the other person’s actions are wrong (such is the case with the ceiling fan).
Relationships take work, but luckily I haven’t had the chance to use most of this advice, since we lead busy lives and we have only lived together for about 2 weeks. But seriously, leaving 3 things unsaid has prevented so many arguments. June was a blur with ice cream benefits, Bonnaroo, camping, plus my granny had surgery, aunt visited from Virginia and even just the process of packing up and cleaning the old place to unloading everything here can feel overwhelming. Sure, this post is completely irrelevant to the overall theme of my blog (New Years Resolutions), but until I read the July Chapter in The Happiness Project, I plan on nurturing our relationship and celebrating the next few days with my love and close friends.