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Do Sweat the Small Stuff in Marriage

by: Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT

Marriage, Family, and Work Life are a delicate balancing act as we all know, and unfortunately being out of balance can trigger a path towards divorce.

Over years together, even small weekly/monthly imbalances add up to a point that can feel completely out of control for one of the spouses, leaving them with an ongoing sense of hopelessness for the relationship.

I am regularly working with couples on how to better manage their work-life balance. One of the first major themes we explore is how being the best team you can be with your spouse will help you to maximize your individual organization and efficiency ---  and thus lower stress every day in lots of little ways that allow you to relax and think, "oh yes, my spouse has that one covered."  Often partners have not taken the time to determine how they might help each other in the myriad seemingly small ways that can make a difference for each of them.  Here are some examples of ideas from couples’ brainstorming in therapy that you might consider or revise/re-imagine, that will get you started thinking and working on your own ways of becoming a healthier functioning team:

  • Partners looked at the routes they each travel on a daily basis, trying not to be redundant in their efforts - who goes past which stores, services, etc. Who can more easily get to the cleaners or the food market.
  • Partners agreed to contribute to keeping lists, adding items for the market, hardware store, etc. when something is running out or used up – how time consuming and wasteful on so many levels to have to make those special trips at the last minute for the milk, again, or a necessary light bulb.
  • Partners have built in little cleaning habits for each one to complete in the course of their daily habits, for example, a husband might be the one to squeegee the shower doors once or twice a week before he steps out to dry off; when a wife "picks up" the house they decide she only brings items so far, maybe placed on a side table by the stairway, with everyone knowing they don't dare walk up the steps without taking their stuff with them.

Do sit together periodically to brainstorm for new ideas in which to make the most of your team effort. Get rid of solutions once they lose their usefulness. Consider bringing your child(ren) on board to help particularly when they’re involved with the situation; you may be surprised with the creativity their more than likely different perspective(s) generate!Have fun, try the suggestions and regroup periodically.

Do sweat this kind of small stuff.It is necessary in helping to balance a marriage, with all its complexities of family and work life.

And don’t hesitate to use a therapist to help you in this effort. If you’ve never talked with a therapist, this would be a perfect time. Ask your physician, or possibly a close friend or family member for a referral. You can also find an appropriately trained family therapist at http://www.therapistlocator.net, part of the resources offered by AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists).  

Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage. She has worked for over 30 years, both in private practice and the corporate setting, helping her clients to examine assumptions, think creatively, and build upon strengths. O'Neill holds three degrees in psychology, is a Clinical Fellow of AAMFT, and maintains a private practice in Westchester County, New York. She is a contributing expert at HopeAfterDivorce.org, DivorceSupportCenter, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily.com. O'Neill is often called on as an expert by a variety of print/online publications, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal.

 

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