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Many people have asked, “How can I practice SMART Contact while I’m social distancing?!”
In this article, we’ll give you some Social-Distancing-SMART-Contact-Tips so you can have better communication, less marriage tension, and healthy boundaries (whether you’re separated OR stuck at home with your spouse).
And as a quick reminder SMART Contact means that you stop doing the behaviors that “push” your spouse away and you start doing things that lay a foundation for healthy communication.
(If you’re brand new to SMART Contact, check out the SMART Contact video here! https://marriagehelper.com/save-your-marriage-while-separated-dln/ )
If You’re Separated- Some Tips!
First, if you’re asking, “If I can’t even see my spouse during social distancing because we’re separated how can I even practice SMART Contact?” Here’s our first tip: do not do anything that will frustrate your spouse- especially when you don’t have to do it!
Remember, SMART Contact is not just a tactic that you use- it is a way that you learn to communicate with your spouse. I understand how the word “practice” can seem like something you try for a couple of weeks and if it doesn’t work, you’re just going to change and do something different… but that’s not how SMART Contact works. It is a way of communicating!
A better way to think about SMART Contact would be to call it smart communication. It’s all about using communication tools to communicate with your spouse in healthy and helpful ways no matter what situation you are in! (But it’s even more important when your communication has completely broken down.)
The best thing we can offer to help you understand SMART Contact is during this time is our SMART Contact toolkit (and we added a segment in the Toolkit specifically for the Coronavirus). Dr. Joe Beam and I teach you exactly what SMART Contact is, and how you can implement it in your relationship. In the 11 videos, we’ll give you examples, talking points, and answer the most frequently asked questions. You will not find a more in-depth and understandable way to implement SMART Contact in your relationship than we have in the SMART Contact toolkit.
Go ahead and get it now and start going through it so you can apply what you learn- because that’s what’s going to make the difference! https://marriagehelper.com/smart-contact-toolkit/
Stop “PUSH” Behaviors
So even if you and your spouse are separated by state lines or countries, (or if they are quarantining with people you don’t want to be exposed to and you don’t want your children to be exposed to) the premises of SMART Contact stay the same- stop push behaviors.
For example, if your spouse is living with their affair partner and you don’t want to be around them because they’re not practicing social distancing (or you don’t know what they’re doing) now is not the time for you to tell them every day about how they’re making stupid decisions. Now is not the time to send them a mask. Now is not the time to do anything that is just going to aggravate them further.
This does NOT mean that you allow yourself to be a doormat or that you don’t set boundaries when appropriate. Rather, you don’t want to step out and continue to make the situation worse when you don’t have to.
Here’s the thing, your spouse is an adult. They might be acting like a child, but if you step in and “parent them,” especially during this time of stress, you won’t get the long-term results for your marriage that you’re hoping to. So stop push behaviors.
For example, one of our live show callers said she called her husband’s affair partner’s spouse. She decided to call the other woman’s husband and tell him everything that was going on… It didn’t go well. No one was happy. Her husband wasn’t happy that she did this. The other woman wasn’t happy, no one was happy. This woman thought, “If I just tell this other husband, bring it to light, then when truth comes to light, then they will realize what they’ve done and they will stop what they’re doing and it will save both of our marriages.” But it didn’t. Her husband did not suddenly “come to a realization” and want to change. Instead, he moved out and it hurt both of the families involved.
Don’t “Rush” To Respond
If you’re anxious and stressed and feel like you HAVE to respond to your spouse; that you have to say something RIGHT NOW… wait. Sleep on it. Consider if it’s still a good idea in 24 hours. Don’t rush into doing something that may be more harmful than helpful (unless it is a literal emergency where someone is dying, or there’s a critical piece of information that needs to be shared).
So if you’re angry about something, if you “can’t believe” something your spouse said or did, sleep on it. Stop the push behaviors.
We are all being pushed right now in society to do things we don’t want to do. We have had many freedoms taken away from us. So in light of that, if your spouse feels like you are also pushing them to do something they don’t want to do, their reaction is going to be even worse.
If You’re Stuck At Home Together- Some Tips!
Focus On Gratitude & The PIES
Next, if you’re asking, “We’re stuck at home together… How do I navigate this tension?” Here’s the encouragement that I want to give you. First of all, count it a blessing that you have this time with your spouse. Even if it is tense, you at least have the ability to continue to work on yourself; to work on your PIES. It’s an amazing opportunity for you to show the positive changes you have been making!
