“They say love is the best investment; the more you give, the more you get in return.”
We are slowly entering a post-pandemic world after being in lockdown for the best part of a year – a whole 12 months that will undoubtedly have affected the way you live your life and how you relate to others. If you’re in a relationship, then how has that fared? Have you invested in it while isolating from the world? Or is your relationship feeling more like the law of diminishing returns?
In our experience of couple counselling over the last year, we have noticed the pattern of relationships has been reaching one extreme or another. Some couples entered lockdown looking forward to spending quality time with each other – but it just didn’t pan out that way. As daily pressures mounted, time became eroded, so they lost touch with, and interest in, each other – leading to questioning whether they wanted to stay together. The charity Citizens Advice reported a 25% increase in divorce-related queries as we entered the second lockdown. Other people may have dreaded spending all that time with their partner – and over time realised that, actually, close relationships were fundamentally the most important aspect of their lives.
You may not have been on one of these polarities. However, whatever issues your relationship had before lockdown may have been amplified without the routine and distractions of a ‘normal’ life. If your relationship could do with a boost post lockdown, then here we share some tips to help you create more balance as a couple…
Go back to basics
Your routines may have been ignored or trampled in the everyday steps you had to take to survive the constant low-level ‘hum’ of stress that the Covid pandemic generated. Having no routine can feel chaotic and can leave you in ‘survival mode’. Having a routine creates structure and safety and familiarity. Discuss as a couple how you’re going to reconfigure the framework of your lives in a way that takes care of the basics and leaves you some space to enjoy each other again.
Reset your work boundaries
Many people joked that ‘working from home’ during lockdown was really ‘living at work’. If that’s the case for either of you, check in with yourselves regarding how much and how long you’ve been working. It’s so easy to send that one last email and complete that one last report, taking you way into the evening when you should have shut down your laptop. Aim to reset the boundaries so you can invest your time in yourself and in each other.
Rethink your rows
One of the first things a counsellor asks a couple in conflict is: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? You can’t always have both. The need to be right all the time can often alienate you from each other. Being right and sitting at opposite ends of the sofa isn’t exactly the route to happiness. Can you start to think about your partner as someone who has needs, too? If they’re being scratchy and grumpy one day, can you support them and ask how you can help – rather than taking it personally and making it all about you? They may do just the same thing for you when you’re having a bad day, too.
Talk openly and honestly
More importantly, truly listen to each other. Don’t sit there with your answer running, or sigh to signify you’ve heard all of this before. Seek someone to mediate – such as a couple counsellor – if your communication styles have become combative or dismissive. Learn to appreciate each other again. Think of coming out of lockdown as a chance to let in fresh air and spring clean your relationship.
Review your time and space
Everyone in a relationship needs together time and alone time. During lockdown, were you competitive with each other over who had time and space? Do you feel the balance of together/alone time has been lost along the way? No matter how much you love your partner, there are always going to be pinch points and pressure spots if you spend all day every day with them. Now may be the time to get some time and space back for yourself. What things do you love doing that replenish you as a person, inside and out? Create time to do more of those things, and then you’ll have more energy and interest to invest in your relationship.
If your relationship has been struggling during lockdown, or if you’d like to spend some time reflecting on and re-investing in your partnership, then couple counselling may be able to help. If you’d like to make an initial appointment with one of our therapists then get in touch. Call 020 8673 4545 or email: [email protected]