***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
In this current pandemic, couples might both be working from home, taking care of children, helping their kids with schoolwork via remote learning, and managing cooking and cleaning responsibilities all while being under an ongoing stay-at-home order.
Rising tensions, constant bickering or arguing, and a hyper-focus on what you perceive as your partner’s most annoying habits could start to surface. Unfortunately, these issues could build up over time and negatively impact the very foundation of your partnership.
If you are concerned about your dynamic with your partner, it may be helpful to consider trying out some strategies below that could help close the gap between you two and enable you to take a look at your relationship from a fresh new angle.
Take a timeout
Sometimes, you might need some time to yourself to calm down after a disagreement. That’s ok. Take all the time you need to reflect and re-group at a later time when both of you can discuss the issue in a clear, rational way. However, it is important to make sure you do commit to coming back to address the issue so that it actually gets resolved!
No blaming or shaming
Treating problems as challenges you need to figure out together - rather than blaming and shaming each other - can neutralize the situation and allow you to really focus on how you intend to settle the issue as a united team.
Share thoughts and feelings
Be vulnerable- talk about what you’re thinking and feeling. Are you feeling angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated, or possibly guilty? Are you thinking that your partner is not being considerate of your needs and do you think this is increasing distance between you two? What do you need from them to feel more connected, and is this something they are able to provide?
Getting to truly understand what is underneath certain behaviours and comments can go a long way towards helping you understand your partner - and for them to understand you - within the context of your relationship. It also enables you to check-in if what you’re thinking about the other person is accurate or if it is an assumption that may need to be rectified or worked through.
Use “I” statements and don’t interrupt
Under the same philosophy of no shaming or blaming is using “I” statements to communicate difficult thoughts and feelings with your partner. For example, instead of saying “you’re inconsiderate of my needs”, it may be a softer delivery if you describe the impact of their behaviour on you - for example, “when you do (behaviour), it leads me to think that you don’t care about me or my needs”.
This rewording once again can help reduce defensiveness and shift toward empathy and a deeper analysis of the problem you are facing together. In addition, give your partner the time they need to express themselves and try not to interrupt them. This will assist them in being able to freely communicate what they want to say and forces you to truly listen to them before you take your turn.
When you are caught up in your emotions and the issue you’re trying to solve, it can be hard to stop and take a second to direct your attention to what you love about your partner, why you’re with them, what activities you enjoy doing together, and key moments and memories with them that bring you happiness and joy. Devoting energy to practicing gratitude regarding your relationship can only help strengthen and solidify your bond.
Have regular date nights
There is often a feeling of monotony with daily life and routines- work, preparing dinner, getting ready for bed, sleeping, and then repeating it all the next day - it can lead couples to feel as though they are in a rut or lull. Date nights can easily become completely lost in the shuffle.
Making the effort to have a weekly date night (which may be a date night-in given the current pandemic and restrictions!) might help you reconnect with one another. Furthermore, it can remind you that your relationship isn’t only defined by your challenges but also by your hobbies, passions, and mutually enjoyable activities.
Think about each other’s strengths, skills, and abilities
We all have our own unique strengths, skills, and abilities. Reminding ourselves of those of our partner can help reinforce what perhaps drew you to them in the first place or what you found interesting about them when you first started dating.
Do they love to cook and/or bake (and you benefit from those tasty meals and treats)? Are they handy around the house (and can thankfully fix minor issues without having to frequently call a professional)? Do they love sports (and you admire how they are focused on their health and well-being)? The examples are endless. Consider what positive attributes about your partner stand out to you.
Focus on intimacy
It can be hard to focus on intimacy when you both find you’re so occupied with the demands of daily life. However, carving out time for intimacy in whatever way you define it- sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, psychological intimacy, or some other kind of variation or combination of intimacy- is essential for maintaining overall relationship satisfaction. Define what intimacy looks like for both of you and try to support each other’s needs in this domain as much as you can within your comfort level.
Describe the issue from the other person’s point of view
We often can find ourselves focusing on our own thoughts, feelings, and interpretation of relationship challenges that we tend to forget to reflect on the situation from our partner’s point of view. Taking the stance where you attend to your partner’s perspective - and check in with them if your understanding is correct - can help you see the issue through their eyes. This promotes compassion, understanding, respect, and support regarding your partner and is a valuable way to help you become more aligned.
Let go of resentment
At times, we can feel as though we’re in the right and our partner is wrong. This mindset can further drive a wedge between you two and restrict your ability to come together to try to solve the issue. Letting go of resentment can move you closer toward thinking about what you do want as a couple, rather than what you don’t want. By releasing past frustrations, you can begin to take that valuable step forward toward your relationship dreams, goals, and desires.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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