Does it feel like being in a relationship and being in a relationship during a pandemic are two very different things?
For most of us, our parents wrote our instruction booklet on the art of living with a partner. We watched our Mom and Dad’s relationship and our own behavior evolved from there.
In a world where we talk about half of the marriages ending in divorce, it’s no wonder that most of us lack the basic skills for a successful relationship!
And now, these inherited shortcomings can intensify as we adjust to this new world of social isolation with our partners. The Covid-19 Coronavirus has taken away our freedom, our finances are in question, and the media is spreading something more contagious than the virus itself: Fear.
We are living in a perfect storm for toxic, crumbling relationships!
But you want to come out on the other side of this in a happy, healthy relationship, right?
So how do we own our happiness during these weird times and keep stress at bay?
As destination wedding experts in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, our interest in seeing relationships thrive actually extends way beyond the wedding day. With a Psychology degree to boot, our desire is to help you come out of this quarantine mess happier and more solid with your partner than ever.
We are sharing real, tangible tools for coping with relationship stress during Coronavirus, all starting with the letter ‘C’ – because…well, because it’s fun – and adapted from relationship coach and happy married chick Susan Leahy.
The first thing we need to appreciate is that our lives have changed, and for some people, they are flipped right upside down. Lost jobs or working from home, homeschooling or unschooling kids, our social lives are gone…and it has all changed so abruptly.
It is natural that we are grieving the loss of our normal lives, and there are five stages of grief that humans move through as proposed by the Kubler-Ross model. These are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. It can be tricky to navigate your way through the stages, getting stuck along the way.
Which stage do you think you are in?
How to cope with Change in your relationship: We are all learning to pivot and transition into this new world. You and your partner could be stuck in different stages and that prevents you from reaching the ultimate goal of acceptance. The important thing to know is that this is completely NORMAL! Give your partner the dignity of their experience. Be supportive of them through their transition and help them reach a breakthrough in accepting your new lives.
Content versus Context
During stressful times, we tend to focus on details; what we have, or don’t have. Right now it is easy to quickly get bogged down by details like jobs, finances, school, kids. This is what we refer to as ‘Content’.
On the other hand, ‘Context’ refers to feelings rather than details:
- How do I feel?
- What do I want to feel?
When we argue or fight, it is human nature to jump into the content of the situation to defend ourselves. (You did this, said that, acted this way, etc.) This doesn’t lead us anywhere that feels good for anybody.
How committing to Context can help you cope in your relationship: Rather than digging into the gory details during a conflict, what if you approached your partner by saying something like, “This doesn’t feel good to me, and it probably doesn’t feel good for you either. We both deserve to feel good. I want us both to feel good.” When you discuss solutions or compromise, the trick is to stay with how an event makes you feel.
Like a clenched fist, when we are tense and tight from stress we are not able to open ourselves up to let happiness in. Happiness resides in the space that you create by opening up.
So how can we create this space and reduce stress?
We need to get curious.
During those downward spiral moments, the goal is to slow down and ask questions of yourself. For example:
- What am I feeling, and how do I want to feel?
- How can I help my partner feel good?
How Curiosity can help you cope in your relationship: Curiosity leads to possibility. Ideas become things. As with Content versus Context (above) be careful not to get bogged down by details, and instead focus on feelings. A possible conversation could sound like:
What will make you feel happy? Money.
Why will money make you happy? Because then I won’t be worried about the future.
What is the opposite of worry? Security.
So how do you want to feel? Secure.
Now we are getting somewhere towards understanding each other!
One of the greatest things about being human is our uniqueness. Each one of us has different thoughts and feelings. Expecting someone else to behave the same way as you, or to share your beliefs, is setting yourself up for disappointment.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy.
This is true of everyday life, but even more important to remember now that we are a global community with a shared pandemic experience.
There is no ‘right way’ to deal with quarantine and social distancing. Some people believe their best defense against the Covid-19 virus is getting outside for exercise, while others believe you shouldn’t step foot outside your front door.
