Will Your Relationship Survive The Pandemic?
[Editor's Note: Original article from June 2020, 3 months into the pandemic. As we approach the year mark, the humour doesn't hold up well - luckily the lessons do!]
Whoever said "absence makes the heart grow fonder"? Nobody stuck in this pandemic! So what happens when you're stuck at home with your partner, without a moment of solitude?
I’ve heard from many friends that a week away from their significant other would be a welcome change right now. I can also confirm this for myself. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful that we're holed up with them. It would be devastating to be being separated for the entirety of this lockdown. And being on your own during quarantine would also be challenging. But here, we offer insight to help you manage being in close quarters with your significant other, 24/7.
Opposites Attract ... And then they attack
In our work we have an expression about romance: “Opposites attract … and then they attack!” It's likely there are aspects of your partner’s personality that are opposite to yours. (If not every aspect of their personality! Ha!) So first remember that You are both different! This means you’re going to need different things to get through this challenging time. My personality style is very people-oriented. This left me feeling quite lonely after a few weeks of isolation. I was looking to my husband to fill the need I had to be with people. I needed to talk, to laugh and to connect.
When I spoke with him about it, he shared that he was also struggling. His struggle was that he no longer had time and space to himself. To make it through each day, he needed more alone time. He needed quiet, he needed time to himself, without expectations from others. If our opposing needs weren’t a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is!! We both needed entirely different things that were in contradiction to each other.
Being able to acknowledge this meant neither of us were feeling pressured to be right or wrong. It meant realizing that I had to reach out to people outside of my house to get my socializing needs met. Even if that was only via a computer screen. Likewise, this allowed my husband the time alone he needed to recoup some mental energy for the next day. Of course, partnership means supporting the other person you care about. So my husband knows that when he does have some energy to be social he should seek me out to play a game or watch a movie together. That way, we can spend that time connecting as opposed to feeling distanced and apart. ...even while we continue to share the same 4-walls day after day!
I was having none of it! I didn’t care about the flower beds anymore during corona than I have any other year. And I didn’t want to spend my precious 'nothing-time' working on this type of undertaking.
The Hustle Mentality
Now that we’re into our 54th week of self-isolation (ok, it’s been 81 days but it feels much longer) most of us have discovered some sort of online connection back to the rest of the world. We have children doing distanced learning. We're able to spend time with family on video calls. We can stream a learn-to-paint session or a cooking class. Many of us recognize that our calendars look very different now than they did at the beginning of this time. "Busy" is the word of the day, when you ask folks how things are going. But most places are still closed down. How can we possibly be busier than we were before COVID-19 held us hostage in our homes? And what the heck does this have to do with partnership?
Well, because some folks love to be busy – they have a deep seated need to do all the things. While those of us on the other side of the circle relish the nothingness that came with the beginning of lockdown. If you’ve ever gone on vacation with your partner, this likely isn’t the first time you’ve had this conversation! I'm someone who loves the idea of waking up in the morning with nothing scheduled. I prefer to leisurely tackle the day and entertain the idea of being inspired by a new recipe or a good book. To this end, I was enjoying the quiet aspect of life for the first few weeks of lockdown.
Besides, having two children at home meant I had more than enough obligations to fill my day. The evening is when I got to appreciate the freedom of an open agenda. Yet, my husband, has been working remotely since the beginning and he’s got a need to do all the things. Within the first 2 weeks of being home he was going stir crazy. So he ordered a package of perennial bulbs, soil and mulch, with plans to give our front garden a makeover. (A makeover it desperately needed, I admit.)
But our garden beds have been my area of "creative expression" over the past 13 years. This lead to an awkward and difficult discussion about ‘rights and jurisdiction’. His plans also included me helping him navigate what was already planted. He also wanted to involve the kids to make it a family-bonding experience. But since he was working all week, he wanted to schedule this impromptu project for the weekends. I was having none of it! I didn’t care about the flower beds anymore during corona than I have any other year. And I didn’t want to spend my precious nothing-time working on this type of undertaking.
Can any of you out there can relate ... to either side of this ordeal?
In your house it might not be the garden beds. But I guarantee you the ‘doer’ of your partnership has picked up a new hobby, started some new project or joined a new online group of sorts. Maybe they've even done all 3! And that’s OK. It’s what they need to do for themselves. If you’re invited to join them and you’re interested to do so, “Hurray!” We call that a relationship-WIN, when you can both be on the same page about something. (Feels great when that happens, doesn’t it?)
But if you’re feeling the need to slow down and take time to process your thoughts and feelings, that's okay too. You can ease up on the number of activities or obligations that are filling your time. But express this to your partner. Encourage them to find solo activities they can take part in, on their own time and at their own pace. For the record the pace will probably be fast; they’ll want to complete and do everything QUICKLY. And again – that’s okay. Let them. And set boundaries for your own, slower-paced way of life.
Me Vs. We
When it comes to differences in partners, we could go on all day. The tidy person living with the messy one. The night owl sharing a bed with the early bird. The reader trying to coexist with the tv watcher ... you know the drill. Not all differences are personality-based. But understanding personalities and respecting differences goes a long way. It gives our partners some space to meet their own needs and allows us to accept how our needs might be (very!) different from theirs. As always, communication to help set expectations with each other is key.
When you increase your connection to each other you decrease the tension between you. The way we teach this is to understand and respect your differences as 2 individuals who are part of a couple. And these days, any ways we can find to lessen the tension is a good thing.
A True Partnership is the Sum of All its Parts
We hope that this information helps. We want you and your loved one to feel supported by one another. Not torn down, put out or put upon. We've all got stuff we're dealing with right now. At a time when making it to the end of the day feels like a small victory, it's easy to let other things slide. We get it! But we also want to ensure that when this pandemic is over, you have a partnership you're still happy to come home to. So big conversations might not work right now. Lengthy talks and over-communicating feel like 1. More. Thing. Upon an already full plate! Take it in bite-size pieces. Start easy. Send them this article and share the parts that resonated with you. Tell them 1 insight you've gained about what they have been struggling with during this time. But start.
If you’ve found this article helpful, we’d love for you to leave a comment. Share it with others who are struggling to understand their partner's needs right now. And for anyone looking for what's next, you can sign-up for our VIP Waitlist. You'll get front of the line access and discounts to our online "Partner's Workshop".
We want to help you repair
the joy in your partnership
throughout this pandemic!
Just like Bruce and Linda.