Give Each Other Space
But even when you live in the same house together stop your PUSH Behaviors. Give your spouse space. This is true of marriages that are on the rocks and true of marriages that are doing great. My husband and I are currently not on the rocks. We have definitely had times in our past where it has been very, very rocky. But right now we’re doing well. And even though we’re doing well in our marriage, I know that I need to give him time. He knows that he needs to give me time. More now than ever, we need our space away from each other to breathe. And that’s very true for you as well. So allow that to happen.
Focus On Creating A Positive Environment
Don’t bombard your spouse with a “to-do list,” or chores, or things you want them to change… right now is not the time! Instead, you need to be even more focused on providing a healthy, satisfying, positive environment in your household than ever before.
If Your Spouse Is Doing Something You Disagree With- Some Tips!
And if you’re asking, “What can I do if my spouse is leaving the house and doing things that I disagree with during this time?” What if they are leaving the house and are exposing themselves when they don’t have to? What if they are in situations I don’t want them to be in? These are less about SMART Contact and more about how to set healthy boundaries.
At Marriage Helper, we call boundaries “STOPs”- safeguards that offer protection. For example, you can say, “Listen, I want our house to be healthy. I don’t want the kids or me or you to end up getting sick. And so if you’re going to stay here, if we’re going to make this work, let’s figure out a compromise and lay some ground rules for how this is going to look.”
Have Intentional Conversations
Don’t try and get into it after things happen- and I know this is difficult because it takes foresight and forethought- but if something is important to you, you need to be intentional and have that conversation beforehand.
For example, if you’re saying, “I don’t want you to be going out to the grocery store, I think all of our groceries should be delivered right now.” Then talk about that. And here’s a side note- don’t make it a demand. Remember, your spouse is a grownup. You are a grownup. Treat them with respect. So instead of telling them what you want them to do, make it a conversation and ask them.
In the example of going to the grocery store, instead ask, “Hey, do you think it’s really a good idea for me or you or anyone in our family to be going out and going inside of the grocery store? Or do you think it could be a better idea if we were to just pay the extra $10 and have the groceries delivered to our house right now and lessen our exposure?” Let it open up a conversation.
From that conversation, you might discover the reason that your spouse wants to go out and get groceries- because they just need to “get away” for their sanity for a couple hours a couple times a week. Maybe your compromise is that instead of going to the grocery store and being around other people, your spouse goes to a park so they can have that time to themselves.
Don’t Add To The Anxiety
Remember, the premise of all of this is anxiety is high right now. For everyone. Don’t contribute to make it higher. You can stop contributing by stopping the push behaviors. Your spouse is a grown person and you need to treat them with respect. Keep that on the forefront of your mind. And, try and see things from their perspective.
Don’t plead, beg, whine, or fight with your spouse about things you don’t need to fight about. Try to have positive interactions as much as you can during this time. Remember that compromise is key, but manage your talking points. Manage the things that you bring up with your spouse. Try not to bring up things that have to do with your marriage, your relationship, or things you’re frustrated about. And, try not to talk about things that produce anxiety about your relationship.
Enter your conversations with the expectation that you really want to hear your spouse; that you want your spouse to feel heard and listened to. When you ask a question, allow time for their response. And then respond back in a way that is strong, calm, and gentle. Add on some extra gentleness during this time.
Take It One Day At A Time
Remember to take it one day at a time. I understand that things are different. Routines have changed. It can be difficult to navigate this time. Maybe you feel alone or maybe you feel overwhelmed because you’re not alone. Whatever it is, remember we are all in the same boat- so is your next door neighbor, so is your husband, so is your wife, so are your children, so are your parents, so is your sibling.
Try to take some focus off of your marriage and focus on relationships with other people in your life that are also very important. Call or text your friends, your parents, or your siblings. Spend time with your kids if you can. Spend quality time with your spouse using these principles of SMART Contact so on the other side of this, you will be able to reap the benefits and rewards of it better than ever before.
Here at Marriage Helper, we don’t want you to stay “stuck” in your marriage- even though you’re stuck at home- we want you to GROW! We want you to use this time to have better communication, less marriage tension, and healthy boundaries!
If you’re stuck at home with your spouse right now and having a hard time communicating, then our SMART Contact Toolkit may be able to help you. Click here to learn more!