Challenges of relationships in lockdown
One in eight relationships can be seriously challenged by spending longer periods of time together than usual. Statistics for periods like Christmas confirm this. If you were having challenges before lockdown, lockdown is likely to make them worse.
There are so many stresses at present in addition to fears for our health; you might have concerns about your job and your finances. We face a very uncertain future.
Love and relationship in lockdown
What can you do to help?
- Take care of yourself. The first rule of any relationship is to take care of your own needs. No one person in your life can possibly meet all of your needs. Be clear about what you need and how this need can be met. You are intrinsically different from your partner no matter how much you love one another. So you might like more exercise than they do, you might need more contact with your friends, you might like to meditate, journal, do art, craft, cook . Make sure to do what feeds you and gives you joy.
- Plan what you do together. Perhaps you are both working from home so you have to negotiate how you share your space - who works where. You might want to do some things together and you might also want to have some clear negotiation around household tasks; who cooks, who cleans – this might be new if you previously had a cleaner and may not now. Clarity is important - there are no unfulfilled assumptions. The clearer you are about what you expect from one another, the easier it will be to achieve this.
- Listen to each other’s feelings and allow your partner to feel as they do without having to justify, defend or apologise for their feelings. You will probably both have similar feelings but not necessarily at the same time. While listening is crucial it is also important for your partner to know that you are listening and you can prove this by showing that you do. You might ask questions about what your partner needs from you rather than making an assumption because it is something you want or like.
- Don’t defend yourself from your partner’s feelings. Their feelings are about them, not you. Allow all feelings, especially the ones that you are least comfortable with; they might be your best teachers.
- When talking use “ I” statements: own your feelings and don’t blame your partner for them. They are all yours!
- Be careful with your language: don’t criticise, don’t exaggerate to make your points by using words like “always" and "never”. Neither is probably true.
- Be creative. While lockdown has prevented us from doing things we love it is important that we are doing what we can. You can still have 'date nights' and be creative and thoughtful about what you do.
- Create new rituals and routines together. There is no normal. Have fun together.
- Appreciate each other. We all need to be appreciated but especially so now. It is important to make the implicit explicit, and we do this by making it so. Say what you appreciate about your partner especially any area where you notice that they are making a special effort. If you show your appreciation they might even do more.
- Communicate. Tell your partner what you want, negotiating what might be possible. You might like to spend more time on your own than your partner so make sure you get what you need. Your partner might like more contact, you can text someone who is in the same house so you both might get what you need. Don’t respond in the heat of the moment, take a step back before you talk to your partner
- Touch plays a crucial role in generating and enhancing love. People feel more satisfied in a relationship in which physical affection is a significant part. We feel less alone when we have physical touch. Conflict is more easily resolved with a hug or a kiss.
- Remember. Try to remember why you chose this partner to be with, especially when that is hard. Remember your partner chose you. None of us are perfect partners
- Opportunity. This time offers an opportunity to work on your relationship differently, perhaps more consciously than you otherwise might. Lockdown prevents us from walking out at the difficult times, it can challenge us to work through it. Be clear if your problems have been caused by lockdown or if they pre-existed before it. Just because you have challenges doesn’t mean that you should be together.
- Get support. You can have help, most couples counsellors are working online and counselling using Zoom or Skype can be very effective in the right hands. So, don’t delay to get the support you need now and this might help you both to negotiate new agreements and learn about compassionate understanding and support for one another
- Plan. This virus won't last forever – plan for a future beyond it. Remember that you are a team and you are in this together, even if it affects you both differently.