That might sound overly dramatic, but that is sometimes how relationships can get for us during lockdown when we are being forced to spend so much more time together, indoors and with our children. On top of that, we are not allowed to see the people we normally do (friends, family, colleagues etc.) which is no doubt making many of us feel even more lonely and isolated. We might become more irritable than usual and easier to loose our temper at people around us.
This can put even the strongest and most loving relationships to the test, and if we don’t want things to go wrong we might have to work on things a bit in order to come out the other end still together. Actually, by making an afford to place some positive attention on your relationship you might even come out the other end stronger and more connected.
I know that some of you are loving the extra time at home with your partner; and I am so pleased for all of you who are enjoying this new found togetherness.
For the rest of us; let’s see what we can do to not only survive this but to thrive and come out the other end as a stronger, more connected couple.
Why is it important that we work on our relationship?
The best two things we can do for our kids are:
- Look after ourselves: if we are in a good place our family will most likely be OK.
- Parent as a team with our partner and get on, whether we are living together or parenting with an ex. All that kids want is for mum and dad to be happy and if they sense that their parents don’t get on they can take it personally and think they are the cause of any problems in that relationship. Equally, they might use a fractured parenting relationship to get their own way by playing parents off against each other. Plus, as the adults, we set the tone for the atmosphere at home so getting on with our partner (or not) has a major effect on the family dynamics at home. And of course, we are our kids biggest role models so they are highly likely to copy how we work on our relationships, good or bad.
- Communicate your needs: this is absolutely key. We cannot expect our partner to know what we think or what we need unless we tell them.
- Use an I-message: try to use ‘I phrases’ when you talk instead of YOU, i.e. I need some space alone every day and I was hoping we can set up a plan that works for both of us. I feel really frustrated when I can’t see the TV programmes that I like, can we find a solution to this. And so on.
- Listen, understand and accept: you might not like or even agree with what your partner is saying but he/she still has a right to be heard. Keep in mind that listening and accepting what your partner feels or thinks is not the same as agreeing. But when you do listen it will bring your partner closer to you and he/she will be more open to communicating and cooperating.
- Be open to the other person’s view (it is not your way or the highway) – try to meet in the middle and find a place where you are both OK.
- Have weekly ‘team meetings’ or ‘couple dates’:
- Couple dates: try to set time aside to do something special together. I know you can’t go out for a fancy meal but how about (once the kids are in bed) having a nice meal together or watching a movie, or if your kids are old enough to be left at home for a while get outside for a walk together.
- Team meetings: it’s important to set some boundaries and be clear about your schedule and routine. Set some time aside where you sit down together and talk about how you think the lockdown is going. Here you can agree to me-time (it is so important to have ‘time apart’ even when you are at home together) so agree to some time where you don’t have to speak or be together. You can take turns having some ‘me-time’, where your partner looks after the kids. It doesn’t have to be anything big – you may just want to sit quietly and read a book for half an hour, go out for a short walk, watch some television (alone), have a bath or just sit and breathe and meditate.
At these team meetings you can also agree on chores: this can be a tricky one if one of you is working (from home) and the other is looking after the kids, home-schooling AND the daily chores, or if you are both working from home. Talk about what you each expect from each other i.e. sharing the cooking, bedtime duties, cleaning etc. Creating a plan for your household gives everyone the chance to contribute to the day-to-day running of your home. So think about chores, cooking, and the essentials that need doing and come up with a plan to share the load.
- Learn something new together: you can take an online cooking class, try out a yoga session, have a go at a new language / music / art etc., anything that brings a bit of creativity and fun to your weekly routine.
- Stay fit together: attend an online fitness class, go running or walking in your local area.
- Eat healthy together: maybe this is the time to cut down on the wine…eat your 5 (or more) fruit and veg a day, drink more water and get that smoothie machine out of the cupboard!
- Do some time travelling: we WILL get through this. Maybe not today or next week but we will get there. So try to have something to look forward to i.e. a trip, a birthday, visiting friends etc.
- Practice gratitude: it is very easy to be upset about life as it is now. But try to be happy for what you DO have – each other, a garden, a television, books, food, phones, two rooms (so you CAN have space apart) etc.
- Appreciate your partner: it is easy to get used to your partner when you are together so much and start taking them for granted. So remember to tell your partner the small things that you DO appreciate about her / him i.e. spending time with the kids so you can have a bath, work or go for a walk. Cooking for the family, fixing something around the house, helping the kids with school work etc. And why not top it up with a hug every day, showing physical affection regularly in small ways will bring you closer together and demonstrate what a healthy and loving physical relationship looks like for your kids.
Try this exercise every day:
- ‘I am ….proud / healthy / because…..I manage to still work / I am doing daily exercise / cooking healthily’ and so on.