Building relationship resilience during self-isolation
In my previous post, I introduced the idea of building relationship resilience by tackling external stresses and understanding conflict. In this post, I’d like to talk about how we can take a look at the way we’re trying to cope and its impact on our partner.
How am I doing?
Whatever external stresses we might be contending with, one thing that we can control is our behaviour. Specifically, we can take responsibility for the impact of our behaviour on our partner. If we were asked to list the things we’re currently finding difficult or challenging about self-isolating with our partner, we might quite easily come up with a list of his or her unfortunate habits and acts of insensitivity. Thinking this way, however, just fuels feelings of resentment or unhappiness. What I’d prefer us to do is to take a moment to consider in a compassionate and objective way the impact of how we behave. Please take a moment to consider the following questions:
What effect is the current situation having on me, and on how I feel and act?
What do I imagine it might be like to be in a relationship with me right now?
Let’s try to get a bit more detail about your answer. First, the good; try asking yourself,
What are some examples of positive ways I have been trying to cope with this situation?
What are some of the most effective ways I have been trying to support or connect with my partner?
What are some ways I offer small caring gestures or act with thoughtfulness or consideration?
How have I been going about trying to express fondness and appreciation?
Think about, and preferably write down, three things you suspect you already do well that are helping you and your relationship.
Second, the not-so-good; ask yourself,
What do I do that I suspect my partner might find disagreeable, irritating or unhelpful?
How might my behaviour come across as either too controlling or too uninvolved?
What do I do that inadvertently has a negative impact on my partner’s ability to cope, or how they feel about themselves, or whether they feel loved and cherished?
Try listing three things you might like to change about the way you behave.
Finally, try asking yourself,
If I were to act in a more positive, loving and supportive way, who would be first to notice and what would they observe?
Here are some examples of the kinds of things I have in mind:
- Three things I’m doing well:
- I bring my partner a cup of tea regularly without having to be asked
- I ask my partner how their day has been and genuinely listen to their answer
- I give my partner plenty of hugs and reassurance
- Three things I’m not doing so well:
- I frequently contradict my partner
- I can criticise my partner’s way of doing things and try to correct them
- I sometimes don’t look up from my phone when my partner tries to talk to me
- Three things that someone else might see:
- I would smile at my partner more often
- I would empty the dishwasher or put on a load of laundry without being prompted
- I would ask my partner more often how their family is and whether there’s anything I can do to help
When you had a go at answering the questions yourself, how did you get on? Were you surprised at your answers? What do you want to do with what you’ve learned?
Talk about it
Perhaps after completing this exercise, you and your partner might have a loving and honest conversation where you tell each other what you appreciate about the way you try to support each other? You might invite suggestions as to what each of you could do differently. You could make this a daily ritual where each evening you set aside some time with no distractions to check in with each other. Ask what you’ve been like to be around today – be open and curious about the answers you’re given.
If you’re able and willing to take on board your partner’s comments, could you make a commitment to try to change the way you act? Perhaps there are small ways that you could increase the things you do that have a positive impact, for the sake of the relationship?
I hope that you have found this post helpful. In my next post, I’ll be writing about how to use personal mindfulness, and mindfulness of your partner, to help you manage the stress of daily life in lockdown.
For now, my very best wishes to all. Let’s keep each other safe, look after ourselves, and, above all, try to be kind.