Being in lockdown with a partner during the coronavirus pandemic may have proved to be quite some test on the strength of your relationship.
It’s fair to say that being in lockdown, for many people, has amplified any emotion they’ve been experiencing. It’s the intensity of it all. Before the pandemic took hold you probably had busy lives with work, family and friends. Being together 24/7 might make you see each other in a whole new light. Being stuck at home with someone for weeks on end – without the distraction of the usual things you would do to socialise – could understandably put pressure on you both.
Some relationships may not survive this pressure pot. Underlying tensions may have burst into the open. Tiny issues that existed in the partnership pre-lockdown may have developed into huge fractures that just can’t be fixed. Yet, we’ve seen some relationships grow stronger and stronger the more time they’ve had together – because they have worked hard at their relationship.
From our work as couples counsellors and relationship therapists, we’ve noticed the behaviours that strong couples demonstrate towards each other.
How strong couples have survived
Strong couples have helped their relationship survive and thrive during lockdown by doing the following things…
Supporting each other when they’re ‘having a moment’.
Stress levels can rise and fall during ‘normal’ times. During quarantine, with stress constantly outside the door, and on TV and social media, the effects of stress can be felt more intensely. If two people in a relationship are stressed at the same time, it can sometimes become a battle to prove who is suffering more. This can too easily escalate into a tit-for-tat fight. But strong couples recognise stress for what it is and cut each other (and themselves) some slack. They accept that they’re both going to have some off days. And they do what they can to support their partner through them.
Negotiating space for themselves and each other
If you don’t have the luxury of much space in your home, then quarantine may have been a real struggle. If both of you need to work at the dining room table, or both need broadband capacity to juggle Zoom meetings and deadlines, then it can be difficult to ensure that both of your needs are met. The process of meeting priorities may take some planning and negotiation and sharing of resources. Strong couples take time to work these things out. They plan for who needs physical space as well as emotional space. Strong relationships are built on a balance of together-time and alone-time. Challenging though it may be in a restricted environment, it’s important to seek to achieve that balance even under lockdown conditions.
Talking things through – and truly listening
It can be easy to jump in with a solution or advice when a partner brings a problem. But sometimes it’s the talking through that helps find its own solution. Strong couples truly listen to each other and respect what their partner is going through, whether this takes place in couples therapy or independently. In lockdown, perhaps more than at any other time, we may be feeling and experiencing things in a way we never have before. To be able to discuss feelings without being judged or mocked or dismissed is a fundamental building block of any relationship. And strong couples become stronger as a result of hearing each other out.
Not taking each other for granted
Familiarity can so easily breed contempt. Living in each other’s pockets – day in, day out – could begin to dull even the shiniest of relationships. It’s vital that couples take time to continue to be respectful and curious with each other, rather than just making assumptions and taking each other for granted. Strong couples have reported a new ‘ease’ in their relationship, as they have lived a more ‘stripped back’ life. Going for walks together, working out together, cooking, eating and being together: all these things can bring a gentler dynamic to what may have been a more fraught relationship before lockdown. It’s about never losing interest in your partner and treasuring the bond you have.
If your relationship is going through a rough patch, or if issues have become heightened during lockdown, then get in touch with us and we’ll match you with a couples counsellor. We are offering sessions via phone and online video – and some of our private therapists are offering face-to-face sessions at our Clapham and Tooting centres. We also have some relationship counsellors offering sessions at low cost. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected] to find out more and to book.