Updated: Jun 19, 2020
My clients often come to me with a question about how to work through the transition from work to home, or from stay-at-home to when their partner arrives back.
Often this time is crazy if there are children and there is very little connection between the couple during this time. Once crazy hour ends, each person may have unexpressed needs and expressions about what they would like for the evening.
While it may be difficult to comprehend for many couples, the greatest gift to give to children and to each other, is the quality of the relationship.
Its also really important to recognise that the connection as husband/wife or wife/wife or husband/husband is the most significant relationship there is. Knowing that you can rely, on your partner, that they are available and engaged is key for a securely attached and strong partnership.
Being able to express your needs to each other, and to have them met, 80% of the time is important for any partnership.
When I first share this concept in my sessions or workshops, people are surprised as they feel that the role of mum/dad (and any other configurations) are key. However, research has found that while those are important and parents need to be reliable, available and engaged with children, without the adult connection offering the same, children feel on some level that something is amiss.
So, how does a couple begin to start making this executive system key?
A simple way is the first moments when both partners come home, you spend time connecting, filling in each other on the day, how you feeling about it.
One partner goes first and shares, the other your partner repeats what you say (this allows the start of empathy and validation and shows that you are engaged and available - all important elements to create a securely attached relationship).
This continues until person A completes and shares all they need. Person B then shares.
Some of my clients however feel that they don't know what to share, so here are some guidelines adapted from the work of Lori Gordon, the co-creator of the PAIRS Programme:
1. Share things that you appreciate and acknowledge about your partner - perhaps they did something for you, or you noticed they handled something really well. "I appreciate... or I really appreciated when...or I felt really loved/seen when you.....thank you"
You do not elaborate or clarify, you state...
2. The next thing you share is new information - things that perhaps happened in the day, or through the day that is new.
3. Then share things you are wondering about. You may be wondering about getting work done, or how to make some thing work or a concern about a friend or family member etc.
4. Sometimes you may be annoyed about something your partner did or a situation your partner is involved in, in this section you share your concerns with a recommendation. This does not mean your partner has to follow the recommendation, but you have shared it and you and your partner may discuss it (see below for more information)
5. You share wishes, hopes and dreams - for yourself, your partner, and "us". This may not be things you want to achieve, but can just be a dream, though it can also be something concrete and achievable too.
If as you check in, you don't have anything to say in that section, that's okay!
And if something comes up that needs a bigger discussion, don't have it then - just set sometime in the next 24-36 hours to talk about it.
Once you have done this then Person A may share what they need for the evening, perhaps its some time for some work, perhaps some alone time. Person B shares what they need. And then you negotiate if its needed, and see how both needs can be met. The idea is to have a sense that your partner has the best intentions for you and the relationship and to see how you both can get what you need, while continuing what needs to be done and having some time to share with each other.
Couples going through a difficult time may say that they too busy, or the kids need attention etc. But, in truth making it a routine of connection becomes a safe-haven for kids as well. It's predictable, it's reliable, it shows that the quality of the relationship and the level of engagement is important. The process takes about 10 - 20 minutes but it is priceless as a way to create shared understanding. Pop the kids in front of the TV, value this time and they will learn to give it to you. It may sound far fetched, but try it for 3 weeks and see what changes for you, your partner and even the kids.