What Does It Mean for You When…| December 13, 2022
One question can decrease marital conflict
What Does It Mean for You When…
Abby Delouya RMFT-CCC, CPTT
There’s an old adage that couples get divorced over the toothpaste tube. He likes to squeeze from the bottom and loses the cap, she likes a top squeeze, with the cap neatly replaced. She states her preference, he states his, and when conditions are right (or more accurately wrong) in the marriage — this can turn into a cold war of “He doesn’t even care what’s important to me!” Or “She doesn’t respect anything I say!”
Most actions are invested with some emotional significance. Usually, most healthy people only request things they need — emotionally or physically. Therefore, when these requests are met with stonewalling or indifference, it feels like our needs are being ignored.
If I were a betting woman, I would bet that if couples incorporated a single question into their regular conversations, marital conflict would decrease. Why not ask “What does it mean for you when….?”
Often we don’t put enough thought into what motivates our spouses' emotional or logistical choices, and it can lead to one or both partners feeling misunderstood and start a cycle of conflict, anger, or hurt. Sometimes we don’t personally know why we do things, but we feel really strongly about them. This question can help press pause and give time for emotional exploration. There are many different scenarios where this could apply:
We all know that date nights or date moments (hanging out while folding laundry) are great for a marriage. We know how hard it is to get out, arrange it, pay for it, etc. But then we assume, once we’re out, it’s smooth sailing, right? Not always. Sometimes date nights/moments can become a source of conflict, usually primarily because there is not a shared idea of fun or connection. Instead of getting annoyed that she always wants to eat out, or he always wants to play games, ask: “What does it mean for you when…”
Chaim: I get tired of eating out all the time, and it’s getting really expensive. I see you always want to go to restaurants. What does it mean for you when we go out?”
Esther: It means I get a break from the kitchen, I get to get dressed up and feel like a normal adult after a whole day of being with the kids. It means undivided talking time, and it feels good also because I have such nice memories of eating out as a child.
Infusing the experience with an understanding of the emotional interplay brings important context.
Communication is usually more emotional or exciting at the beginning of a marriage, and as demands and familiarity increase, communication tends to get more pragmatic. This can be fine — except if one partner feels upset about the lack of connection and warmth it can bring.
Dovid has a bad habit of hanging up before saying goodbye in a mundane conversation with his wife. He tries to call on his way home from work, but he prefers to unwind in the car, and doesn’t like to chat for long. He feels that his checking in is admirable and doesn’t understand why nothing is ever enough for his wife. Shevy is initially hurt and then very angered by this behavior. After a while of Dovid hanging up on her, Shevy is seething by the time he comes home. Imagine how quickly the scene could change with this script:
Shevy: (slams cupboards, serves Dovid his supper without a backward glance, clattering plates).
Dovid: Shevy, you seem mad.
Shevy: I am mad!!! You hung up on me again!
Dovid: I’m sorry, Shevy — I didn’t mean to, it’s not something I do consciously. What does it mean for you when I do that?
Shevy: It means you can’t stand to talk to me for longer than a minute, that you don’t actually care how I am, that you’re merely crossing off a chore on your to-do list.
Dovid: That’s not it at all! I actually like to take the time in the car to clear my brain, so when I see you, I’m not still in work mode. I just want to tell you I’m on my way home and that I’m thinking of you. The hanging up is just a bad habit. I’m sorry….
When we take the time and effort to ask what the emotional process is for our spouse, it can save so much heartache and arguments.
Abby Delouya, RMFT-CCC, CPTT is a licensed marriage and individual therapist with a specialty in trauma and addiction.
On the Lookout
Dr. Jennie Berkovich
Last time we discussed RSV, a common respiratory virus, and the different groups that are at higher risk of severe symptoms. The good news is that the overwhelming majority of kids who get RSV do quite well. Despite this, it’s important to keep an eye on children who are having symptoms, and know how to identify worrisome signs:
Fast or rapid breathing: RSV causes significant secretions. That’s a lot of goopy boogers to deal with. Sometimes, especially in younger kids, the secretions become overwhelming and the breathing rate increases as the child tries to breathe through the mucus. We look for “retractions” or tummy breathing. Retractions can also be seen in the ribs and even above the clavicle. Kids who are really struggling to breathe may flare their nostrils and even grunt. These are signs of distress and should prompt immediate medical evaluation.
Dehydration: When kids are sick, they don’t have much of an appetite. I hardly ever worry about lack of food intake, but I often worry about my patients refusing to drink. Fluid refusal can lead to dehydration, which can manifest as dry and tacky lips, decreased tear production, and a decrease in wet diapers. Dehydration is a common cause for landing kids with RSV in the emergency room.
Finally, what treatments are available for RSV?
Since most symptoms are mild, treatments are aimed at keeping the patient comfortable, including fluids and sinus irrigation. In older kids and adults this means saline spray and nose blowing. In younger children and babies this means suctioning the nose.
Since RSV is a virus, antibiotics are not needed and won’t be helpful.
Some high-risk children, like premature babies and babies with chronic diseases, may be candidates for a preventative antibody treatment called Palivizumab or Synagis. This won’t prevent someone from getting RSV, but it is meant to prevent the development of severe disease.
Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician in Chicago and serves as the Director of Education for the Jewish Orthodox Medical Association (JOWMA)
Can I Sit Here?
Have you ever been at a simchah and walked over to the table with all your coworkers, or approached a circle of friends schmoozing in the bungalow colony, and realized with a start that there was no room for you to sit or insert yourself? Awkward at any age.
A great social sensitivity to teach kids is the one we call “leave room.” Whether playing a game, standing in a circle, sitting at the lunch table or any other group setting, encourage your child to leave space, ensuring that the next child approaching won’t feel like a third wheel. When that space is filled, leave another place or make some more room.
As a side benefit, our behavior affects our environment. Helping our children increase their sensitivity to others in this way increases the likelihood that they will be on the receiving end of this gesture in elementary school, high school, and even beyond.
Zipora Schuck MA. MS. is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 822)
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