How’s your relationship going during lockdown?

Globally, we have seen country after country navigate various forms of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In some places, like here in Melbourne we’re still navigating it!  And, all over the world, from Australia to the UK, to South Africa to Brazil and everywhere in between couples have found their relationships having to flex to adjust to a whole bunch of new relationship stressors.  Let’s be super honest, we really weren’t designed to spend so much time confined in a limited space with the same people day after day, week after long week!

Most relationships face a series of different challenges, and lockdown has certainly provided some new ones for many of us to navigate:

  • We all have a different experience of this collective trauma – some of us have been working from home, confined to same limited walls for well over a year now. Those people, who have previously jumped in the car / train for a commute into the office for many years might have struggled with that shift, whilst others have continued to leave the house in the role of ‘permitted’ / ‘authorised’ / ‘key’ workers.  And we have all responded very differently to this.  Within relationships this can cause strain because we can feel that our partner doesn’t understand our position or get what it’s been like for us, whilst weirdly feeling that we are all going through roughly the same thing.
  • Lockdown has almost served to magnify the things that irritate us about our partners. It has highlighted different approaches to a range of subjects that we perhaps thought were ‘aligned enough’ when we weren’t spending every waking hour together.  Whether it has demonstrated an imbalance in terms of household labour, differences in parenting or exacerbation of maladaptive habits like drinking, smoking, gaming or online shopping – there have been a LOT of reasons to get annoyed with our partners.
  • The repetitive mundanity of lockdown has seen many relationships get into an unpleasant rut. Whilst on the one hand we’ve been spending so much time with each other, very little of it has been quality time.  Conversations have turned to tedious discussions about daily case numbers, lockdown rules, vaccine rates…there’s been precious little new to talk about, and planning for the future has often felt pointless with so many uncertainties at play.  Moreover, disagreements have arisen over differing opinions around the government’s responses to lockdowns, or worse still where partners have different views around vaccination.
  • Then there’s the financial implications of extended lockdowns – where financial pressures have had an impact on a couple’s practical security, it also has likely had a bearing on a couple’s emotional security.
  • Throw children into the mix and then things are just kind of ‘extra’ – what little we have left at the end of a lockdown day often (and understandably) goes to any children we may have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some suggestions from the University of Queensland’s top tips for not only navigating some of the hardest parts of surviving lockdown with a significant other, but maybe also making better than it was in 2019:

  1. Monitor the balance between positive and negative interactions with your partner – aim for a ratio of 5:1
  2. Own your feelings: use “I” statements to voice your needs as opposed to “you” statements to explain what your partner needs to do or change
  3. Listen to your partner’s feelings and validate their response to this crisis as being OK. Don’t become defensive and attack your partner for how they feel or act
  4. Reassure your partner of their safety. Have a conversation about safety means to both of you and how you plan to keep yourselves and other members of the household safe. This might also include an exercise around discerning facts from myths around COVID-19 or the vaccine
  5. Make a new routine with your partner to fit around working from home and family commitments at home. This routine needs to include quality couple time
  6. This new routine also needs to include time apart. Give each other time to work on individual habits and take it in turns looking after any kids or other family members at home
  7. Make plans with your partner for after the crisis is over. It’s important to accept the reality, but also acknowledge this is not permanent.  Planning (with flexibility around timings) can help you keep motivated and positive
  8. Use this time to practice healthy habits such as eating well, sleeping, exercising or practicing mindfulness. These can all help improve mental wellbeing and if you do them together, they can help intimacy

My last thought on this is that it’s really important to cut yourselves some slack right now.  If you were a couple in crisis (having issues) before lockdown started, it isn’t surprising if things have maybe deteriorated further in the last 18 months.  There aren’t many couples right now ‘thriving’, most have been challenged, some significantly. When lockdowns end and certainty about the future gradually returns, there will be some space to tend to your relationship challenges.  And in the meantime, be gentle with yourself and each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you and your partner need a bit of extra support during lockdown, we have a team of relationship therapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing – please reach out to us at: hello@theabaker.com.au / 03 9077 8194.