If being at home together throughout lockdown has left your relationship feeling strained and challenging, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s doomed.
Our brains are hardwired to respond to threat by feeling fear. Fear produces a stress response in our body to prepare it for fight or flight. When we’re under this kind of stress our body’s systems are programmed to prioritise survival, so we disconnect emotionally from others and temporarily lose our ability to think rationally. Our tolerance is reduced, and our sensitivity heightened.
Considering this, you’ll understand why your relationship may be feeling more strained than normal under the threat of the pandemic and its imposed conditions and why someone else may seem more challenging than normal.
Even at the best of times, in disagreements for instance, we can feel threatened by another’s opinion or strong feelings. In the context of an already heightened state of stress it would therefore be easy for a disagreement to escalate and feel worse than normal.
If it feels like the challenges of lockdown have disconnected you from each other, as lockdown begins to loosen, here’s what you can do to begin to reconnect.
First, ask yourself what role you’ve played in creating the dynamic. The aim of this is to empower yourself and change how you feel about and behave towards your partner
- Did you make any assumptions or judge them at all? How might fear and stress have affected your view? How might things look from a less judgemental or fearful perspective?
- Were any of the problems created because you weren’t explicit about what you needed or how you felt? How might you address that now?
- In your mind, separate your partner from their behaviour. They may have habits you find intolerable or they may have said something unkind, but perhaps they were struggling too. Good people do bad things under stress. Can you forgive them?
By addressing these questions, you could start to see your partner differently.
Then, take steps to reconnect.
- Don’t underestimate the power of an apology. Apologise for your role (however small) in creating any problems
- Reach out to your partner by making a bid for connection such as offering a cup of tea or a hug. And if your partner reaches out to you, reach back – don’t turn away
- Remember what you love and appreciate about your partner, then explicitly acknowledge those traits to them.
When you’ve reconnected, it’s a lot easier to communicate about how the two of you can work together to improve things.
- When you discuss the relationship difficulties, express what you found difficult by describing your interpretation of the situation or what they said. Tell them how you felt but don’t accuse, blame or criticise.
- Listen to your partner with the intention of understanding their perspective, rather than to argue or defend yourself
- Ask for, rather than demand, what you need or would prefer in the future
About The Author
Relationship Coach and Counsellor