Balancing Relationship Needs During This Time Of Pandemic
In my last newsletter I wrote about a child or teenager’s need for autonomy and how making room for that can be a challenge during Covid-19. Well this is also true in any relationship, how to find a balance between our own autonomy and our dependency. In our everyday lives we manage this balance, we have our work, our friends and connections outside our relationship with our significant other. This separateness allows for independence and autonomy. But as partners we also have agreed to a dependence in the relationship. We accept the fact that we need to consider the other persons wants, needs, values and beliefs. Now with Covid-19 the demand to consider our partner and release some of our independence is required and this can be very challenging.
We as Americans like our independence and we are used to getting what we want and it is not usually a challenge for us. So now we are all at home, possibly 24/7 with our partner. We need to achieve that balance again as best we can during this challenging time. If we don’t take proactive steps to keep our relationships healthy, it could buckle under the pressure. Here are seven actionable tips that you can begin using today to help your marriage or partnership through this stressful time.
Be open and vulnerable.
Instead of demanding your way or dictating your rules and yelling instructions. Recognizing and communicating that you’re afraid can change the conversation, and it’s a lot easier to be compassionate toward a worried partner than an angry one.
Be kind to yourself
When you’re feeling triggered or anxious, Try to notice when you speak to yourself harshly, and experiment with saying something kinder. Imagine what you might say to a close friend who was stressed. Bringing more kindness to your own fear and anxiety will help you bring more kindness to your partner’s as well. The first priority is to notice when you might need space and create it for yourself. This might mean noticing irritability, fear, tension, or tiredness and deciding to go for a walk, agreeing to have some not-talking time before returning to a difficult conversation, calling a friend or family member, or doing something on your own at home, like reading a book or working on your own project.
Instead of criticism share observations.
Next time you’re tempted to tell your partner what they should do or criticize what they might have already done, try instead talking about the concrete behaviors you’re observing and your feelings, wants, needs, and beliefs about them. Instead of barking “Wash your hands,” perhaps try “I’m feeling nervous that you interacted with the delivery person. I would feel more comfortable if you would please wash your hands before you keep making lunch.”
Remember to be understanding.
If your partner’s behavior has been unusual, give extra attention to their mood, and remember not to internalize it or read into it. If you’re concerned you’ve somehow triggered them emotionally, simply ask directly and calmly. If they say their mood has nothing to do with you, believe it. Remind yourself that your partner is doing their best amid the chaos, just as you are. Make it a point to say please or thank you to each other, even for the littlest things. Tell jokes, laugh when you can, enjoy things together including intimacy both emotional and physical. The goal is to weather this storm together, as a team and above all, be kind to each other.
Acknowledge and accept your differences
Talking about and naming the differences in how you are responding to the coronavirus is an important step to de-escalating any coronavirus conflict. Freshen up on your active listening skills so you can hear the other person’s viewpoint and have them feel understood for their differences. You don’t have to agree with how they see the situation, but having them feel heard and understood will go a long way to creating more harmony at home.
Carve Out Alone Time
Couples thrive when there’s a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart. No matter your living situation, the essential ingredient is communicating when you need alone time, as this is likely to be different every day. And when your partner requests a similar break, honor it. This is the independence that many of us may need to feel.
For many people, anxiety is fed by two main things: fear of the unknown and wanting to control the future. One tool that is helpful with this fear is setting up a routine for yourself and your family. Planning meals, scheduling exercise times, devoting specific hours to work or outlining a plan of attack for a DIY project, can restore some semblance of normalcy to your otherwise-upended life. Our brains love structure, and the grounding effects of routines are powerful. The COVID-19 situation is evolving, and new developments may require tweaks to these plans, but by getting a handle on the day-to-day you can minimize your anxieties while fostering teamwork.
As I have said before it’s a lot to handle right now and these are challenges that none of us could have predicted. Let us know at Save My Family Today if we can help.
Written by Lisa Strong