How to keep your relationship sanity whilst in lockdown

Do you feel you’re either living on a confined space and stepping on each other’s toes 24/7? Perhaps conflict, frustration or feeling claustrophobic has become a daily norm as you all long for the day when you can run beyond the end of your road and mingle with anyone, and I mean anyone, beyond the confines of your home? Or perhaps you feel as though you’re passing ships in the night with partners, friends and family- barely getting time to say hello or good night? 

Relationships are the most wonderful and yet the most complex of life’s gifts at the most “normal” of times but how has the lockdown impacted you and your relationships? Rarely in living memory for most people has there ever been a time when living together has taken on a very different 24/7 meaning and experience. 

The truth is that whilst some couples friends or families will be posting an array of beautiful photos depicting togetherness, purity and unity, the reality can be quite different for many others. I’ll be dammed if even the most happiest of people experience 24/7 peace and unity. 

So how can you inject some sanity and freshness back into your relationships during this uniquely weird time? 

1.Time and Space 

We all need time and space at the most normal of times, but healthy boundaries can save relationships when you’re living in a confined space 24/7. 

So even with the smallest of apartments or houses, how can you live successfully and amicably together? 

Consider your working and living arrangements. Are you giving each other time and space? If space isn’t an option where each of you can resort to different rooms for different periods of time, there’s something we all have a lot of at the moment- time! 

So how can you each start to schedule your day so that you all have space or time between each other? 

2.Together time 

Do you ever feel like you, your partner, friends or family are like passing ships in the night?

This is normally one of the biggest struggles for clients who find it really hard to  incorporate a work/life balance into their daily routine. However, what many people are finding difficult is either the extreme amounts of ‘together time’ or no time together at all. 

The other issue with ‘together time’ is considering if it’s ‘quality together time’ I don’t mean passing each other now and then in the kitchen, but actually making time in your day to sit down and to check- in with everyone or to take part in a fun or interesting activity such as a new hobby, learning a new skill, movie night, cookery class, an online quiz, playing a board game, cocktail or mocktail hour for everyone. 

How can you incorporate some quality daily together time into your schedule? If not, what’s stopping you and why? 

3.Deep Listening 

If you asked yourself honestly, are you really listening and understanding someone else or even your own needs? 

Deep listening goes beyond a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, it’s about listening, understanding and empathising (whilst not always necessarily agreeing to the other person’s viewpoint or experience) 

Most rows or conflicts happen because neither party is actually listening to the other. Pride, defensiveness and frustration can all get in the way of wanting to ‘win’ the argument or conversation and each person believes they are right and the other is wrong. 

However, what if you were to step back, or into the shoes of the other person, or if this is difficult think of stepping into the shoes of a relationship counsellor? We’ve seen them on tv or even perhaps in real life. Usually they would ask each person to take it in turns to speak and to listen, to politely ask each person not to interrupt the other, to try to listen and communicate that understanding to the other person by empathically mirroring or repeating what they’re saying and how they’re feeling and then wait to talk. The other person then reciprocates. 

Often what we think we ourselves or someone else is really feeling, needing or communicating can be assumed, coloured or reinforced by our own beliefs, misinterpreted or lost in the heat or rush of the moment. 

How can you take time to really digest and review your possible assumptions, misunderstandings or conflicts? 

Perhaps some time and space apart could help before coming back together to talk. How can you take the time to really listen to what the other person is saying? What do you need to feel understood?  How can you come to a good compromise or start to build a bridge of communication again? 

4.Share the household chores and responsibility 

Respect for balanced responsibility is really important when living together. How can you start to balance out the household chores, bills, work or looking after the children? 

If it’s not balanced why not? Do your friends, family or partner hold certain beliefs about who ‘should’ take responsibility for certain chores, bills, the daily running of work or life? Whose stories or beliefs do these belong to? Are they outdated? Is everyone happy with this? Perhaps now might be a good time to openly talk about your needs and the needs of others and to get a fresh perspective or plan in place. 

How can you work effectively as a team? How can you incorporate a fun way or equal reward scheme for the sharing of responsibilities?

5. Accept your differences 

If we all believed the same things or we all agreed wouldn’t life be really dull and boring?!

Differences and even positive conflicts can be a great catalyst for change, development and transformation. However, respect for someone else’s opinion or different beliefs or the way in which they approach something should be a given. 

We all have uniquely different values, life stories and experiences which colour and impact our approach and vision of the world. In this sense, we don’t always need to agree or even understand someone else’s viewpoint although it does tend to help.

However, listening and communicating that respect with regards to someone else’s differences can be an important key to experiencing happy, fulfilled and effective relationships 

Another issue is that we need to accept that friends, partners or family members may be very different at work to how they are in their personal lives. Try not to be offended if they don’t seem as attentive when they or you are  working. It’s really not personal! 

Be understanding and don’t hold grudges 

In times of resentment or conflict how many times can you remember bringing up that argument, conflict or experience from weeks, months or even years back? We have all done it and anyone who says they haven’t needs to perhaps think again. 

Just like stamps we trade experiences in for a ‘see what you made me do’ or ‘well I remember when….’  to ‘you’ve never done this or that….’ 

Although difficult to resist in the heat of the moment, these trade off’s can be potentially damaging and can escalate into full blown and sometimes completely different lines of thought, rows or end up in a bubbling melting pot. Sometimes the escalation of rows can linger so long that neither of you may even remember what the row was to begin with. 

Ask yourself how can you stop yourself from holding a grudge? If it was sorted last time, why bring it up again? Is it really relevant? What point are you trying to make? What do you want the outcome to be? What’s the risk of this conflict escalating? How are you all starving yourself of time you’ll never get back which could be more positively or better spent?