Written by Tami Boesiger

My husband was hovering. I think he sensed my sour mood and wasn’t sure what to do about it. So he hovered and asked a lot of annoying questions and I wanted to scream, “I don’t know. Figure it out. Why is that my job too?! Stop breathing down my neck!”

Now, if I utter these words, we can guess where this goes, right?

“I was only trying to help!”

“If you’re so worried about helping you could try putting your clothes in the hamper once in your life.”

“Wow! Sorry, I’m such slob!”

“Believe me, I am too.”

“It’s not like you’re any picnic to live with, you know.”

“Oh right, here we go . . .”

And the jabs continue until we both walk off in a huff, wondering what we ever saw in each other, confident the Kraken has just been released.

The togetherness of COVID sets the stage for these ugly scenes. We’re already frustrated and anxious, and with no opportunity for absence to make the heart grow fonder, the presence of your spouse can grate on your nerves. He tires of me trying to explain my thought process knowing it will be a long journey and doesn’t look at me when I’m speaking to him. Hello, do you love me at all? I hear a heavy sigh when I ask if he’s paid that bill or mention how tall the grass is getting. I imagine the eye roll means, “Get off my back, woman.”

We’re irritating each other. On a consistent basis.

How do we diffuse these volatile situations? How can we save the heat to warm the home fires rather than letting it explode all over us? One way is to choose your words carefully. I could say, “Oh my gosh, stop hovering! You’re driving me crazy. Can’t you find something better to do? Stop being a child!” But if I say this, the flurry of hurtful words begins, ending nowhere good. Communication needs to happen, for sure, but it needs to happen in a way that promotes unity not World War III. So before speaking, I ask myself a few key questions:

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

Is it true? It’s true he’s hovering, but he’s not intending to irritate the snot out of me. He’s only trying to help. Is it kind? Calling him a child and thus belittling his manhood is not kind. Is it necessary? He’s getting on my nerves, but my lack of enthusiastic response is probably communicating the snark sufficiently without adding words to it. I stoke the fire of antagonism if I say what I’m thinking. Not necessary.

So instead of screaming what I want to say, I look for true, kind, necessary words to communicate more effectively, something like, “Honey, I know you’re trying to help (kind), but I just need some space right now. I’m feeling crabby and I really don’t want to rip your head off (true), so can we talk about this after lunch? (It’s necessary to say when we will have the discussion, so he doesn’t feel blown off.)” He may walk away slightly irritated we couldn’t get the matter settled then and there, but he knows where I’m at, and when we will address it.

True, kind, necessary.

So when you’re in the thick of it with your spouse and your emotions are getting the best of you, choose your words carefully. Sift them through this grid: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If the answer to any of these questions is no, don’t say it. Take a deep breath and reframe what you’re thinking in a true and kind way, saying only those things that are necessary to provide for meaningful and practical communication. With a little check in what we say, we can survive the stressors of Coronavirus. We will get through this, friends. One day at a time.

Tami Boesiger is a counselor at The CORE. You may contact Tami by email.

One Comment

Lori Eckert

Great article! Words can be hurtful. We have a saying that words are like a tube of toothpaste. Once you day them, you cannot put them back in the tube. Thanks Tami!??


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