Getting along at home isn’t always easy. If you are among the people spending many extra hours at home right now, you know this to be true. In fact, it’s true even when we aren’t at home 24/7, trying to manage both remote office work and school work from the same space. Add a global pandemic, kids trying to learn without in-person access to peers or teachers, and a helping of political unrest, and home life can go from safe to toxic quickly. Fortunately, there are a number of simple techniques you can use to diffuse stress at home and help everyone under your roof live more peacefully together.
1. Respect alone time. Whether you cohabitate with a single significant other or make your home with a large family, alone time is essential to help you all get along during your together time. Make sure everyone has space and time away from others and that everyone respects the necessary “do not disturb” time periods.
2. Get out of the house. Regardless of the time of year or your location, getting outside the four walls where you live is essential. Naturally, cold climates or inclement weather may make this more difficult. Still, do your best to find a way to get a little outside or away time several days each week. Take a drive or a walk. Sit on your patio or balcony.
3. Play The Game. Not a game. The Game. This is a cooperative card game that my spouse and I have found incredibly helpful in improving our communication. We play at least one game of this daily. Game play takes 15 to 20 minutes to play and requires cooperation to complete. You won’t necessarily win even if you communicate well, but good communication increases your odds. Best of all—everyone wins or loses together.
4. Find ways to socialize outside of your immediate family. This will likely take some effort. With the world still closed to many of us due to COVID-19, we can’t participate in many of the social activities we used to enjoy. However, options such as Facetime or Zoom meetings with friends can fill the gap. One of my closest friends and I have a standing weekly card game that we play together via video chat. Another group of close friends and I meet for coffee one morning each week. If you are interested in virtual social gatherings but don’t know where to start, please contact MGisms. We’ll be happy to help guide you.
5. Fight fair. Disagreements are a normal part of family life. It helps to recognize this and choose to fight fair when you do disagree. This means using “I” statements in place of accusative “you” statements (e.g. When X, I feel Y.) and staying in the present moment instead of drudging up old hurts from years ago during a moment of conflict.
6. Give each other space. Sometimes the best way to get along with family members or housemates is by knowing when to walk away. When you or another individual is upset, it might not be the right time to have a conversation. Often, if you give yourself and others time to cool off, a conflict will resolve itself or be much easier to tackle later (for instance, after you’ve all had a good night’s sleep).
7. Pick your battles. Some annoyances at home need to be addressed. Other things simply aren’t worth fighting over. Naturally, if there is a health or safety issue that arises, this must be addressed, and it is important that a family be respectful of one another’s emotional needs. However, if your husband or child have a nervous habit that annoys you, it might be better to remove yourself from the situation and apply a liberal dose of grace. You have annoying habits too, and we all need a little grace now and then.
Getting along at home isn’t always easy, even for couples and families who love each other deeply. When you are spending extended periods of time alone together, the difficulties in getting along can be amplified. These quick tips might help you turn things around at home. If domestic strife is beginning to spiral out of control, you may also benefit from professional intervention. Several certified counseling services provide teleservices and remote family therapy options. Also, if you or a family member is being abused by someone in your home, please seek immediate emergency assistance. Your safety and that of your family is and always should be top priority.