Nobody! It’s strictly a matter of opinion rooted in personal beliefs, and trying to change others is only going to bring you more stress. (Do you really need more stress right now?)
How to stop Comparing and start coping in your relationship: If you and your partner are not seeing eye to eye on something, recognize that trying to bend them to your will violates their right to their own thoughts and feelings. Get curious in exploring your differences, and keep your conversations rooted in context. (see above)
And just a friendly offering if you suffer from Comparison stress; you may want to consider limiting your exposure to social media for now.
In these weird times where so many of our choices have been ripped away, it can be easy to feel powerless. However, it only takes a shift in perspective to see this time as a gift, an opportunity to grow into a better You.
You are the chooser of your life and now is the best time to decide how you want yours to look when the world hits the Play button on our regular day-to-day again:
- What changes would you like to implement?
- How do you want to feel?
- Who do you want to be?
How to use the power of Choice to cope in your relationship: Now is the time to dream big, and make plans together. Get excited about change and possibilities! Recognize that your behavior is a choice and choose to look on the bright side. After all, every beautiful garden starts as a pile of dirt.
By the time we are 35 years old, 95% of our behavior is unconscious. We get stuck in our patterns unless we get conscious.
It is hard to be unconsciously happy. Think about it. Usually, you need to think about something that makes you happy or stop to appreciate a moment and focus your awareness to experience happiness. Happiness is a practice!
Diffused attention drains energy. (ie: Multitasking!)
Conscious Compartmentalization refers to making space in your life so that you can give something your full attention.
In Layman’s terms, this means setting aside time for the things in your life that are important, energize you or make you feel happy. This type of technique can be applied to all areas of your life.
For a practical example; you want to get back into a workout routine. You know it will make you feel better and yet there are always excuses not to exercise. It takes careful planning to overcome the distractions that you know will pull your focus. Imagine putting the distractions into boxes to be dealt with at another time.
How Conscious Compartmentalizing can help you cope with stress in your relationship: Communicate your intentions with your partner about what you want to create space for; ideally something relaxing and that helps you clear your mind. Let them know how they can help you put the rest of life aside during that time, like give you privacy, or take the kids.
On the flip side, remember to be equally present when you spend quality time together too. Put down your phone and focus on that movie you guys picked.
Everyone is entitled to their experience. We are all adjusting to this new world order, and tensions are high. A little extra kindness will go a long way right now.
This includes kindness towards yourself. Yes, you treating YOU with compassion in all that you are feeling! If you start by doing it for yourself, then you will be better able to do it for others. (Here are tips from the CDC about coping with Coronavirus stress.)
Do you know that expression ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’? It stems from the paradigm that a woman is the container of her family’s happiness. That’s why self-care is so important every day, but now even more so.
How to be more Compassionate in your relationship: Take the good vibrations you generate through being kind to yourself and spread them throughout your home. Choose your words carefully. Give hugs freely. Know that you are not expected to fix anything for anyone else and that just being loving is enough.
Our regular routines have been thrown off by the Coronavirus. We must all be aware by now just how much our rhythms bring a sense of security to our daily lives. Settling into a predictable pattern during our days in social isolation can be helpful. But choose your regular activities with purpose so that you don’t feel trapped in Groundhog Day! Focus on activities that give you joy, and give yourself permission to try new things.
Put events on the calendar to give yourself something to look forward to. Friday is Date Night! Tuesday he makes dinner, Thursday you pick the movie!
How Consistency can help you cope with relationship stress: Happiness is a practice. Like anything else, we need to work it into our daily routine. The tips laid out in this article might not come easily at first, but the more consistent you are in practicing them, the more natural they will feel.
Happiness is good for your health and for the energy in your home. While you are quarantined with your significant other, use these tools to help you cope with the craziness of being cooped up together. And later, when we are set free, keep practicing your ‘C’s for relationship success in the real world!
In the comments below, we would love to hear where you are reading this from, and how you are feeling today. What ‘C’ above was your favorite?
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