Dear Friend…

Our third blog in our new series, ‘Dear Friend…’ where volunteer and blogger Kara will be answering some of the mental health and wellbeing questions we have during this challenging time.

Lockdown is putting strain on my relationship. Do you have any tips on how to manage this better?

Divorce solicitors in all countries are sadly predicting a large spike in divorce applications following the coronavirus lockdown.  Personally, as a self-confessed agony aunt, I have been a listening ear to more than one member of my family coping with the same situation as you. I’m also not exempt from this situation myself!   These are unprecedented times of stress. We are all dealing with limitations to our leisure and social time, with no definite time scale of our lives returning to normal and we have extra responsibilities too. Some of us are working from home, others educating children, all of us watching as the housework seem to increase by the day!  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that this stress isn’t conducive to high satisfaction in our personal relationships, and as for those of us that are in romantic partnerships; stress and anxiety aren’t going to do much for our sexual libido either!

We have had lots of clear instructions from Government and health professionals to get us through this lockdown but there’s less support available for maintaining our relationships.

So, here’s a few suggestions that could help your relationship dynamic.

  • Take care of you first – Healthy relationships rely heavily on two people having good emotional health.  It is so important to know what you’re feeling. Try to identify the thoughts and also importantly the emotions you’re having. It might be an idea to pop the thoughts through a thought diary: jotting down the situation, what feelings you’ve had, rating the feelings into a percentage, identifying the thoughts that were going through your mind as difficult emotions arose and finally working out a hopefully more balanced perspective before discussing the problem with your partner. Find a printable file for a simple thought sheet here
  • Accept the situation for what it is – It’s not a holiday. It is also not going to be forever. It makes perfect sense to be struggling with your relationships in your household. We have new responsibilities and emotional responsibilities.Be wary of comparing your relationship to those that you see in the media – I’m pretty certain celebrity children don’t really behave that well behind closed doors either!
  • Communicate effectively – Be clear, say what you mean. Don’t make assumptions.!  I remember as a first-year counselling student our tutor gave us a catchy little phrase. Barry, would say to us ‘assumptions, make an ass out of you and me.’ I can’t empathise enough how true this is. Stop and listen. Quite often we focus on what we want to say in response, rather than hearing what is being said. Get your partner to clarify what they mean exactly; what are they feeling and why do they feel this way?  When problems do arise, try using ‘I statements’ for example – ‘I feel overwhelmed’ rather than ‘you aren’t doing enough’.  Acknowledge that you may have a different coping strategy than your partner and accounting for these differences could reduce conflict. Explore this, check in with each other’s feelings and work out how you can support each other’s responses to stress. Maybe a time limit on coronavirus talk perhaps or exploring other ‘safe’ connections and confidantes to talk with when you’ve exhausted each other. Do also tell your spouse/flatmate that you’re struggling or having an off day, rather than the emotional response exploding out of you later.
  • Balancing – Balance a routine with some intentional time spent together.  Organising separate work spaces for your work from home, online courses or creative pursuits could give you some much needed time out. Perhaps also taking turns with the extra responsibilities. Once that is worked out, it’s time to figure out some at home intentional time together…depending on your interests; perhaps create a coronavirus time capsule together, or order a delivery of a cream tea for a romantic date in the garden, or even just sharing a new Netflix series that you will both enjoy.

For a huge selection of helpful information for a variety of relationship problems see https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships . You can also access relationship counselling via this website too.

The advice here is to support healthy relationships amidst the coronavirus lockdown, it is not advising people to stay in abusive situations. If you are experiencing domestic abuse please seek appropriate organisations. https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

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