Relationships Under Lockdown

If you hadn’t noticed earlier, it’s impossible to miss now- the world is changing. A global pandemic and consequent lockdowns throughout the globe has thrown our understanding of ‘normal’ out the window, and we’re all struggling to make sense of how this would affect our life, work, and relationships.

Talking particularly about the latter, interesting trends are emerging, particularly from a psychological standpoint. For one, there’s been a complete breakdown of space – physical and emotional. Not only have we been thrust into four walls (some of us confined with our romantic partners, some without), anxiety about the pandemic and the related issues it is bringing up is also dominating our emotional space. With concern over spaces, comes the obvious need for boundaries. Boundaries can be one of the most meaningful ways in which we can protect our space, while also finding connection with our partners. Sharing household chores, delineating physical space especially for those working, and ensuring a decent amount of me-time could all be important boundaries at this time.

Closely tied to boundary setting is communication- the importance of being able to communicate our boundaries and needs respectfully yet assertively cannot be stated enough. All too often, we expect a certain level of vulnerability from our partners- vulnerability, after all, deepens connection. How many of us, however, can model this vulnerability before expecting reciprocity from the other side? The point here is that it’s sometimes easier to ask the other person how they are doing than expressing how it is that we are doing. Sometimes, the best way to work on making our relationship better is to acknowledge and express our own needs, especially when the environment around us is not necessarily healthy (like in case of this pandemic). Having said this, and having recognized the need to prioritize our mental health and well being, this is also a time where we may need to hold space for our partners.

Holding space essentially means being able to sit in discomfort with them (and discomfort is no longer alien to any of us). When we hold space, we listen- we listen not to reply or to advice, but to understand. Holding space is not always easy. It may require introspection on our part. How often do we jump into problem-solving mode when our partners express a difficulty? Is it possible for us to then hold ourselves back when we do that, and ask them what they need instead? When talking about holding space, it could also be useful to bring up how holding space for a differing perspective could also be a great way to work on your relationship. Your partner has had life experiences very different from yours, so, it’s impossible that you’d agree with each other one hundred percent of the time. The times when you don’t, is there a way for you to validate their concern, keeping in mind where it is that they come from?

While all of these points may hold true for both, couples together, and those away, one special point that takes significance for the second group is connection. It’s possible that connecting comes more easily and naturally to those under lockdown together, yet for those away, finding connection can be so important to the relationship. One small suggestion is to look for new and interesting ways to connect- this may be a good time to use social media to your advantage. Exchange voice notes, play games, schedule date nights, sleep in on video call together, cook together virtually or in-person – the possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to figure out what works for you.

To end with, it’s important to realize the legitimate challenge these tough times bring to not only our well-being, but also to the well-being of our relationships. The silver lining is that tough times could be the most powerful way to strengthen and deepen our connection, especially if we meet each other with responsiveness, reliability and resilience. Remember, it’s not you versus me, it’s us versus the problem- and right now, could be the best time to put this into action.

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