So, it looks like we may be staying home for the next few months… It’s a bizarre situation, and many of us aren’t used to being in such close proximity to our partner and/or family 24/7. And no matter how much you may love each other, you’re probably going to get on each other’s nerves at some point or another (if you haven’t already)…
Despite all the rainbows-in-windows and sourdough starters going around the internet, the reality is that many people are finding this time fairly stressful. We don’t have our usual release valves – going out for a drink, meeting friends, playing sport, or even just going to work – and it’s understandable that relationships may feel under strain being cooped up together for so long. So if you’re feeling the cabin fever, here are a few ways to maintain a bit of relationship harmony during lockdown:
Communicate, communicate, communicate: Let each other know how you’re feeling, when you need a bit of space, and when you need some help. Be clear about your feelings, good and bad. If you wake up in an irritable mood, be honest about it. Sometimes just saying it out loud can help to defuse what would otherwise turn out to be a slowly simmering pot of resentment, e.g.: “D’you know what? I’m feeling a bit grumpy today, I think I need some alone time/to walk the dog/to have a little nap.” Take responsibility for your feelings, avoid shunting the blame onto someone else, and look for a solution (even if that solution is wrapping yourself up in a blanket with a good book for half an hour). And on that note:
Practice self-care: It’s important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health, and recognise when you need to take a break. If you’re finding social media/the news overwhelming, limit your screen time, or ask someone to give you brief, filtered updates. If you’re struggling to juggle work, childcare/home education and household chores, take a step back and lower your expectations. The current situation is not ‘normal’ and normal levels of productivity should not be expected. Keeping everyone safe and healthy is the priority here, not hitting school targets or reaching the bottom of your laundry basket. Trying to do too much is likely to end with a burnout, which will have a knock-on effect on everyone else in your household. Don’t forget to look after each other, too.
Appreciate the little things: While things aren’t exactly normal at the moment, perhaps we can take this as an opportunity to stop and appreciate all the positives around us. To do nice things for one another, and help out our local communities (if it’s safe to do so). To reconnect and spend some quality time with each other. To slow down for a while. Show your appreciation for all the lovely little things in your relationship; the things that make you laugh; the small kindnesses you do for each another. Even if it’s making a cup of tea in the morning. It’s all too easy to fall into negative patterns when we’re under stress, but be careful how you speak to each other. Criticism is one of the top communication issues for struggling couples and serves no real purpose other than making everyone feel resentful. If you do need to discuss something that’s bothering you, try to approach things in a positive way, as a team, and look at things from your partner’s point of view as well as your own.
And remember that this won’t last forever. And it’s likely we’ll all emerge from lockdown with a new perspective on lots of things, including the dynamics of our own relationships.