How to manage relationships as we navigate the pandemic.
There’s do doubt about it, this is a new situation for everyone and it’s difficult for us all. We’re living through a period of uncertainty which has caused huge upheaval in our lives.
So, let’s be clear about one thing. It’s normal to be feeling vulnerable at the moment. And each one of us will process this and show our vulnerability in different ways.
The pressure on our relationships is testing us to our limits. Whether you’re self-isolating together, working from home together, home schooling the kids, worrying about parents or grandparents who you can’t see at the moment, or feeling the pressure of financial worries, understand that even with the best will in the world – your relationship is likely to be feeling the heat right now.
It would take a miracle to not test our patience and understanding and conflict is to be expected, but it doesn’t have to mean make or break. There is a way to help relationships survive this difficult time.
Here are some tips for working through relationship difficulties so that together, you can support each other and come out the other side of the pandemic stronger.
Spending too much time together
A lot of couples who normally spend large parts of their day apart are spending too much time together. This can provide an opportunity to reconnect, but it can also put strain on the relationship to be living and working at home 24/7. This might be more heightened, particularly if you were having difficulties before the pandemic struck.
If you’re both feeling the pressure, the first thing to do is acknowledge that this is a unique and difficult situation (for everyone). Spending every waking hour with someone is going to put pressure on any relationship. So, try to be as compassionate as you can – both with yourself and your partner.
Set some healthy boundaries and have an open conversation about what level of togetherness vs distance you will both benefit from.
Perhaps you work separately but then come together for lunch, for instance and one person looks after the dog/kids if you need to take an important call or concentrate on work for a specific time. You might want to create some kind of structure around where you’re working ie one of you choosing to work from the kitchen, and the other the dining room so you both maintain your own space, making sure communal rooms are tidied after the working day. Also who will do what chores around the house?
If you can be open, flexible and kind to each other, this will help to make each other’s lives easier as you navigate these difficult times.
Communication is always important in a relationship but now more so than ever. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, let your partner know. Having open conversations about your worries is going to help you work something out in a calm and grounded way instead of allowing resentment to build and it exploding in an argument when you’re feeling stressed.
Money worries and differences can be especially triggering as people struggle with less money perhaps due to redundancy or furlough.
Try sitting down together with a spreadsheet and drawing up a budget. Work out what finances are available and how you’re going to manage your spending. Remember this is likely to look different to how it did before and some fine tuning on the budget expectations will help avoid pressure points.
If you can, try to make space for activities that are going to provide you with a sense of wellbeing e.g. online yoga or exercise classes, books etc. This is a difficult time and it’s important top up your energy bank with things that bring you a sense of fun, wellbeing and enjoyment.
Managing a long distance relationship
If you’re battling with being apart, remind each other that whilst this is a stressful time, it’s only temporary. Keep up communication in as many ways as possible – WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom. Perhaps share the creativity and each choose how you spend your time together i.e have a date night, or just a regular call to share stories about your day, watch a movie together whilst online.
Take it as an opportunity to practice good communication (even at a distance) and discuss anything you’re concerned about or struggling with so you can support each other.
Home schooling stress
Home schooling is challenging. We’re parents and not teachers and each of us may have different knowledge and skills to support home schooling. If your parenting style is already naturally aligned that’s great, but if it isn’t make sure you have an open conversation for how you’re going to manage whilst the kids are at home i.e. who is better at maths or English, who is the more creative or has online skills etc.
Schedule a brainstorming session where you think of fun things you can do together as a family as well as agreeing how you’re going to balance time in terms of school activities that are educational and those that are more fun and recreational – and how you’re going to balance this with working at home.
Acknowledge that this is likely to be a stressful situation for everyone in the family. The kids will be feeling the pressure too as they miss school and their friends. Don’t forget - you’re not expected to get it perfect – 'good enough' is just fine. You’re doing your best and that’s all you can do.
Everyone’s emotions are heightened at the moment. You might find that a relationship issue you’ve been struggling with for a while gets highlighted during this time. If that’s the case, take it as an opportunity to address it and start afresh. Positive communication and talking about it together is a good starting point.
Try to be compassionate and focus on taking it just one day at a time.
Commit to living just for the present day and get through it the best you can, because at the moment, that’s all we have.