Love under lockdown is no easy feat. Relationships are being tested in ways they’ve never been tested before. Couples have had to learn about the virus, communicate with each other, make health decisions for ourselves and our families, talk about risk tolerance, deal with conflict and problem solve in a way we have never done before.
Couples are talking about:
- Which source of news do you trust?
- Which experts and information should we rely upon?
- How do we protect ourselves and our families from a deadly virus?
- How do we isolate ourselves and our kids and stay sane?
- Which relatives and friends do we trust to be in our “bubble?”
- Should we send the kids to daycare or back to school?
- What should we do when our relatives want to celebrate holidays with us?
- How do we manage our different thoughts and opinions about all these decisions?
At this time of incredible stress, we are being challenged to communicate in a healthier, more productive way than ever before. We are facing more negativity and anxiety in our country than I can recall. Many people are suffering with loss of jobs and income, are not able to make rent or mortgage payments, and have food insecurity. Our relationships have fallen further down the list with less opportunity for positive connection, new experiences and time away from our day to day lives.
Here are 3 tips to strengthen your connection during COVID-19 and after the pandemic.
Tip 1: Respect each other’s thoughts and feelings.
When considering questions about handling COVID-19 decisions, the most important aspect of conversations is showing respect and positive regard for each other’s thoughts and feelings. Your view of the pandemic, what you believe about the seriousness of becoming COVID-19 positive, and the steps you want to take to protect yourself and your family, may be similar or very different than your partner’s. If the two of you are aligned with comparable beliefs, you will have an easier time.
If your views are dissimilar, especially if one partner is very anxious about exposure and one is very lax about it, you will have more work to do in your relationship. The biggest problem we see when couples have different views, is the escalation of anger and frustration that results from attempting to make joint decisions. Instead of being able to problem solve or negotiate, disagreements become about “who is right” and “who is wrong.” This is a dead-end.
Each person must “actively listen” to the other’s point of view and “validate” the other partner’s position, even when they diverge. Validation does not mean you agree. It signifies: “I understand your point of view.” In other words, “I hear you and respect your thoughts and feelings.” It has nothing to do with agreement or disagreement.
Validation is the act of helping someone feel heard and understood.– Michael Sorensen
We highly recommend a book by Michael Sorensen, I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships.*
Tip 2: Focus on being grateful.
The attitude of gratitude is a tool I use every day. It’s so easy to be negative, to fall into feeling depressed, to think about all we are missing as a result of the pandemic. When I think about COVID-19 having sucked up a year of my life, another voice in my head pops up:
“And what are you grateful for? For starters, you have a job, you have been able to move your small business from the office to home. You have an income and food and shelter. So far, no family member has had COVID-19, even though one of your kids works in a hospital. You have a husband who loves and supports you.”
I don’t have to go any further. It really helps to nurture and feed that positive voice instead of the negative one. Make a gratitude list for yourself and read it every day. Talk to your partner and your kids about gratitude.
Tip 3: Do the small things that make a big difference.
Now is the time to do small acts of love for your partner. These gestures are what truly matters in the long run of every relationship. The little things we do and say every day add of up to millions of little things during a lifetime together. It creates the general feeling about the relationship or marriage. Here are some ideas of small ways you can connect:
- Make a date once a week, even if it is in your home. Order in from your favorite restaurant, wait till the kids go to bed, light some candles, put on some soft music, have a conversation. Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do when the pandemic is “over.”
- Put a journal in the kitchen and write short love notes to each other every day.
- Make lists of the little things you would like and appreciate from each other during this time and exchange them.
- Put on some music and dance. Bob and I do this and it’s fun.
- Watch a show or concert that you would normally attend live. We have watched concerts of our favorite rock artists and our favorite symphonies on you tube.
Focusing on what we have control over helps to feel less stressed. You can live in the worry or anxiety, or work on being present in the now. I choose being present.
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We are here to support you in your relationship journey.
If you and your partner are having trouble communicating, call us now. We are doing online therapy for Individuals and Couples. Call 410-363-2825 or email us now if your relationship is struggling.
Photo credit Courtney Hale