FRIDAY REPRINT -- Five Ways to Come out of This Stronger
Every day we are presented with opportunities to strengthen our relationship. Most of the time these opportunities are disguised as ordinary interactions or situations. Other times we’re presented with circumstances that completely throw us for a loop. (Oh hi, COVID-19!) When we don’t have any control over the circumstances, we do have control over how we react to them.
Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman talk about how the current situation can either strain or strengthen your relationship. Here are five possible relationship strains you might be facing right now and strengthening solutions to help you come out stronger.
Possible Strain #1: Bottling up your feelings and frustrations.
“It’s best to handle them on my own- my partner is already dealing with a lot.”
Strengthening Solution: Talk to each other and share how you’re feeling. Even if there is nothing you can do to solve the current situation, simply listening to one another and being a source of emotional support can make a huge difference for both of you. Instead of feeling as if you have to carry the load alone, you re-establish your team dynamic. You’re in this together!
If your frustrations are directly related to your partner, be gentle. Use I-statements to share how you’re feeling without blame and criticism. Conversely, if you’re the one learning that your partner is annoyed with you, try not to take it too personally. Be cognizant of the fact that emotions are probably heightened right now.
Possible Strain #2: Being super critical – of your partner and yourself.
“Why do they do everything the wrong way? Why can’t I be more productive?”
Strengthening Solution: Give each other grace. And be kind to yourself, too. We’re all just trying our best right now. And whether we’re admitting it or not, adjusting to a new reality is hard. We’re going to feel growing pains and discomfort, within ourselves and our relationships. But loving and supporting each other during times like this is what it’s all about, right? Neither of you will be perfect. You might snap at each other for no reason or slide into a moody funk. Be quick to apologize, hug it out, share a laugh- whatever it takes to stay connected and come back to each other.
Possible Strain #3: Disregarding your needs for socialization or alone time.
“I’m fine, we’re fine, everything is fine!”
Strengthening Solution: Whether you find yourselves in similar positions on the introvert/extrovert spectrum or are camped out at opposite ends, meeting these needs is still important. Ignore them, and you’ll both begin to feel the effects, whether it’s feeling drained and exhausted, depressed, or irritable. The key here is to exercise good communication about what you need to recharge. Perhaps it’s an evening or two a week where you hang out in separate rooms, one of you lost in a book while the other party watches a movie with friends. Get creative! By nurturing your social/solitude tendencies, you have more energy to be fully present with each other.
Possible Strain #4: Not setting aside any designated couple time.
“We’re spending more time together than ever, isn’t that enough?”
Strengthening Solution: Remember, quantity doesn’t equal quality. You could spend all day within arm’s reach of each other, never truly connecting. Even if you’re around each other 24/7, you’re likely doing many other things during that time – supervising the kids, working, household chores, etc. You’re not really focusing on each other or your relationship. Set aside time, whether it’s once a day or once a week – to focus on yourselves as a couple. Consider it another form of self-care. Put a movie on for the kids or literally schedule a “date” on your calendar. Dress up for the occasion. Whatever it takes. Your relationship is important and deserves to be nurtured.
Possible Strain #5: Getting caught up (or bogged down) in petty issues and disagreements.
“I’m still bitter about that fight we had about how to load the dishwasher, and we’ve got nothing but time to rehash it.”
Strengthening Solution: If you’re spending a lot of time at home with your partner, sometimes those little issues start to fill your field of vision. Zoom out to see the bigger picture. At the end of the day, what is truly important? What are you grateful for? Your family’s health? Your job? Having a supportive spouse? Take a few minutes each day to reflect on this alone or with your partner. And if possible, spend some time outdoors. Sometimes the actual physical act of getting out, breathing in fresh air, and taking in the expanse of sky above you can help when your world is feeling a little claustrophobic.
This article by Ann Malmberg first appeared at prepare-enrich.com, April 29, 2020.