DURBAN – Like most things in life, relationships need time and space to grow. Even the most healthy relationships stand a chance of being impaled by the Covid-19 lockdown. This is because we are all experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, have different coping skills (which are not always healthy) and are not used to being cooped up with our partners 24/7 for weeks on end.
We caught up with clinical psychologist and marriage counsellor, Rakhi Beekrum and asked for her top five tips on maintaining a healthy relationship during the lock-down:
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
As much as we wish others could change, the only person we can change is ourselves. It is important to reflect on how we are feeling and how we are behaving as a result of how we are feeling. E.g. are you more irritable and therefore snappy due to a lack of exercise or socialisation? Are you super-organised and bossy because you need some sort of control in this uncertain situation? When we are aware of our own behaviour, we are more likely to make positive changes. Then notice the things your partner may be doing that annoy you– could they be his/her way of coping too?
An old cliché, but communication is definitely key! Your partner is not a mind reader, so you have to ask for what you want. Instead of giving the silent treatment or withdrawing, ask for what you would like. Would you like your partner to take responsibility for more household chores? Ask. As much as you wish they would just know, always assume that they do not. Be clear and specific about what you would like. Pay attention to your tone as well. You are more likely to get what you want if you ask nicely. Do you need quiet time? