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Experiment to improve communication in marriage

(64 Posts)
ThemeNights Mon 01-Jul-13 22:32:56

I am a regular but have NC'd for this thread, my first in relationships.

So, things are not all rosy in the Nights household. Married 8 years, one DC aged 5, general low level narkiness with each other occasionally blowing up into big row. We love each other but can't break out of the cycle of competitive tiredness, one-upmanship etc. I have recently uttered, with deadly seriousness "I can't live like this." So things have to improve!

Borrowing an idea from a friend of a friend, I have proposed something new. Each night after dinner and DC is in bed, we work together on a particular theme of family life. E.g. Monday - family finances and admin; Tuesday - housework/DIY; Wednesday - shopping lists etc.

One night is set aside for fun when we don't do any jobs but do something together, even if it is slumping in front of a film on TV.

DH has been dismissive, sarky, reluctant, protesting but with some cajoling from me, we made a start tonight. It was a moderate success, we got some stuff done and we had a civil conversation smile

I thought I would start a thread to record progress / success / failure. And to see if anyone has done something similar?

ThemeNights Mon 08-Jul-13 22:58:35

Days 5, 6 and 7

(Been busy so am behind).

We had a night out planned on Friday night so we broke the rules in the first week, but we had fun.

Over the weekend it felt like the usual mix of everything being fine and snapping at each other. DD was on a whine-fest and refusing to go to bed for most of the weekend so that always adds to the stress.

But, I have been making a concerted effort not to escalate it, and to be kinder and I think it has been slightly better. And the fact that we had got some things done during the week meant that I wasn't pissed off at having the weekend taken up completely with jobs to be done.

Day 8 (today)

Really busy day, early start driving some friends to the airport for their holiday and then general manic rushing around. It was 9.30pm before we finished dinner so no enthusiasm for an evening's chores, but I suggested doing a couple of things and DH was happy to follow along. I feel better for gradually ticking things off and we seem to be communicating better. smile

Jux Tue 09-Jul-13 08:41:51

It sounds like it's actually going quite well. As you are gaining insights into your own behaviour, it's not unreasonable to think he may be too. Keep going.

Good luck.

QueenofWhispers Tue 09-Jul-13 10:09:06

marking my place!

ThemeNights Tue 09-Jul-13 20:52:14

Hmm... Insights. So far I have got:

1. I am touchy and ready to react against perceived slights. This comes from a few years ago when life was really stressful, small DD, building an extension, job and money worries... We were really at each other's throats then and I can't seem to forgive and forget, even though things are so much better now. sad

2. DH is insensitive at times, not just to me but to other people in the family. Obviously I get it the most because I live with him.

3. DH is at his worst when tired and/or hungry. a bit like a toddler.

4. DH admits that he feels he never spends any time with me. This is because he has more free time (DD is in school, extension is built) and so misses me being around more, not because I'm more absent.

I'm sure there are more but that's it for now.

Job for tonight is clearing out the cupboard of shame - the one where all the crap is routinely dumped never to be seen again...

ThemeNights Wed 10-Jul-13 21:26:56

Day 9

So what is still going well is the working together through the list of jobs that has piled up over the last few years months.

Still not feeling a particular break through in communication though. There's still snipping at each other, or maybe I'm just imagining it.

I've been reading the NVC book as well in the few minutes in the day I have to read. It's something I have come across in a different guise so I have picked up the concepts fairly easily. It's the practice which will be the challenge.

cronullansw Wed 10-Jul-13 21:41:04

I really, absolutely, could not live my life to a schedule like this - Wednesday night, housework...

No George, you can't watch The Ashes, it's Domestic Admin night. smile

ThemeNights Wed 10-Jul-13 22:09:02

Fair enough Cronullansw smile

It works for me because it means the weekends are clearer for fun, and DH doesn't start a panic at 10.30pm at night that the laundry's piling up or the joint bank account is running low. By then I am ready for bed and get annoyed that it hasn't been sorted earlier when I had the energy. Then we have a row. sad

RandomFriend Thu 11-Jul-13 00:14:56

Y think it is a great idea to set time aside for getting on with stuff that needs to be done but is not yet urgent and then have more time for fun at weekends.

Mumsyblouse Thu 11-Jul-13 00:23:48

I don't really think it matters what you do, as long as you spend more time together doing it, although I would build in a break at some point in the week. Also what you are trying to do is to create an upwards swing of communication and appreciation, instead of a downward spiral of sniping. I think holding your tongue every now and again can do that, and it confounds the other person who is expecting the usual. A good friend once said to me when I was moaning about the general sniping, why don't you just stop (unilaterally) which at the time seemed like giving in, but it broke a spell of bad feeling for us because one person can't keep sniping away when the other is nice without looking unreasonable.

Even if this isn't the breakthrough for once and for all, the fact you are having a go and both contributing is a good start I think. Just don't store up resentment if it doesn't work perfectly for months!

ThemeNights Mon 15-Jul-13 22:02:37

Week three

So, we are sticking to it, sort of. Tonight DH did some DIY and I did some paperwork. It was probably more efficient but didn't do anything to improve communication/working together.

The paperwork was for our small business that we run together, but I always end up doing the paperwork and so DH doesn't know how to do it, which I find frustrating. I suspect his sudden enthusiasm for DIY tonight was because he was avoiding learning how - it's not his strength.

On the plus side we went away for the weekend, camping, with another family. It was lovely. Packing/unpacking usually leads to a row but this time it was all sweetness and light - so maybe something is working.

