Updated: Apr 6, 2020
As the fear and panic of being in lockdown has slowly begun to fade away (much like many supplies of alcohol), the reality of what this lockdown may actually mean begins to become a little clearer; the reality that you have been, and will remain confined to a relatively small space, with the same group of people, person, or even yourself for an extended period of time. Some may consider this time as quite daunting and stressful, while others seem to be embracing the opportunity to reconnect and refresh their relationships and lifestyles.
All relationships are likely to be tested during this period, irrespective of how good and solid your relationship is, and so the lockdown may be the factor that makes or breaks (or something in between) your relationships. In anticipation of increasing tensions, a rise in nitpicking, exaggerated sarcasm, heightened frustrations, decreased tolerance, sudden spikes in blood pressure, losses of humour, and the odd moments of “losing one’s shit”, it may be helpful to discuss some general relationship requirements and fundamentals that can help you and your lockdown crew (from solo crews to multigenerational family crews) navigate your ways through this period of constantly being in each other’s space .
All relationships take effort
It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest relationship in the world, all relationships take effort and input from both parties. If not, the relationship will fail (sometimes this can take many years). Relationships are not things that can just be left to grow and mature on their own, rather relationships require constant input, effort and hard work. This can be equated to the hard work and effort that goes into carefully pruning and caring for a Bonsai tree.
Up until this point, we have been able to care for our relationships in relatively comfortable ways. We have been able to find the ways that we can put the necessary effort in in order to maintain them, and possibly grow them. Now, however, things have changed in that our regular daily lives are very different. As such we need to be cognisant of this and make the necessary adjustments in order to adapt to the new daily life. Just because things have changed around us, it does not give us an excuse to stop putting the effort into our relationships. The manner in which we previously did this is going to need to change and it needs to change and adapt sooner rather than later, before the dynamics of stress, worry and fear start to become regular features within your relationship too. In all of the points below you will notice that communication is a critical component, as it has been in every relationship, always.
All relationships require balance
Relationships are able to last because of balance. If relationships are unable to balance out, they will not last. Good relationships rely on open and honest communication and engagement in order to raise concerns and address them. Other relationships that lack effective communication find balance through less effective communication, often in the form of a ‘blow-out’ of sorts. For example, tension in sibling relationships often rise until they reach a tipping point, a fight, argument or ‘blow-out’ takes place, and some time thereafter we will likely see a sense of balance has returned (until the next time). Adult relationships are often not that different. The point is that these situations help the relationship rebalance in order to continue on the path that is was on.
Where balance cannot be regained, the relationship is headed towards its end. During this lockdown period our regular means of regulating the balance of or relationships is likely to be challenged, and so we need to ensure that we are at least aware of this, and that we can strive towards seeking alternative, healthy ways to rebalance when our relationships tip one way or the other. Communicating with those in your various relationships about this can help create the awareness needed to help prevent things tipping over the edge. Talk to one another. You may not have all the answers, but the ongoing communication is a means of helping you seek the answers.
All relationships have space parameters
Every person will have a different view or perspective of space; how much space they need and how they feel about sharing this space. The space I refer to here is both in our physical worlds as well as in our mental and emotional worlds. We each have different needs when it comes to our mental, emotional and physical needs. Some of us love to have alone time (physically), while others love to have people in their space all the time. Some of us ‘need’ our mental breathing space, and others prefer to be able to engage with their emotions comfortably alone.
In our relationships up until this point, most of us have been able to find ways of getting what we need in terms of the space we need, while still being able to meet the needs of our partners, children, families etc. Our lockdown situation is going to create some significant challenges for some as you may find it difficult to ‘manage things’ without having the space to process, think and be as you used to. It will be important that you become aware of what your ‘space’ needs were so that you can try to establish some new means of achieving what you need. Communication of this is once again critical to ensure that all parties are on the same page and to mitigate against certain individuals feeling rejected, or perceiving your needs as selfish.
All relationships have routines
Routines in relationships often help to maintain the balance that holds them steady. This can be the way a couple prepares and tidies up after meals, or how siblings manage play time or screen time. It could be our bedtime routines, or morning coffee routines. Routines provide a sense of comfort to us and are important in relationships as they often double as a means of creating a sense of connection and understanding.
For many of us, our regular routines may have been locked outside of the lockdown. This means that in order to maintain the sense of comfort, balance and connection, we are going to need to find ways of adapting and creating some new routines that can achieve the same as before. Although this can be quite a challenging and uncomfortable process for many of us, it can help if we attempt to view this time as an opportunity to review the way we had operated. Review the way that we had previously connected and engaged, and the routines the we sought out daily. We may surprise ourselves and find new, better ways of being.
All relationships have comfort zones
The balance, space parameters, and routines discussed above often allow us to create our safe, comfort zones within our relationships. These are the spaces or times where we can let our guard down, be vulnerable and put our feet up so to speak. We all need these spaces to catch our breath, and to feel safe from the harsh world outside.
In light of our current lockdown challenge, we need to be cognisant of this for ourselves and for others as we (or they) may still seek to find these comfort zones where they may no longer exist due to being restricted to our homes. Being aware of this, and yes, communicating with the ‘others’ in our lives, we can at least put the issue on the table, as we seek to find new and adaptive zones of comfort in our everyday relationships.
All relationships have breaking points
No relationship is bulletproof in that all relationships will have a breaking point. This will vary for each and every relationship, and it will depend on the individuals who make up the specific relationship. These breaking points are also unique to each individual in the relationship, although often these are shared breaking points, for example for some couples cheating is an immediate breaking point. Some other breaking point factors could be from the more serious aspects such as abuse, or criminal activity of the partner, to the less serious and sometimes seemingly ridiculous factors such as the way the partner chews food, or the colour of their eyes (you may laugh, but this is true).
The reality is that each relationship has the potential to breakdown. Some of us are aware of these factors in our own relationships and are able to guard against them. Others, may have been able to avoid the breaking points due to being able to maintain our balance, distance and routines in what was our normal life. The reality is that being confined in each other’s space daily, with a lack of regular daily routines and a loss of the sense of normal life, our breaking points may rise to the surface, or even take on new forms. It is important to be aware of what may have been present before the lockdown, or what my be featuring as a result of the current situation. Communication (of course) is the means of raising and addressing these concerns before they become the “final straw” to your relationship. For some, this lockdown may help to strengthen the relationships that we have. For others, this time may highlight the fundamental cracks which have been present long before the lockdown, leading to important and difficult decisions needing to be made. Just remember, we still have at least two weeks in lockdown, so be cautious what we try and address, and how we do this, otherwise this could be an extremely long period.
Over the coming week, I will be sharing some insights and understandings of different relationships (parent & child, romantic, professional and the relationship with oneself) that are based on the fundamentals of relationships from what I call the CORE perspective. The CORE perspective is my own systemic approach to dealing with relationships that breaks all relationships down into three critical components, namely; ME; US and THEM. I will share some considerations about the different relationships mentioned above in relation to the CORE, with more detail being available in my upcoming book called The CORE, which will be available as an ebook or as a hardcopy later this year. For more information, or if you would like to arrange a consultation please contact me.