Marriage, politics, Thanksgiving — a tricky triad at any time! And this year, with all the post-election processing, it may be especially challenging to manage everyone around the table. So, how can you keep marriage, politics and Thanksgiving from undoing each other? How can you keep political tensions at the table from ruining your carefully basted Turkey?
First, focus on the basics when it comes to communication skills. That means be a super skilled listener and speaker. When listening, hard as it may be, find something that makes sense about what the other person is saying. No question that can be a challenge if you’re seated next to a friend or family member whose politics are diametrically opposed to yours, and at the same time, listen hard and think carefully as there almost always is a core kernel one can agree with in any political opinion.
At the same time, be careful when speaking. It’s easy to generalize and talk in a way that assumes others share your perspectives. Express your opinions as just that, your opinions. Stick to “I” statements. Be wary of accidentally including others by saying things like “we need to,” or “our country would be better if . . . ” A simple, “I believe in” or “I’m worried that. . . ” will be less likely to evoke a defensive response.
Power of Two coaches have many more tips on how to talk and listen to avoid marriage problems.
One more tip that’s sure to work if things are really tense at your table. Focus on the food! For one day, put politics aside and enjoy everyone’s cooking. Feel thankful for all that is in front of you and keep the conversation there as well.
What does your cell phone have to do with marriage problems? Recently, several prominent news sources have presented surveys and research that point to the problem with cell phones and romantic relationships. One survey reported that “70 percent of women said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” That’s a huge number of women! In NPR’s recent story “technoference” was citied as a serious problem in relationships. Aside from the question of what you are actually doing on the device, the accessibility and pervasiveness of the devices in our lives is causing several problems. Cell phones are the worst kind of distraction, the convenience of access to all your email accounts, the camera, the social media accounts, not to mention the thousands of other apps you can fill your device with offer an endless stream of information. This coupled with the dings, ringtones and other alerts that make everyone in the room look at their phone in some sort of pavlovian response to a bell are bound to cause marriage problems.
There are certainly big questions to answer individually and culturally about the influence these devices have on our lives. Technology no doubt has it’s place in daily life. If we can thoughtfully engage with it it can actually be used for good in the relationship. Time savings is one instance that can benefit your romantic relationships. If you are able to take care of a task like paying bills that may have in the past taken up precious evening time at the kitchen table you can use that time you’ve gained to connect with your spouse, but do you? The evidence seems pretty clear that by and large they are causing more marriage problems than they solve. In her research, Sarah Coyne, boiled it down to this, “What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship.” So where is the balance? Obviously this question is best left to each couple to navigate, provided the right skills are there to actually have a win win outcome!