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170 - One Question that Could Help Your Marriage In the Middle of this COVID19 Crisis
Leh Meriwether: Divorce Team Radio, Episode 170. Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether and Tharp. Here, you learn about divorce, family law, and form time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis.
Todd Orston: Leh, there have been some unfortunate reports that although divorce rates have actually been decreasing over the years, they may actually increase and increase dramatically due to COVID-19. That's due in large part to people don't have some of those natural breaks that they once did. Shelter-in-place rules have forced us to engage in, for lack of a better way of putting it, homeschooling, people are working out of their homes. So they are finding themselves in situations where, for 24 hours a day, they are together. Those natural breaks are sometimes, to some people, really necessary. It's not that you don't love your spouse or love your children, but you just sometimes need a little bit of breathing room and people aren't getting that and that's adding a lot of tension in the house.
Todd Orston: Leh, you and I were talking about ways to successfully deal with these shelter-in-place orders and to maintain a healthy relationship with our spouses and our children. You were talking, we were talking about tension even in our own homes, and you came up with a question that you yourself used. For the benefit of our listeners, I'd love to present that question. So tell everyone. What was the question that you came up with and used in your family?
Leh Meriwether: Do I have to? No, I'm just kidding. No. I've always considered to have a great marriage with my wife. We go to marriage conferences. We're reading all the time. Despite all that, there was a lot of tension in our house when all this was going on. At one point, I just felt the tension from her end. So I went outside and I was just like ... I was getting mad. Why is she so ... What's going on? I wanted to get ... I was getting mad and I wanted to go in there and say things to her. I'm like, "Well okay. I need to start taking my own advice when it comes ... And everything I read. Calm down. I'm going to go ask her why she's so, what's wrong with her or what's going on." Then I realized, "Okay. That's a bad, those are bad questions because it automatically puts the person on the defensive." I was like, "Well what can I ask that would not put her on the defensive, but help me get to the bottom of things?"
Leh Meriwether: The question I came up with ... Now, you may not be under quarantine at time of listening to this, but the question I asked is, "What can I ..." I came back inside and I said, "What can I do to make this quarantine better?" Being the wise person she is, she said, "You know what?"
Todd Orston: She told you to sleep outside.
Leh Meriwether: Not that quite, no.
Todd Orston: No? All right. All right.
Leh Meriwether: She said, "That's a great question. Let me think about it and give you an answer." She's like, "I'm glad you asked because I feel irritated and I don't even know why." So let me give you some background. When all this stuff first started to hit, I had gotten engrossed in, "Man, this could have a massive negative impact on Meriwether and Tharp, on the law firm, on a lot of businesses that I knew about," and I'm doing all kinds of research. What can I do to help? What can we do on a marketing end? All these orders are coming in everyday and I am just ... I was probably working more hours when this thing happened than before it happened because I was just trying to pivot. I was trying to figure out what to do. What if Meriwether and Tharp, everything went suddenly bad? How will we pay our bills?
Leh Meriwether: All those things which is going through a lot of people's minds, right? What I didn't realize ... So she came down an hour later and she winded up giving me three things, but the first one was, "You know what?" I'm embarrassed to even say this, but the point and the reason I'm telling this is because it was this simple. I was leaving my dishes out. For whatever reason, it was driving her nuts because we had the kids at home and she was doing the ... She was helping Quinn with his homework and I wasn't. So she felt like, "Oh, I have three kids at home, not two." I didn't even realize I was doing it. I was just coming upstairs because I was working in the basement and I would come upstairs and set my dishes on the counter and just go right back downstairs because I was so hyper-focused on what can we do to avoid a complete economic collapse. Don't get me wrong. I was very worried about people dying from COVID-19 too.
Todd Orston: Didn't you have a friend that actually ... I mean we all at this point have had people, but somebody who was very sick with COVID?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I had somebody that was quite literally on his deathbed. He wasn't a personal friend. He was more of my wife's, good friend of my wife's, her husband. I mean he was on his deathbed and-
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: ... thankfully ... Well this is one of those anecdotal cases where he was given [hydrochloroquine] and within hours, turned around. So not saying that's the solution. There's a lot of medical data both ways there, but the point was a lot was going on in my mind. I became overly hyper-focused on it and forgot simple things. Those simple things were driving her crazy. Once I asked the question, she brought it to my attention and I adjusted my behavior. That wasn't something I normally did either, but the point being that that one question can make all the difference because you're not putting someone on the defense if you just ... Maybe you're towards the end of the quarantine and things are ... Depending on what state you're in, in Georgia, we started opening things up. Still not opened up yet, started opening things up. Other states haven't yet. It may be a couple more weeks.