Jux Tue 16-Jul-13 08:20:41

Sounds like things may be getting sorted between the two of you. Slowly slowly catchee monkey, as it were grin

Good luck with it. I'd try it with dh but he simply wouldn't cooperate.

SquidgyMummy Tue 16-Jul-13 08:27:27

interesting thread; i like seeing how things are slowly improving between you and you are getting more free time at the weekend. well done

ThemeNights Tue 16-Jul-13 20:59:52

Week three, day 2

Well it's all gone wrong again tonight. sad

I got home at 6, DH and DD were still out and not expected back until 7. I decided to use the time to clear out and clean our big food store cupboard. It's got 24 separate shelves and I took out all the food to wipe them all down and put it back in throwing out all the out of date stuff in an organised fashion.

Three quarters the way through DH cam home and immediately got really narky. He was tired, hungry and didn't see why I had started that job then. I told him that I was upset by the way he was speaking but he just went on. And on.

So he ate his dinner alone in the dining room while I finished off in the kitchen. Funnily enough I lost my appetite sad

We're now not speaking, he's watching TV and I'm still in the kitchen.

The cupboard looks lovely smile

Twinklestein Tue 16-Jul-13 21:56:32

Would it not help to cut to the chase & talk about why you are angry/narky with each other?

As long as that is unexamined rows are always going to erupt.

ThemeNights Tue 16-Jul-13 22:01:15

We are so bad at talking to each other when we've had a row, it just escalates.

He's narky because he's hungry.

I'm narky because he talks to me like shit when he's narky. I feel like I can't do anything right. There's no 'give', no kindness, no accepting that people make mistakes when he's in this mood (I forgot to cook the peas with his dinner hmm).

He will come to bed, sleep and forget about it all by the morning. I will stew for weeks but say nothing. I wanted to break this pattern sad

Jux Tue 16-Jul-13 23:18:06

So break it.

Don't stew for weeks, take the bull by the horns and talk about it tomorrow. Then he can't forget about it, either.

ThemeNights Wed 17-Jul-13 07:18:31

Jux, what I want to say is:

"If you can find a single person to agree that your behaviour was reasonable last night I will apologise profusely."

But somehow that doesn't seem to be in the spirit of Non Violent Communication.

Still no talking this morning, he's brought me a cup of tea (it's his turn), I've said thanks, he's gone out with the dog.

ThemeNights Wed 17-Jul-13 07:20:28

Twinklestein, my assumption is that I don't meet his expectations, I am just waiting for him to criticise the next thing that I do wrong.

He might say the same sad

peteypiranha Wed 17-Jul-13 07:20:55

Why do you hold grudgss for ages? I have small arguements with dh and we have completely forgotten about it two hours later. Dont you think its a bit silly still being in a mood over cleaning a cupboard and him being snappy because he felt hungry, and then dragging it out for ages? confused

BadLad Wed 17-Jul-13 07:26:30

This doesn't really seem to be about communication. This seems to be about finding time to do the mundane stuff that, otherwise, wouldn't get done.

It might work in a "once that's out of the way, we can have more time to communicate" way, but it seems very indirect. Unless that's what you are striving for. It doesn't seem, to me, anyway, to do anything to solve the unpleasant way in which he sometimes talks to you.

Good luck with it, but obviously I am missing something.

Ruralninja Wed 17-Jul-13 07:43:54

Just a small point really - just wondering if it's really necessary to try to exactly the same amount of domestic work as each other day to day - it's balance over weeks/months you are aiming for, not "I've put the bins out, so you need to walk the dog". When you bean count in this way, it's quite damaging I think and breeds resentment. Can you agree an amnesty on commenting on how much or little the other one has done and agree to try to contribute equally over the course of a month instead? Good luck with it all, I admire the commitment.

ThemeNights Wed 17-Jul-13 08:42:14

Wimped out of actually speaking to him this morning. He was properly angry after coming back from dog walking to find DD hadn't started breakfast. I stopped him going on in front of DD, made her breakfast and packed lunch for school and then left.

I've sent him this text (and we don't normally do a lot of texting)

"I feel so sad that I can't just talk to you. I'm sorry you are angry. I don't think I did anything last night to deserve how you spoke to me. I love you but I don't want to live like this. I want to find a counselling service to help us get past this x"

mynewpassion Wed 17-Jul-13 15:28:04

Whose was supposed to make the evening meal last night? Were dh and dd coming home from work/ childminder?

Were you waiting for him to get home before cooking?

BadLad Wed 17-Jul-13 15:48:40

I think your problem is that you have tried to find the time to do mundane chores around the house, but the real problem is that when you and he disagree over who should have done it, the communication about it is as bad and unpleasant as it ever has been.

The idea you borrowed from a friend of a friend seems to be designed to help people for whom there aren't enough hours in the day, not couples who are forever narky to one another.

As far as I can see, there are three types of communication problems couples can have. Constantly misunderstanding each other, in which case the solution might be to speak more plainly and steer clear of passive aggressive. Another is never having any time together to sit and talk to each other, for which some no-screen, with the TV, tablets etc off, might be of help.

Then you have your type, which is just not communicating pleasantly to each other. And the only way round that is to find out why it is so, and do something about it. It might be that you are constantly tired and irritable. After all, nobody is at their sunniest when they are tired.

Or it might be that you just bring out the worst in each other, in which case some time apart might do you some good. Whether that is a short period so you miss the other person, and realise what you are giving uo, potentially, or whether that is permanently, as you both feel a breath of fresh air, is something you will only find out if you try out.

GoshlyoHeavens Wed 17-Jul-13 16:00:55

I am writing a self helpbook called Do Not Read Self Help Books. I look forward to your subscriptions.

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