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Social Distance

Do you feel socially distant from your spouse?

These past couple of weeks in America have brought about changes impacting families and individuals on personal and professional levels. While there has been much discussion about the challenges of children being home from school along with “social distancing”, few conversations have addressed the stress couples may feel as one or both partners are temporarily working from home or are facing a period of unemployment.  This extended time together at home is uncharted waters for some couples. Tension may rise as the guest bedroom is converted into a home office.  Extracurricular activities have been cancelled. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and church buildings are closed, and I am “quarantined” in my home with my spouse. Several positive things may come as this shift in our nation has allowed many to slow down, but for some couples adjusting to a new “normal” is stressful.

In the following paragraphs, I would like to offer a brief communication exercise for couples. Originally created by Mark Laaser, M.Div, PhD and Debbie Laaser, MA, LMFT of Faithful and True Ministries, the heart behind this exercise is to encourage couples to engage in healthy emotional conversation through this daily check-in. The acronym FANOS is derived from the Greek word phainos which means “to bring light”.  The FANOS exercise is not intended to take long and could be completed when the couple has five minutes or so of uninterrupted time together, possibly during a meal together or before bedtime. Each spouse shares in the five areas below…

 

F – feelings, share your feelings not your thoughts.
A – affirmation, give your spouse an affirmation or say “thank you” for something.
N – needs, ask for something you need, not necessarily to be met by your spouse, be specific.
O – ownership, take responsibility/apologize for something you did or said.
S – sobriety/struggles, report of the status of sobriety or check-in regarding something you are working on (criticizing, withdrawing, overeating, raging, etc).

 

An example of FANOS may look like this:

Today I am feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. So much as changed over the past week. I am thankful for your help with the household chores and appreciate you making dinner tonight. I need to get my new home office space organized for the week ahead. I need to make organization a priority. I am sorry for the negative way I responded to your invitation to watch a movie last night. I recognize my reaction is contributing to the tension in the house. I have struggled with withdrawing as a result of the changes in the past week. I would like to be more intentional about reaching out to friends via phone and text in this next week.

 

Now it’s your turn…

 

If you are looking for a new way to engage with your spouse conversationally on a daily basis in the weeks ahead, I encourage you to give FANOS a try! If you and your partner are struggling with healthy communication or would like professional guidance for any other struggles related to your relationship, please consider reaching out to a therapist.

 

To learn more about FANOS, check out chapter seven of Debbie Laaser’s book Shattered Vows (2008).

FANOS is a copyright of Faithful & True and was used in this blogpost with permission from the author.

Amy is an intern at Lighthouse Counseling. While currently pursuing her MA degree in Counseling from Crown College, Amy’s educational background also includes a BS degree in Psychology from Crown College and professional training from Denver University in Animal and Human Health. Other professional experience has included work in the areas of youth development and caring for adults with disabilities.

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