Leh Meriwether: If you feel tension in your house, ask the question, "What can I do to make this quarantine better?" Then sit back and listen. Don't argue with the answer. Maybe you don't understand the comment. Ask some more questions about it to make sure you understand so you can act on it, but don't argue with it. You may think that, "Well that's just silly. You shouldn't think that way." You can't say that about someone's feelings. You just have to act. That simple questions just ... I mean the tension was gone. It was amazing-
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: ... until I stopped putting my dishes away again. No, I'm just kidding.
Todd Orston: Yeah. No. I had something similar and my wife came to me and basically I didn't realize I was not helping make the bed, but I explained to her, I said, "We have truly 117 throw pillows." I said, "I just don't have that kind of time." So I don't even understand how we get that many pillows on the bed, but you got to do what you got to do. We don't have that many pillows, but no. I agree with you. We have been managing in my house. We've been managing pretty well and I'm not going to lie. Listen, here's one thing I'm going to share. Do I like making a bed? I don't. Maybe I'm just a typical guy, but I've been trained by my wife that it's something that needs to be done, it's something that's important to her, and therefore, I will gladly help.
Todd Orston: If it's something small like that that I can do that brings peace into the house and allows us to navigate through this COVID-19 shelter-in-place thing that we've got going on, then so be it, but I love the question because at its heart, what it really gets down to is communication, asking that question, being honest and saying, "Hey, whether there's an issue ..." I mean this is the way I would look at it. If you ask that question right away before there's a problem, that's even better. You asked a question after there was clearly a little bit of tension, but at some point, here's my takeaway. Sit down. Sit down with your spouse after dinner, whenever, go for a walk, and talk and say, "Hey, things are different now. We are together 24 hours a day and while I'm loving it, I just want to make sure. Am I doing things I need to do? Is there anything I can do to make it easier for you?"
Todd Orston: If you have that kind of an open communication, hopefully it's going to avoid you even getting to the point that, Leh, you and your wife got to where she was feeling some level of tension. Even though you weren't doing anything overt or on purpose, it was something that was bothering her, but you asked the right question. So again, whether you're about to have a problem or not, think about this. Think about it in terms of, "How can I communicate better to avoid these problems?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Make sure and try to ask the question. So let's change it a bit. Maybe you aren't sheltering in place. My nextdoor neighbor, he's not sheltering in place. He's actually working more hours now than ever. He works for, he runs some golf courses and they were not shut down because they were able to social distance, which I was surprised to hear. I thought they were, but anyways, all of them were open. They were busier than ever. The restaurants were all shut down and nobody can use a golf cart so everybody has to walk and keep six feet apart which isn't too hard on a golf course. So anyways-
Todd Orston: Right.
Leh Meriwether: ... he's been busier than ever. The question he might ask would be, "Hey, what can I do to make this COVID-19 crisis better?" On his end, so he's working even more hours than he was before and his wife is at home. She's got ... One of their kids is grown, but there's still another kid in high school, they have a special needs child, and she's a teacher. So she's having to relearn how to teach kids remotely. So there was a lot of pressure on her to do all that stuff. By just asking that question, "Hey, what can I do to make this crisis better," that's the key. First off, if you feel tension, don't let it just fester. Ask that question. What can I do to make this crisis better? Then listen to the answer and act on it.
Todd Orston: Great advice. We should do a podcast on this.
Leh Meriwether: We should. Let's do it. Yeah, a good idea. I hope that helps. My only regret is I wish we'd recorded this a week earlier, but hopefully it'll help. If there's been a lot of tension in your household, go ahead and ask that question. You know what? Here's another thing. I would think that question would work well for co-parents. Even if you're divorced and there's a lot of tension between the two of you, you can ask. Maybe you're ... Again, I was doing something that I wasn't even thinking about because I was overly hyper-focused on a few things, but maybe ask your ex-spouse or maybe you weren't married but you've got children together, your co-parent, "What can I do to make this crisis better," and act on it.
Todd Orston: You ask those questions. We'll all get through it. Hopefully what some of those people are saying in terms of divorce rates doesn't come true and people can just obviously circumnavigate the COVID-19 waters in a way that maintains a healthy relationship with their spouses, with their children. Everyone is better for it.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I think that about wraps up this show, everyone. Thanks so much for listening. I hope that you're able to act on this. If you think this is great advice and think this will help somebody, share it with them. Forward this show to them. We're here to help as many people as we can. We're here to help people going through divorce. We don't want you to get a divorce, but if there's something we can do to help you through this time that's within our control, let us know. Email Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there's something you want to hear about, you can email me at email@example.com. If there's something you're dealing with right now whether it be a divorce or parenting time or a struggle you're having in the marriage, throw it our way. We'd love to see what we can do to help you.
Todd Orston: Thanks for listening.