No matter how strong our relationships are, right now is a testing time for them, writes Gedling-based counsellor Elaine Bond.
We are in unknown territory and so are our relationships. Some of us are still having to leave the house as key workers, some of us are working from home, some of us are furloughed and some of us were at home before but now have other people in our space all day.
It is inevitable that we are going to argue and disagree with each other, and these disagreements will feel twice as bad as there is now a feeling of no escape. In fact, the tiniest issues will feel magnified as we cannot walk away from them and we are trapped together.
If our relationships had issues before lockdown, this period now will test us and bring those issues to the surface. We are living in a “pressure cooker” and we can start to regress in our behaviour and so our interaction becomes stunted with each other too.
So, what do we need to do to ease the tension?
The biggest thing affecting us all in lockdown in boredom. Therapists often look at this as repressed anger, which explains why it makes us snappy, irritable, or depressed. Now, is a great time for us to try something new, such as cook something different, watch new things on Netflix or even something random picked blindly, camp in the garden and spend time apart.
Taking time away from our partners is important, Running or walking alone, contacting people and chatting to them without our partners, having a long bath or gardening alone can help here.
Laughter can be the best medicine, and finding things to laugh at with our partners is a great start, even if that is at the ridiculousness of the situation, we find ourselves in. Sharing jokes, memes and good comedies which allow ourselves to laugh at the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in right now can lighten the mood a lot.
An attitude of gratitude can help us to get along better. If we can find the positives in our partners, by letting them know what they do that we really like and take some time to remind ourselves why we fell in love with them in the first place.
If we are in lockdown with a new partner, maybe sooner than we would have made that decision normally, then we are on a voyage of discovery. This is the time we need to set those boundaries for our relationship. It may feel slightly awkward, but now is the time to have conversations about what we like and what irritates us and create a routine. Housework and finance can be the biggest issues in relationships so the sooner we have those conversations the better and, of course, keeping date nights going as we get to know each other even more.
Some of us may find we are in lockdown with a new partner and their friends, perhaps in flat or house share. We can struggle to make this work especially if we are in a new relationship, as they may be great on a night out, but not necessarily 24/7. We need to create the routine we need with time and space away from the others in the house. We need to have time alone with our partners and then hopefully the time spent in shared spaces is easier.
We could even be in lockdown with our in-laws, which is something we have not experienced before., Maybe holidays and breaks with them had been good, but this again is a 24/7 situation. This is the time we need to aware of our boundaries and make them clear. Communication is key for us here too, as the more we are clear about what is acceptable, and the need for space, the easier it will be. Also, setting up rotas with housework and agreeing finances here is key to getting on with our in-laws.
But I guess the most difficult person for us to be in lockdown with is our ex. This has the potential to be a really emotionally charged period for us and one of the easiest things to do is create boundaries. Boundaries that are physical as we work with our ex to create their space and our space and emotionally when we decide how we will communicate during this period. We need to remember that this is not forever and when this is over our lives can change to the way we want them to.
Overall, the two things we need to have in lockdown is empathy and compassion for each other. All of us are anxious, stressed and frustrated by what is happening to us. Empathy is about putting ourselves in your partners shoes and looking at what is happening to them, and compassion means being able to forgive things that don’t matter in our relationships.
Of course, this applies to ourselves if we are snappy or sad and being able to offer ourselves some empathy to say I feel bad today, I need a duvet day, and the compassion to let ourselves take the duvet day and not beat ourselves up is essential right now. These are essential for us all the time not just in lockdown.
Stay safe and take care of each other
Elaine Bond Counselling
07769 152 951