Being a teacher is hard. Being a teacher who doesn’t sacrifice, sabotage or detonate most of their personal relationships along the way is even harder.
But why? Because relationships can also be extremely hard work, even the truly spectacular ones.
They require time and patience, consideration and understanding, all which may be in short supply if this is your chosen profession.
Quick read: 'My husband and I teach in the same department at the same school'
Quick listen: The truth about mental health in schools
Want to know more: How I got my life back from teaching
Sometimes, after a long week, or term, or year, it can feel like you don’t have anything left to give. At the end of a stressful day, we so often turn away from our partners instead of turning towards them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Not, at least, according to renowned researcher-therapist Dr John Gottman; a man who became so acquainted with the signs of long-lasting and short-lived relationships that he could predict divorce in couples with an accuracy rate of over 90 per cent.
Interested? Afraid? Here are the four habits that Gottman has found fatal to relationships, along with the antidotes to them.
You’ve had a tough day at school, and you need to vent...but your partner doesn’t want to hear it. Outraged, you exclaim: “Why are you always so selfish? I always have to hear about your day!”
Antidote: This isn’t about keeping quiet, it’s about bringing up concerns and complaints in a gentle, constructive way, without blame or personal attack. “I” statements are better than “you” statements here: “I need to talk about this tonight; it’s really bothering me. Can we chat?”
You get home from school, shattered, to find that your other half didn’t pick up what you needed from town, as promised, because they had a “hectic” day. I’m not proud of it, but 9 times out of 10 this gets at least an eye-roll from me, as my internal monologue screams “Hectic? Seriously? Does he even know what I do in a single day?!”
Be warned, acting like you’re better than those around you is poison to a relationship, no matter what the reason or how subtle you think you’re being.
Antidote: Practice gratitude. Train yourself to notice the things you like, love and appreciate about the people in your life. A culture of respect, kindness and appreciation works just as well at home as it does in the classroom.
When we’re faced with criticism (or perceived criticism), there can be a temptation to make excuses, play the victim or shift the blame elsewhere. Here’s how it might go:
“Can we go out on Sunday? It’s been ages since we spent the day out together, just us.”
“You know I can’t, I have this marking/planning to do! Do you think I like having to work instead of enjoying my weekends?! Maybe if you helped out more around the house, I’d have more time for you!”
Antidote: Take a breath, admit your fault and take responsibility. For example: “I’m so sorry, I know it’s rubbish but I really can’t this Sunday. How about we book a meal out on Wednesday instead?”
Listen to your partner’s wants and needs. Spending time together will definitely help, too.
When things become intense, or when that same old argument rears its ugly head, it’s not uncommon to feel emotionally flooded. You may get a headache, or feel suddenly exhausted, or disengage completely.
Antidote: Rather than saying something unkind or switching off completely, ask for a 20-minute break to get your head straight. Then walk or clean or just breathe until you’re ready to re-engage.
Jo Steer is a teacher and experienced leader of special educational needs and disability interventions, as well as wellbeing strategies