What do you do when you and your spouse disagree on something? When COVID-19 first happened, my husband and I agreed that we would not send our kids back to school if masks were mandatory. Now that our governor has mandated masks be worn at all times, my husband is going back on his word. He wants to send the kids back to public school.
I feel very strongly we should keep them home during Covid-19 and do cyber school, even to the point of applying for 3rd shift jobs. My husband doesn’t want me working third shift now, after I have applied to dozens of jobs in attempt to home school.
I’m angry and bitter at him. I love him, he works hard for his family, but I’m struggling. How do we deal with this conflict?
What a great question, and one that is being considered by so many families across the country because of Covid-19. I think the most important question to ask when tackling areas of disagreement is this: do you believe that your partner’s opinion is motivated by love and concern?
Make sure this is simply a moment of disagreement, rather than a power play in the relationship or “old business” that is finding its way into the present. If it is just a moment of disagreement, then it may be time for a “hashing it out” conversation.**
The goal of “hashing it out” is cooperative problem solving. That may seem obvious, but sometimes, in the midst of conflict, we lose sight of that. Instead, the conversation becomes about trying to prove a point or convincing the other person of your argument.
Cooperative problem solving is about the two of you being on the same page and figuring out what’s best for your family. In this approach, you would each (calmly, without emotion or defensiveness) outline for the other what your reasons are for the solution you favor, along with acknowledging the potential cost of Covid-19 to the child and the family.
Then each of you would share your concerns about the other’s solution. When listening to the other person present their ideas, be sure to remind yourself that they are speaking from a place of conviction that is rooted in love.
Another strategy that may be helpful is for each of you to present the other person’s solution as though it were your own. Doing this (pretending that you truly believe what the other person is proposing) helps you to better understand your spouse’s perspective and the reasons behind it.
If you still cannot come to an agreement after trying these approaches, then try one solution for a time period, then re-evaluate the situation, with the option of changing course and implementing the alternative solution.
The reality is that there are dozens of educational and health experts putting out public recommendations which often are at odds with one another. Many people are struggling with who to trust for accurate information on a subject that we’re still learning about.
The “facts” and strategies change on a regular basis, making the “truth” a moving target. It’s very frustrating for people who are trying to make the best decisions for themselves and their families during this Covid-19 outbreak.
So, this is a time for profound grace—for yourself, your spouse, your neighbor, your school board, and all the folks in charge.
No one has the perfect solution; we’ve never walked this path before. So be gentle and understanding with each other.
**All of what I’ve suggested in this article presupposes that your disagreement is just that—a disagreement about a current Covid-19 tense problem. If there’s something deeper going in your relationship that needs to be examined (unresolved issues from the past or some sort of power struggle) then you’re probably going to need some help sorting through this.
I recommend reaching out to us at the Marriage Recovery Center for some mediation on the issue. Contact our Client Care Team for more information on how we can help.
Do you have a question or concern about your relationship that you’d like us to address? Our Ask Us series answers reader-submitted questions. Submit your own question here and one of our therapists or coaches might address it in an upcoming blog or video.