Month in Moments - July '20 Edition
This month's Month in Moments calendar has a different focus than usual, one that our family needs and that I wanted to offer to and share with others. This month's calendar offers daily ideas for couples. If you are solo-parenting but in a relationship, these can be done from afar (Will leaves for six weeks soon so that's what we'll be doing :). If you're single parenting, you can adjust most of the ideas pretty easily to add some self-care strategies to your toolbox - or you can do them with a best friend in your social bubble. If you need help adjusting ideas to your specific family, shoot me an email (email@example.com). So, why the change? Because if your family is like ours, it's been four months since we had a date night. Because it's easy and pleasant to do what we're good at, and important to spend time growing where we need to. It's easy for me to plan activities to do with kids. It's harder for me to be fully present with Will after a long day of juggling being with HG and working. Sooooo, this months calendar is kind of like a challenge for Will and I that I hope will also add some joy to other families.
Additionally, the research suggests that adults need more options for self-care and relationship care after having children. I like to point out that the average family gets about 37 minutes of free time together a day. Some studies suggest that couples get more time alone together than that (about 1.5 on the low end and 4 hours on the high end with about 30-45min of socializing and communicating (ie the stuff that really pours into your emotional bank account)), but as a military spouse (and a lucky one who's partner is generally home and has never deployed) that number seems high... There's also PLENTY of research on how relationship satisfaction plummets after having kids... but if you're reading this, you probably have kiddos in your life and know that emotions go crazy, stress goes up, and rest/sleep goes down after kids are added to a relationship, soooo I don't think you really need to read about how screwed your relationship will be for a while, you've likely felt it - soooooo, let's move on to how to decrease the plummet in satisfaction.
Grab this month's calendar here.
In family life coaching, we refer often to the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The Gottman's use a house model to think about a strong relationship. This house has a lot of parts (see image) and three interconnected sections - the friendship system (knowing, loving, and appreciating each other), the conflict management system (how to argue well and not shut each other down), and the meaning system (what's your "why" in your relationship?). The Gottman's research is also well known for providing us with a 5:1 ratio, for every negative interaction we have with others, especially life partners, we need five positive interactions to sustain the relationship. The work of Dr. Sue Johnson in emotionally focused marriage therapy reminds us that responding to each others emotions is key to feeling listened to, to feeling validated - these moments of connecting with each other and truly listening to each other are an important part of those five positive interactions. I know for Will and I that it can be easy to glance over our adult feelings and needs (our own and others) when we have little ones who demand so much attention. It is also important to pour some love into our emotional bank accounts. This month's calendar offers simple ways to "make deposits" into our emotional bank account. Here's what you'll see:
Slow Down Sundays: These tasks invite you to do something as a family to connect all together or to check in with each other and plan for the week ahead.
Move it Mondays: Be silly and playful, get outside, and move! These ideas boost physical connection. You'll see some yoga ideas, Zumba, and more. Play is super beneficial for adults just like it is for kiddos and often we forget that (read more about that here).
Tea Time Tuesdays: I stole the idea from my calendars for kiddos :). Will and I have tea together each night, but usually with the TV on. This month, we'll try to switch that up. I included an invitation to try attentive silence, one of the most awkward things I've learned to use. We often use little "minimal encouragers" ("oh yeah?", "uh huh", "what??!") as we listen (women tend to do this more than men - very loosely generalizing). Sometimes these actually really throw off the speaker. Attentive silence invites us to truly listen rather than listening to plan a response. There's no pressure to reply, just to listen. Have fun trying it :). For a counseling class I took, we had to practice it for twenty minutes... I'd aim for 3-5 minutes :).
What's That? Wednesday: Commit to learning something new together this month! Choose a fun topic or one that ties into the meaning part of your sound relationship house. We are working on ensuring we are an anti-racist family, so we are going to tackle some of the lectures from Yale's open course on African American history.
Thoughtful Thursday: One of the resources I like to use with coaching clients that has also been helpful for Will and I is the Four Tendencies quiz by Gretchen Rubin. Will is a skeptical Questioner (which can be straight up maddening for me) and I'm an Upholder (sometimes Obliger) which overwhelms Will. This is helpful for us when it comes to understanding why we are struggling to follow through on something, etc. You'll also see some quotes to discuss and an app to try to give you conversation starters and more :).
Netflix and Chill Friday: You're welcome to interpret this in the Urban Dictionary style... but here, I mean taking some time to chill and watch something new together :). We lose a lot of time being indecisive about what to watch and fall back on the same old, same old things, so plan ahead and choose what to watch each Friday of the month.
Game Night Saturday: Mix up your week by playing a game together. I asked Will to help me with this month's calendar and his first suggestion was to play video games together :). Which was super sweet - he doesn't play often and only plays with his best friends, so that was a good reminder that he hasn't gotten to see his friends or enjoy this hobby in a while. (We played Sonic 2 on his Sega Mini Genesis or something like that, and I was sad because I was hoping to die sooner so I could move on...)
What do you and your partner or friends like to do to pour into your relationship? How much time do you think you get together as couple if you have kiddos in your life? I hope you have an awesome month together!
Navarra R.J., Gottman J.M. (2018) Sound Relationship House in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. In: Lebow J., Chambers A., Breunlin D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy.
Hold me Tight by Sue Johnson
The Conversation by Hill Harper
True Love and How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown