#114: How to Deal With Marriage and Family Tension While Stuck at Home

If you need ideas for how to deal with marriage and family tension during this time of social distancing, please listen to this episode.

I’m interviewing my mom, Judy Tobin, who has been a marriage and family psychotherapist for decades. She shares her tips for dealing with your stress and anxiety while we’re cooped up, to make your home life saner and happier!

Host 0:04
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello everyone. Welcome back to the show. Today, I am releasing another special episode. This one is not about growing your business. This one is not about how to pivot. This one is not about what to post on social media.

This one is about how to survive and thrive during this time when we’re all at home with our families. Today, I’m interviewing my mom. I’m not just interviewing her because she’s my mom. I’m interviewing her because she is a marriage and family therapist.

I think she has some really interesting insights, strategies, ways of looking at your life in this very unusual, anxiety-provoking time.

How to Deal With Marriage and Family Tension While Stuck at Home | The Blogger Genius Podcast

Before I start the interview with my mom, I also wanted to say if you’re looking for a community, for a place where you can be with like-minded people, come join my Facebook group. It’s called the MiloTree Mastermind Group.

I really feel like over there, we’re in this together. It’s filled with online entrepreneurs. But we’re not even necessarily talking about business. If you want a community, if you want a way to connect, I would, of course, love to have you and love to get to know you.

So, please head to the MiloTree Mastermind Group, and join. I welcome you. And now, without further delay, here is my interview with my mom, Judy Tobin.

Tips for How to Deal With Marriage and Family Tension While Stuck at Home

Mom, welcome to the show.

Judy Tobin 1:47
Well, Jill, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve listened to every one of your podcasts and I never thought that I would be the one being interviewed.

Jillian Leslie 1:56
I know and it was so funny because what I realized right now is that this is such an unusual time, how can I be there for my audience? I’ve got you as kind of my coach, and my therapist, and my support. I thought, “Oh my God, this is the perfect time to share you and your wisdom with my audience and with the world.” So, I’m super glad.

And so, when I said it to you, “You want to come on my podcast?” You kind of took a beat and said, “On your podcast?” Here you are.

Judy Tobin 2:32
Here I am. Yes.

Jillian Leslie 2:34
What I wanted to talk about and get your take on is people are at home right now. This is a really unusual time. Moms and dads are stressed. They’re forced to work at home. They are with their families.

I’m scrolling through social media and I’m seeing these families and they’re going on bike rides, and they’re going on hikes, and they all look so happy. I wanted to speak to the truth of that. Because what if you’re in a family situation and you’re not feeling that happy? What is your thought about that?

There are Going to Be Moments When You’re Not Happy

Judy Tobin 3:11
Well, there going to be moments, particularly during this stressful time, when you’re not going to be happy. You’re not going to be happy with your kids. You’re not going to feel happy with your spouse. And that’s just the reality of the circumstance that you’re living in this time.

Jillian Leslie 3:28
Wait. So, would you say even those people on the bike rides and the hikes are feeling the same thing?

Judy Tobin 3:32
At times. Maybe when they’re on the bike ride, they’re feeling relief, and they’re glad to be outdoors and it’s really fun. But when things are tense, then I’m sure there are moments when they are not happy with their family.

That is true. That is something that we need to be able to acknowledge. And we need to be able to be okay with it.

Jillian Leslie 3:57
What do you mean by that?

Judy Tobin 3:59
Well, when you feel like, “God, at this moment. I really don’t like my kids. They are driving me crazy.” But the other part of you says, “Wait a minute. These are my kids. I’m supposed to be loving them.” There’s a real conflict there.

On one hand, I’m really not liking them, but I’m feeling guilty because as a mom, I’m really supposed to love my kids. So, what do I do? Well, you acknowledge that at this moment, you really don’t like your kids and that’s okay.

Jillian Leslie 4:35
Do I acknowledge it to my kids?

How to Deal With Marriage and Family Tension While Stuck at Home | The Blogger Genius Podcast

Acknowledge the Tension You’re Feeling with Your Family

Judy Tobin 4:38
Not necessarily. You acknowledge it to yourself though. That’s the important thing is, to be honest with yourself. To know at this moment, your kids are driving you crazy. And at this moment, that’s okay.

You can allow that. You can feel that you’re an okay mom. There’s nothing wrong with you. Even though you wish you could throw them out the window. There’s a lot of guilt around not feeling that you love your kids every minute but the truth is we don’t.

We don’t love our kids every minute. We don’t love our spouses every minute. We don’t love ourselves every minute. Particularly, ourselves. So, I think the important thing at this time is to be kind to yourself and to allow yourself to be truthful about it.

“This is okay. My kids are driving me crazy. That’s okay. I’m just going to take a deep breath. And maybe in 10 minutes from now, I’ll feel better about it. But right now, I need to be okay with not feeling good about what’s happening with me and my kids.”

Jillian Leslie 6:00
Okay. So, let’s say my four-year-old takes the box of cornflakes and spills them on the floor. We’ve been together now in our small house for the last week and a half. What do I do?

Remember to Take a Breath

Judy Tobin 6:13
Take a breath.

Jillian Leslie 6:14
Take a breath?

Judy Tobin 6:15
Take a breath because the initial feeling might be, “I want to just yell at him.” But the truth is, four-year-olds do spill cereal on the floor, they spill milk on the floor. That happens. Only now you’re home with them all the time and it feels even more intense.

So, the first thing is to take a breath. You take that breath so you give yourself a moment instead of lashing out, which might be your initial reaction. Your little son didn’t mean to do it. Even if he did, you need to be able to have a calm moment so you can deal with it without reacting to it so quickly.

Jillian Leslie 7:06
Okay. Now, what if I do react to it? What if I start yelling? I am out of control. I am pissed off. He’s done it before. I think he did it to spite me. And you know what? I’m going to let him have it. Then afterward, I feel so guilty. What do I do?

Make Sure You Apologize When You Need To

Judy Tobin 7:27
Well, this is something that most parents don’t realize they can and should do, which is you need to gather up your little four-year-old and put them on your lap, and you need to say, “I’m sorry. I yelled at you. That wasn’t the best moment for me. I really love you. I hope that you will forgive me for being so angry at you.”

I think parents don’t realize that to apologize to our kids is a special gift we give them. It allows them to know that we make mistakes, and that we can take responsibility for our own mistakes, and that they’re not always the bad guy.

Because as a parent, we have so much power with our kids. Often, we make them the bad guy. Sometimes, it’s we who are the bad guys. So, to be able to take that moment and to be able to say, “I was the bad guy. I’m sorry.” I think that’s an important moment between parents and children.

Jillian Leslie 8:41
Now, what if I’m in a marriage that works when we’re both at work, that works when it’s a Saturday or a Sunday. And now, my spouse is home with me and I am having a really hard time with my spouse. Do I talk to my spouse? Do I wait until this whole coronavirus thing is over? What do you recommend I do?

Judy Tobin 9:13
Well, again, take a breath. And then you can decide. I mean if you can hold it until after the coronavirus issue is over, wow, good for you. Chances are what happens is it just keeps building. So, it’s best if you can talk about it.

But again, that breath helps you decide whether this is the best moment to talk about it. Because chances are, if you’re feeling really pissed or you’re feeling really angry, it’s very hard not to lash out.

If it’s really something that’s boiling up in you, you’ve got the choice to leave the room and settle yourself for a little bit. To go off by yourself. Even if it’s into the bathroom. Shut the door and give yourself a little time.

Or if it’s a moment when you think that you can engage in a conversation because don’t forget, your husband is probably feeling annoyed too. Or he’s got his own issues that he’s dealing with.

If you think it’s a time that you can sit down together and have a moment of sharing your feelings, do. But again, you have to pick a good moment. Otherwise, it can escalate.

Jillian Leslie 10:33
Now, what would be the best way to approach my spouse? Let’s say it is bubbling up. I can’t release it and I need to talk about it. How do you recommend I do that without… Let’s say, I assume my spouse gets very defensive. Not that I do. But my spouse does.

How would you recommend I approach it because we don’t have the ability to then not talk to each other for 15 hours or, you know, he/she goes to work and we can have some physical space. How would I have that conversation?

Judy Tobin 11:15
Well, you can say to your husband, “There are some things that are bothering me, and I want to talk to you about them. Is this a good time? Is this a good time for you?” If he says no, then you negotiate.

Make Sure It’s a Good Time to Talk to Your Spouse

“All right, let’s decide on when a good time would be.” You make an appointment, an appointment to sit down and have this conversation when you can both give it your full attention. “Will that work?” Hopefully. Maybe not.

And again, if it flares up, just like I said about with children, if you’re the one flaring up, then it’s really good to be able to say, “I’m sorry. I really flared up.”

There’s an important part of what I’m saying and that is… I’ve been talking about breath. But really that means to pay attention to how you are feeling in that moment.

A lot of us don’t really do that. We don’t take the time to say, “How am I feeling at this moment?” We just react. So, this is all about trying to help you to think about, “Wait a minute. What am I feeling? Can I manage this right now? Do I need to separate myself? Can I approach this with a certain modicum of calm?” And if you can’t, this is not the time to do it.

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Jillian Leslie 12:56
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Now, what about kindness. Before we press record, you had talked about kindness right now. Can you elaborate on that?

Remember to Be Kind Right Now Especially to Yourself

Judy Tobin 15:06
Yes. Kindness is such a nice thing. It’s important, first of all, to be kind to ourselves.

Jillian Leslie 15:15
What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that?

Judy Tobin 15:17
Well, this is the same thing. All right, you’re behaving like a B-. But even if you’re behaving like a B-, can you forgive yourself for that? Can you be kind to yourself and say, “Well, I’m not acting the way I would really like to. But you know? I think I’m going to be kind to myself.”

Okay. So, I am angry, and I have just yelled at my kid. I feel awful. I’ll tell you, Jill. It goes to your B-. You always talk about how it’s better to be B- and to get it done and to try it out than to try to be an A+ all the time.

I’m going to allow because this is a really stressful time. I can’t be at my A-game right now. There are too many stressors in the house or too many things happening. So I’m going to accept a B-, and I’m going to say, “You’re doing the best you can right now.”

Also, kindness to your family. Again, that breath is important because then you can have a choice about am I going to lash out or can I be kind? Can I lead with that thought that this is stressful for all of us, and so, I’m going to try to be kind instead of reactive to what I’m feeling?

Jillian Leslie 16:52
So, it’s kind of like putting almost like kindness glasses on.

Judy Tobin 16:58
Exactly. That’s a good way of putting it. You have to recognize all of us are going through a stressful time. Now, this is unusual. We’re home. We’re with families all the time.

We’re not used to this. It’s bringing up all kinds of things for us. It’s bringing up feelings that we don’t usually have to have because most of the day we’re all separated, doing our own things.

Jillian Leslie 17:30
Right. We’re busy.

Judy Tobin 17:31
We’re busy.

Jillian Leslie 17:32
Our mind is not just thinking about whatever stuff. That we don’t have to face the uncomfortable feelings.

Judy Tobin 17:40
Our routines are different. Now, all of a sudden, we’re all home together. All these feelings are coming up that we’re not used to, or that we usually can suppress, or that we usually can manage, but here they are.

So, put on those glasses, those kindness glasses to yourself realizing that you are in a position that you’re not usually in. That you’re facing these stresses and you’re going to perform, not at an A level all the time, but you’re going to be okay if you’re doing a B- and you’re struggling. You’re still going to say, “I’m doing the best I can.”

Jillian Leslie 18:26
Now, what about a family meeting? Like is there value in sitting down together?

Call a Family Meeting to Talk About Your Feelings

Judy Tobin 18:34
There is. The reason you want to have a family meeting is because, again, this is an unusual time, and you want to be able to sit down and again, talk about some of these feelings.

Mom is saying, “I’m feeling stressed. When I feel stressed, sometimes I get angry. I don’t really mean to get angry, but that happens. And I want to tell you that I’m sorry if I’m getting angry more than I usually do.”

Everybody should have returned in saying, what this experience is like for them, how they are handling it inside themselves. And to support when somebody is doing a good job and say, “Wow, I can see that you’re trying really hard. I applaud you for that.”

Or for the person to say, “I’m sorry. I’m feeling really hemmed in. This is hard for me.” And we can apologize when we need to. We can applaud ourselves when we need to. We need to say that in that family meeting, too.

“You know, I was about to get angry but I was able to put on my kindness glasses, and I feel good about myself. And so, I just want to tell you.”

Jillian Leslie 19:59
How often do you think a family should do this?

Judy Tobin 20:03
Well, I don’t have a prescription for that. But I think that it should be often enough so that if they’re feeling the tension in the family if things feel like they’re a little out of control, you call a family meeting.

Everybody can sit down and have the opportunity to express what it is that they’re feeling angry about, feeling stressed about, feeling good about. And it’s a good sharing time.

Jillian Leslie 20:38
So, it’s kind of like you got a pressure cooker and all of a sudden you can feel that tension. That might be a good time.

Judy Tobin 20:46
And you have to ask everybody to join in this. You have to say, “I would like to have a family meeting. Can we all have everybody agreeable to this? The point of this meeting is for all of us, to be honest with each other, and to share what we’re feeling, and to see if we could help each other find ways that we can be together in better and better ways.”

Jillian Leslie 21:13
Now, one thing you always talk about is gratitude. How does gratitude fit into this?

Practice Gratitude for the Small Things

Judy Tobin 21:19
Gratitude is a really important thing to have at this time. Here we are stuck at home. “I don’t feel any gratitude. I mean this is really lousy. So, where am I going to find gratitude?” Well, this is the time to start looking in those little places.

For example, when you take a shower in the morning. I bet most of you don’t even think about the shower that you’re taking. You just take your shower. It’s finished. It’s over. However, if you think about it, a shower is really a lovely thing. I’ll bet all of you enjoy it.

So, here’s something to be grateful about. I’m in the shower. And wow, that hot water feels good. And just to have this quiet time feels good. I’m really grateful for this shower. That sounds like a really little thing but there are lots of little things in our day that we can be grateful for.

This is the perfect time to start looking for those things because otherwise you can be overwhelmed with “I’m not grateful for anything right now. This is hard. This really sucks. I don’t want to be here stuck with my family.”

And that’s true. However, I’ll bet there are a lot of things that you can look around and see that you have and that you do, and that gives you a moment or two a pleasure that you can be grateful for.

Jillian Leslie 22:57
The sun came out here yesterday.

Judy Tobin 22:59
Oh yeah.

Jillian Leslie 23:01
I had this moment. It was like the clouds split open and the sun was shining down. I just felt such gratitude. Because the sun makes me so happy and it’d be gray for so long.

Judy Tobin 23:16
I know. We were talking while you’re standing on your porch saying, “Oh, the sun is shining and the day is good.”

Jillian Leslie 23:24
The day is good.

Judy Tobin 23:25
The day is good. So, things like that – the sunshine, the shower, the meal that you are having that is really good and tasty. Don’t forget to pay attention to those things because those are the sunrays of the day.

Jillian Leslie 23:46
For me, I will say when we laugh as a family, like the three of us, I take that moment in. Even if it’s a small little laugh, but you know there will be times throughout the day where we will all crack up.

And I think about that, and I think, “Oh, wow. We’re all in this together.” We’re laughing. And it’s funny.

Judy Tobin 24:07
Yes. That’s a moment of real gratitude that you can laugh together even in the midst of the stress. I guess this whole podcast is really about paying attention.

Pay Attention to How You’re Feeling

Paying attention to how you’re feeling. Paying attention to the moments that you can feel grateful for. Paying attention to what it is that you want to say to your kids that can make them feel better. Paying attention to your own needs and your moments when you need to be alone.

A bathroom is a great place. We have to feel very grateful that we have bathrooms that have doors that we can close. I mean that seriously because all of us need to have moments alone. That’s an important part of taking ourselves seriously.

Giving ourselves some kindness. Giving ourselves a moment to just breathe. And so, that’s again, being able to be kind to yourself, take those moments for yourself that you really need, and allow everybody to take those moments. Because again, this is a new time for everybody.

Jillian Leslie 25:33
It feels like one thing that you’re saying is you should arm every family member with two pairs of glasses, the glasses of kindness and the glasses of gratitude.

Judy Tobin 25:44
Those are two good glasses.

Jillian Leslie 25:47
And then the other thing too that helps me when I’m really stressed is to think about… Somebody had said this and I thought this was really helpful. That feelings are like weather systems. Even at that moment when everything feels so dark, if I can just hang with it, it will eventually change.

Even in that darkest moment… Even though at that moment I don’t think it’s ever going to change. I think it’s here forever and this is my future for the rest of my life. I’ve seen it too many times that it does actually shift.

Maybe it’s just that I have to go to the bathroom. And then all of a sudden, that’s the feeling that comes up. It doesn’t necessarily shift and all of a sudden, it’s puppies and rainbows and my life is terrific.

It could be that all of a sudden I get hungry or what but that like, even those feelings that feel so heavy and so stuck are not as heavy and stuck as I think they are. What’s your thought?

Notice How Everything is Changing

Judy Tobin 26:55
That’s a really good point too. Things keep changing. I mean really, things change moment to moment. We don’t realize that but where you are at this moment is not where you’re going to be in 15 minutes. Things can really change.

That’s important to keep in mind. It is dark at this moment. It feels heavy at this moment. But there will be a moment when you’re going to feel grateful for something.

I’m going to take a shower. Go take a shower and get in that shower and say, “This shower feels good. Ah, a new moment, a new chance at that moment.”

So, nothing is permanent as we think it is. We keep changing. The moment keeps changing. You have to hang in there. This is what it is right now. That, we can’t change.

We can’t change that we’re directed to stay at home. We can’t change that this is a stressful time on the planet, but we can change what we decide to do. So, you’re feeling really dark? Well, what might make you feel a little better? Maybe a cup of tea. Maybe to go stand in the sunshine.

We can make decisions about those kinds of things. We can’t make decisions about what this Coronavirus is doing now. And so, I thought your point was really good. The darkness is dark at the moment.

Jillian Leslie 28:36
And feels forever.

Judy Tobin 28:39
Yes, but it’s not. But it’s not. So, we have to remind ourselves of these things. We really have to talk to ourselves. We have to take ourselves in hand. Most of us don’t realize that we can talk to ourselves.

We can say, “I know this is feeling really dark and it’s feeling forever. But what can I do at this moment that might give me a little bit of relief?” And then, figure it out. And you can be creative.

You know, you’re always talking about creativity. Well, we can be creative at this time. We can think about things that might help us. We can think about ways we can do it a little better. We can think about kindness in a new way.

So, don’t we think that because you’re not working on your site, and you’re not doing your business, that you can’t be creative? This is about being creative in life.

This is about being creative at the moment. This is about finding these places that show sunshine and show light in the midst of this darkness and they are there.

Jillian Leslie 29:59
I like that.

Find Creative Ways to Manage Your Feelings

Judy Tobin 30:00
You need to find your creative ways of discovering them.

Jillian Leslie 30:05
I love that. All right. So, if you had one piece of advice or one wish for everybody to help them through this, what would you wish for people?

Judy Tobin 30:16
I wish that we find ways to love ourselves. We find ways to be forgiving. We find ways to remember why we’re in this family. We find ways to see the sunshine. Because this will pass. It’s going to pass.

We don’t know when exactly. Life will maybe be different for all of us in some way. But our job is to get through this in the best way we can. And that’s to find those places of light and love in our life, in those we love, and to send it out into the world because the world needs it right now.

Jillian Leslie 31:16
Oh, I love that. Oh, Mom, thank you so much for being on the show. Who would have thought that I’d be interviewing you or sharing you with my audience? So, the coronavirus does bring new things to the world.

Judy Tobin 31:33
Well, I never thought I’d be on this show. And now I have to listen to it for you.

Jillian Leslie 31:38
I know. I know. Well, that’s because you love me. You will do it.

Judy Tobin 31:43
I do. I do. You are my sunshine.

Jillian Leslie 31:45
Oh. Well, thank you, mom.

Judy Tobin 31:47
Thank you, sweetheart.

Jillian Leslie 31:48
I hope this podcast gave you some ways of thinking about our how to deal with marriage and family tension during this stressful time. I’m so happy that you got to meet my mom. My mom listens to all of my episodes before they go live and she gives me notes.

And now, I was able to share her with you. So, if you have any feedback about this episode or future episodes you’d like me to be recording, please reach out at Jillian@MiloTree.com.

Also, if you are liking the podcast, please head to iTunes and give it five stars. Maybe write a review. This way, other people will be able to find it. I hope that you are hanging in there. I hope you are staying safe. And I will see you here again next week.

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