Re-aligning romantic relationships post lock down

A lot of things around us changed during the pandemic. Situations became difficult, changes more apparent and hard to manage and for some, truths that were obvious and was in oblivion, hit them hard. Romantic relationships come under the third category probably. The lockdown made the situation with respect to romantic relationships either black or white, which led to a lot of grey being generated. They had to either stay away from each other or they had to stay with each other the whole time. Both these situations, unfortunately causes problems when it comes to relationships. One cannot be unrealistically optimistic to believe that things will automatically get back to normal post lockdown either, because the situation is still evolving. Hence, it is very important for us to re-align our romantic relationships and make sure that things are fine for both us and our partners. So let’s discuss this as two scenarios.

Does physical distance also mean emotional distance? Long distance relationships in a normal situation in itself is difficult to handle. When it got coupled with a pandemic, well… It was a terrible feeling. Although, why is the question. Usually long distance couples plan when they could meet and travel is usually planned which made them feel like the situation was under control. However, the pandemic, added a lack of control to the already difficult situation. So new problems piled up for thelong distance couple: - worries related to the partner’s wellbeing and uncertainty about when they could actually meet them. Since everyone were under stress, partners expected the other person to be there for them. But imagine how it would feel when two people only kept pulling the rope from both ends. Yes, the strain remains. Added on this were the fact that people probably began to feel emotionally distant from their partners because of the increase in the communication gap, which led to an increase in a sense of insecurity and decrease in conflict resolution.

Could too much of togetherness backfire? Once a sweet dream for all the hopeless romantics, now became a nightmare. Partners got to see each other in the rawest of their forms. They got to see them managing different roles and being under stress. Differences that existed between couples became even more apparent. Lack of space and privacy was a problem. For some, they also exhausted themselves of activities that they could do together. Who even expected that communication would become hard even when we are together?

Although, the lockdown has been lifted, thecloud of confusion that has destabilized our relationships, still remain. Here are some ways how we could probably take care of it.

Shift the attribution: When things are difficult, we usually tend to blame our lover, because they are a relatively easy target than to blame the love in itself. By understanding and acknowledging that being in love only is difficult whether it is with your partner or anyone else, at least you shift focus from this “horrible” person you are living with to relationships are a process and it takes us all time to settle in it. This increases one’s own sense of responsibility towards the relationship.

Refresh kinder outlook: When we feel hurt by someone close to us, it becomes difficult to look at ourselves and our partners past that.However, it is important to learn to do that, to move forward. How can we achieve that? We could start by becoming aware of our past biases and try and keep them aside. A judgement can lead to a lot of misconceptions and lack of acceptance. Hence, press the refresh button and look at your partner- look at all of them; appreciate all the kindness they have shown as well as their actions that hurt you. Try to understand where they come from non-judgmentally. Try to communicate to them how you have been hurt, with this kinder outlook, so that you can start a new channel of communication for mutual growth and healing.

Set up an equal system: It is still work from home for a lot of people and a few of them have also begun to step out. But whatever be the case, it is better to set up a system where responsibilities are split equally. However, the problem here comes when rigidity is added to the system. Although duties have been assigned, sometimes it is ok to be flexible with our partners and make amendments to it, instead of expecting them to follow whatever is assigned, which sometimes paves the path to disappointment.

Set a time for your conflicts: If you do not remember the last time you had a normal conversation with your partner, then set a particular time aside for the conflict. And fight ONLY within that time. For eg, if you set aside 7pm to 8pm for your conflicts, you will fight ONLY for that one hour. What it invariably does is that it gives you some time out in a day, where you are not constantly stressed about your relationship. For eg, if you feel like you began a fight in the morning and you stop and tell your partner lets fight about this in the allotted time, you might surprise yourself by not fighting about it too! Because, this gives you some time to think, which de-escalates the tension in the environment and when you come back to discuss it, it will be more healthy than it being an argument.

Designating “alone” time: How much ever we are in love with our partners, alone time is very important. When we take some time for ourselves and do things that we like to indulge in, it acts like a breath of fresh air. We feel much more refreshed and the cloud in our heads regarding the relationship or our partner, clears. This enables us to work on the relationship in a better manner.

Over all as you start implementing whichever of these strategies makes sense to fit your situation, remember that the situation is still evolving. Change is a slow process, often paved with setbacks and frustration. Take it one step at a time and be aware that this is a slow and difficult process for all of us. Tread gently, with kindness.

Image source-Mpowerminds

Author
SAHANA TANTRY
Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower - The Centre, Bengaluru
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