By Susan Leigh
Was it really a surprise to learn that over 80 couples filed for divorce immediately upon leaving lockdown in China? Being together 24/7 is something we rarely experience for any significant period of time, perhaps only at Christmas or on holiday, and then there are usually external distractions.
So, in these extraordinary times, let’s consider ways to help your relationship survive COVID-19
– Accept that there will be both up and down days. Everyone has been affected by this pandemic. From losing people you know, work, your business, your health, it’s also the uncertainty of how long this time will last and the long-term implications which can cause our minds to run ‘what if’ scenarios and cause mood swings. Accept that if your partner has a ‘meltdown’ it’s not automatically about you, so don’t take it personally.
– Talk to each other. Communication is crucial at a time like this. Don’t silently dwell on your situation but don’t bottle up how you’re feeling either. Keep talking. Everything’s different from normal. Our eating habits, alcohol and coffee consumption, exercise, social lives and sleeping patterns have probably changed. Each impacts on our mental and physical health and wellbeing.
– Allow yourself to be ‘nudged along’ sometimes. If your partner is in a good place, doesn’t want to hear negativity, says, ‘leave it for now’, or, ‘stop with the misery’, be prepared at times to take that on board. Try to let their good humor filter through to you.
– Keep connected and talk to others, to your family and friends. It’s helpful to discover that many people share your fears and concerns and are experiencing similar irritations within their relationships. Maybe join online sites and chat rooms where you can share tips for coping or be receptive to the many activities and interests that are available. Maybe arrange group chats, virtual dinner dates, coffee mornings or book clubs where you can socialize and enjoy the company of a variety of people and activities.
– Agree to give each other space and not do everything together. There are times when one could do the food shop, walk the dog, do some work, go and read, or relax in a leisurely bath and enjoy some time out on their own. Again, it’s not personal, but allows each space from being ‘hot-housed’ together for a while.
– Enjoy separate hobbies or interests. One may want to study or is interested in pursuing a hobby that they normally don’t have time for. Give them the opportunity to dedicate time to this whilst they can.
– Find new activities you can do together, something that you’ve both expressed an interest in. Maybe plan a special post-COVID-19 holiday, or revisit your back-catalogue of music, your old photographs, the games you used to play; you can find hours of fun, laughter and nostalgia so helping your relationship survive COVID-19.
– When we’re confined to our homes and away from everything that’s routine and familiar it’s understandable if someone erupts from time to time! Many of us feel we’ve little or no control. Our familiar structure, work, exercise routine, social structure have all disappeared, almost overnight. Forgive the occasional outburst. But if it happens with increasing frequency try to discuss what happened afterwards, when things are calmer.
– Be patient with each other. Accept that it’s often the small things that cause the biggest irritations. A large grievance would most likely be discussed at the time, whereas smaller things, like not emptying the waste bins, leaving a dirty cup on the table, not offering to make a drink could trigger underlying frustrations and annoyances. If this occurs try to step back and agree to discuss it at a less tense time.
– Maybe agree on a ‘timeout’ word, phrase or action that can be used to create a pause if things appear to be getting too heated. Then detach for a while. Maybe one goes for a walk, cools off, spends time in the garden. Yes, sometimes, particularly in these unprecedented days, we need to ignore some things and not comment or nit-pick over everything that offends or that we dislike. But if rudeness or temper outbursts occur with increasing frequency you need to consider what your options are. It may help to discuss matters with family, friends or use helpline support.
– Could alcohol be a factor? Sales of alcohol have definitely increased, as has the consumption of sugar and treats and time spent on gambling and pornography sites. Again, mental and physical health, daily exercise, maybe a walk outside, regularly getting up at the same time, showering and keeping a healthy routine all support good health, sleep and a better approach to your relationship.
– If money’s an issue maybe negotiate a weekly or monthly allowance to each spend on your own whimsies, with the agreement that no comments are made or questions asked.
– Decide not to let children dominate every waking moment. Some families insist that their home-schooled children wear school uniforms so that they’re clear that this isn’t an unplanned extra holiday. Plan their lessons but also schedule online exercise classes, craft work, reading, chores so that you have some quiet time in the day and aren’t exhausted by evening.
This period of lockdown could be time for you to pull together, reinforce your love, closeness and connection, able to create many fond memories along the way. A little thought, consideration and sensitivity can help your relationship survive COVID-19.
Susan Leigh, counsellor, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.