Looking back to our latest move in 2022, it certainly was wild, or worse, tumultuous and sometimes highly discouraging. We moved from a large house to a much smaller flat after 14 years of accumulating everything you can store beyond reason.
We believed the timing was perfect as our son was leaving to study in another town. So in August, during the hottest days in summer, we all moved out and into a new place.
It was a tough time for marriage. I will quote something that struck a bell (thank you, Cheryl Erwin, for sharing it) – ‘Do You Want to Be Right, or Do You Want to Be Married?” I remember telling my other half (in a moment of despair) that we are suitable for life if we get through this without a divorce!
My husband and I are like the moon and the sun, salt and sugar, with different energies and ways of dealing with stress. My strategy was not to overthink and keep going. Just do it. Bit by bit, every day AND start early. Sounds logic? Not to everyone. Especially for my husband … so letting go was constant and a HUGE and CONSTANT effort. You know what? It takes more energy than the actual physical move! Making choices (shall we stop or continue?) was a weekly-monthly question. During these moments, I tested many Positive Discipline tools for the couple, and if we survived (and are still married today), this is what worked for us.
5 Tips and Tools For Keeping Your Sanity During A Move
1. Make a list of AGREEMENTS
We started by brainstorming what each of us needed to make this the best possible move. To be as specific as possible, focus on what must be said and done. We wrote it down and pasted it so it is visible. This small detail was crucial. So yes, have a notebook for the meetings.
This is an extract from the list, and more details on the content will follow :
– Communicate emotions using: ‘I feel ____ when _____ and I wish/need ________
– Have (almost) daily encouragements – note each other’s progress and verbalize appreciation
– Stay in the present and focus on solutions – versus blame, criticism, reproach and ‘I’m right’.
– Limit conflict discussion time to 30′ max and reschedule if needed
– Hold a couple’s meeting every week for 30 minutes to go through objectives and agreements
– Keep your sense of humour
2. Understand the brain and use the Positive Time Out for a cooling-off period
When upset and stressed, I have immediate access to the ‘fight’ part of my brain, whereas my husband is in ‘flight or freeze’ mode. You get it. It doesn’t work.
We agreed to wait until we both cooled off (especially me) and have access to our rational brains after a Time Out. During one of our weekly meetings, we learned how to use the ‘I feel ______ when ________and I wish or need _____. For example, I feel irritated when you don’t do what you said you would, and I wish you would tell me in advance when you cannot meet your deadline.’ And sometimes followed by, ‘What do you suggest otherwise?
3. Hold a couple’s meeting every week to go through objectives and agreements
Several things to keep in mind.
- Keep it at 30 minutes with a timekeeper (your smartphone is just fine)
- Be regular and do it EVERY WEEK. We sometimes skipped it, and lo! The problems got big, and it became more difficult to cool down at a certain point. Meetings are best held regularly to check in on how things are moving. If there is an issue to solve, solve it whilst it’s small.
- Start all meetings with a thank you, an encouragement or a compliment.
- Use the phrase, I feel _____ when … etc., if there is an emotion to share.
- Brainstorm solutions and write them down.
- Close the meeting by acknowledging the (even minor) progress and plan a fun thing to do
You may have noticed that we always start with something positive to say and end with something positive. This helps to have meetings regularly and often. Finishing a meeting frustrated and irritated is discouraging and unhelpful.
‘No problem is too difficult once it is recognized as a common task’ Rudolf Dreikurs
4. Focus on Solutions
Well, this was the hardest for us. Sometimes, we were so upset with each other that it went quickly into the blame and shame words. Notice your irritation and start with a ‘Positive Time Out’ to cool down and then have a meeting to focus on solutions.
This means :
- Avoid blame (you should have, could have, why didn’t you…! etc.) and focus on solutions. Blame focuses on the past, and solutions focus on what could solve the problem in the future. For example, how can we do better next time? What can we change? What do you need from me? How can I help? Is there anything to add to the agreements list, or shall we review it?
- See it as a learning opportunity when a solution doesn’t work (and it may not quickly work). ‘Okay (deep sign), this didn’t work … so how can we do it better next time?’ Be patient. You are both changing habits!
5. Try to keep it all as fun as possible, and see where you can still laugh
‘If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor’ Jennifer Jones
My husband has an great sense of humour compared to me, where I can get strung up and lose it. I once read on Esther Perel’s excellent website that she suggested a couple discuss disagreements lying down on the floor. I told my husband about it, and we tried it. It’s amusing, and surprising, and our tone changed. Humour definitely helps to lighten up and shift difficult situations. It brings out fight-or-flight thinking.
One last tip. Our primary challenge was that we are two people with very different ways of seeing the situation. I often (especially when irritated with him) couldn’t understand his point of view or why he didn’t understand mine. Understanding the perception of the other is vital for improving your listening and the words used so that the other person ‘hears’ you. Therefore, regularly returning to the agreements is essential to fine-tune your expectations and others.
Good luck with your move; it may be an opportunity to strengthen your couple’s life. We learned a great deal, and our couples meetings are now regular even today 🙂
Reference: Keeping the Joy in Relationships – The Positive Discipline Way
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