The power of a well-placed break. A short powernap on a long workday. Intermission at a play. The seventh inning stretch. How about the nine month stretch?
Transition to parenthood is challenging. Research shows that two thirds of all couples will experience a precipitous drop in marital satisfaction following the birth of baby.
Those cute little bundles make us so happy and fill us with love and delight, but also stress us out! It is a short road between feeling stressed and being irritable with our partner; our communication breaks down and we find ourselves not wanting to work together as a team. Believe it or not, this is super common and pretty ‘normal.’ Normal – yes. Uncomfortable – yes. Avoidable – YES.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of satisfying relationships. Go out of your way to stay connected by talking with your partner several times throughout each day. Inquiring about how they are doing and what’s on their mind; you’ll be letting your partner know that he or she is a priority and that you care about them.
If you really want to give your bond a boost, be sure to avoid negativity and criticism and instead compliment your partner for something that they did right. ‘Thank you for changing peanut’s poopie diaper. Thank you for picking up dinner. Thank you for helping me edit my blog post.’ (Luv you, hunny!)
Recognizing, appreciating and commenting favorably on your partners contributions will increase the emotional connection between you and also increase the likelihood that they will help again in the future (hint hint!).
For those conversations that get off to a bad start, well, it is worthwhile to take 5. If the first few of minutes of a conversation or argument are met with criticism, hostility or defensiveness, your best course of action is to retreat and take a break. Make sure, that the decision to take a break was done collectively and agree to separate for a minimum of twenty minutes, with an agreed upon time to come back together and try again.
For an effective break that leads to great resolution:
- DON’T use the break as an opportunity to let your frustration fester and conjure up all the retorts that you wished you said earlier
- DON’T use your break as a way to avoid your partner
- DO use your time to relax and emotionally calm down
- DO make sure you feel calm and composed before resuming the conversation
Employing effective well placed breaks will greatly enhance your ability to approach the subject matter with a clearer head, be more creative in your problem solving and compromising abilities and facilitate your ability to successfully resolve conflict. You will be glad you did!
That’s a wrap.
Dr. Alyssa Berlin, PsyD, CGE
Clinical Psychologist, Certified Gottman Educator, Co-founder of Berlin Wellness Group