Problems are not the problem. Coping is the problem. ~ Virginia Satir
It was the spring semester 1996. I took my first class about family therapy theories. Virginia Satir’s theory is one of them. I remembered so impressed with this quote that I wrote it in my diary to remind myself: “Problems are not the problems. How I solve the problem is the problem.”
Recently, I have a lot of couples told me the same thing: “We are too busy to talk.” It got me to think about Satir’s words again.
So, what are the reasons that most of the couples don’t have the time to talk?
“We don’t have time” is the # 1 reason I heard most of the time. What is interesting to me is this: most of my successful couples told me this: “coming to therapy forced us to talk, and that’s the reason improved our relationship!”
This creates a vicious cycle for the couples. We don’t have time to talk ==> less communication ==> more miscommunication ==> more conflicts ===> less willingness to communicate to avoid the conflicts ==> less time to talk.
“We don’t have time to talk” might be just the symptoms, not your problem. What’s the real problem? Fear of Conflicts? Time management?
Children, especially having young children (age under 5) at home, are also another explanations about “no time to talk.” It is clear that children, especially young children, can be a distraction. A child’s attention span roughly corresponds to the child’s age. So, a one-year-old child’s attention span is about 1 minute. I can understand the difficulties to fulfill a child’s needs while trying to talk to each other.
Still, we also know that young children can spend quite a long time to sleep at the end of the night. Older children can have the ability to entertain themselves, such as doing homework or reading. The point is, there is still a way to be able to talk to each other without worrying about the interruption from our kids.
So, if children are one of the symptoms that you don’t have time to talk or cannot set the time aside to talk to each other, what’s the real problem?
Tiredness is often the third reasons or combined reasons with the children as the explanation to “we don’t have time to talk.”
I am sympathetic to the feelings of the tiredness at the end of the day. As I mentioned in the Family Life Cycle article, two people who are husband and wife are now mom and dad. You still only have 24 hours a day, but your roles increased. It is no wonder that you feel tired at the end of the day.
See, here is the thing, every “symptoms” that you used to cope with the problem, which is “no time to talk,” has its merit. However, if you do not find the time to talk, all the problems you are experiencing are just the symptoms, and all the efforts you are putting in do not help to solve the problem, which is effective communication.
To improve your communication, there is no other way other than to find time to talk. There is no way you could make your children disappear, make your tiredness disappear, and make 48 hours a day.
Here is a trick that I often encourage my couples to do: Set up a family calendar that includes EVERYONE. You can use the APP (such as cozi) if you find it helpful. However, I found that setting up a google calendar is sufficient. Here is the link to set up a family calendar on google.cozi) if you find it helpful. However, I found that setting up a google calendar is sufficient. Here is the link to set up a family calendar on google.
Step 1: set up a google account if you or your partner do not have one.
Step 2: setup a google calendar. Here is the trick. In the main calendar, which is under your name, you can set up a few different calendar to color code it. So, you can set up different calendars for the chores, grocery, your partner’s calendar and different children’s calendar.
Step 3: Now, start to put in your schedules such as your work schedule, and each child’s schedule (under each child’s sub-calendar).
Step 4: Share your calendar with your spouse and asked him/her to set up his/her work schedule.
Once the calendar is set up:
Your first task as a couple to talk about is this: Look at your calendar and set up the time to talk about your calendar.
Your second tasks as a couple to talk about is: list all the chores and discuss when you, as a couple/family, would like to do it and who is responsible for doing so. For example, who is responsible for paying the bills at what day of the month?
Please be sure to update your calendar whenever you can/need to. For example, if one of you brings a child to see a pediatrician and needs to schedule a follow-up appointment, please do remember to put it on the calendar so that both of you will know.
Weekly check-ins: Check out a time that is the least invasive time to the family and regularly review your calendar together. You want to discuss an important event that is coming up such as holidays, any significant decisions that needed to be made, such as how much money you want to spend on the holiday gift shopping. You also want to check in with each other, such as work and extended family. life, such as work and extended family. life, such as work and extended family. life, such as work and extended family.
Schedule a time for you have a “couple’s time.” It can be a coffee break together or a lunch date. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, and it doesn’t have to spend a lot of money. However, that’s the time you can enjoy each other’s company and talk to each other about your personal life when you don’t see each other.
The more regularly you do this, the less likely you will have miscommunication.
You can avoid “I thought you were going to do this” vs. “Why do I have to do everything” arguments. This task looks astounding in the beginning. When you get organized and get used to doing this, most of the couples told me that it takes them usually about 10 minutes every week to just check in and to cross off practical issues. It also helps them to get on the same page with different issues as a couple, about their children, or with the extended family. More importantly, by doing so, they feel like “we are a team.”
It often comes back with the same rebuttal: “I don’t have time,” “The kids are around,” and/or “at the end of the day, we are just too tired.” We can go around and around about which one should go first. However, the only way to talk more to increase your communication is to find the time to talk. If you keep finding the “symptoms” that prevent you from doing, you need to ask yourself: what are the purposes of these symptoms serving us?
Maybe, there is an underlying avoidance between you and your spouse that you are afraid of facing it. If that’s the case, it might be time to find some professional help.
APP for the family: Cozi