The Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped our collective and respective relationships in unprecedented ways. Life in lock-down has necessitated close, constant contact with our families and partners, and social distancing measures have isolated us from our friends and extended communities. Going through the trauma and struggles of emerging from the post COVID world, can be truly distressing, and yet it presents the opportunity for growth and personal power.
When everything is business-as-usual, we often become subsumed by our daily routines living life on autopilot. All our efforts are focused on the things that we’ve “got to do” to maintain the status quo. More often than not, we just don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to actually be with ourselves, to be with our difficult emotions that alert us to the need for change.
As a therapist I have begun to see firsthand how many of my clients, during these difficult times of transition, have begun to reevaluate their relationships both to themselves and those around them. The pandemic has offered us all the opportunity to reconsider relationships in new and significant ways. In some cases, many have been experiencing greater levels of empathy, while others have been led to the conclusion that some of their relationships are not healthy, and are now making their own personal wellbeing a priority.
For many of us the constant assault of – financial concerns, frustrations, job insecurity, boredom, isolation, and the ever present possibility of contracting the virus –has challenged how we view our closest relationships. Many relationships have been experiencing increased tension, irritability, emotional distancing, mood swings and more, amplifying an already stressful situation. Even political differences and arguments over quarantine protocols have become a dealbreaker for many partners.
The isolation of the pandemic has caused many married couples to become distant, feeling they no longer have anything in common and nothing left to say. Left with a loveless and empty marriage, couples realize that only the kids were keeping them together, and that they actually don't enjoy each other's company.
Many of my clients have confessed all this uncertainty has created a feelings of fear, confusion and anxiety. These unexpected feelings have created a sense of loss and control. Learning to deal with all of these situations and stressors can be overwhelming for anyone - let alone a couple.
The most important thing you can do is make a commitment to working through these difficult times with your partner in a loving and respectful way. In a very real sense, these experiences have triggered our fight or flight response, which causes us to make impulsive decisions that we think will keep us safe. It is important to realize that most of us are living through possibly the most challenging transition of our lives. So our approach must be equal parts hard work and equal parts faith.
The following are some important impactful ways you can consider to begin healing your relationships.
Now that we are beginning to reconnect with our loved ones and the world, many of us are trying to return to "normal" again. Jumping back into our old routine, however, could cause anxiety. People's fundamental ways of relating and communicating with each other and, indeed the world, have been deeply affected by staying home and social distancing. As our daily lives begin to reset, patience has to be at the forefront of everyone's mind as we learn new ways to function and move through the world.
Many of us may experience a sort of shock if we try to return to our old routines. Now is the time to reflect on what we value most in our lives and move from there to establish new routines. By resetting what we value, we can find a new appreciation for what we no longer need and what helps us cope. Enforced distancing measures are not only changing our work, family, and travel routines, but they're also changing how we interact with ourselves and each other. Learning how to cope with isolation has provided important lessons and can help us rebuild our social connections in a deeper more meaningful way.
Though we may crave tangible social interaction, the thought of going out into the world anew might seem scary for some—and that's OK. In fact, it might be hard to re-engage with the world with the same intensity as before. If that's the case, then consider a gradual reentry. As a therapist I know many will be nervous or even feel guilty about reconnecting on some level. It’s important to take your time and gauge your comfort level as you move forward; then you can begin to make healthy choices for your post-pandemic life.
As a therapist, I often talk with my clients about boundaries. You can take steps to place boundaries on your time and environment, as you resume your old activities and routines, and begin to resume your social connection(s). For example, consider eating at a restaurant with outside seating where it's easier to establish social-distancing instead of dinning indoors. For those who used ride-share services pre-COVID-19, the safer decision now may be to drive yourself in order to manage concerns about sanitization and close contact with others in confined spaces. Or if you are like me, returning to the gym is a challenging thought. Ask the staff about the least busy times and schedule your workout times accordingly.
Whatever the case, to gauge your comfort level, and reduce stress levels related to social situations, ask yourself these questions: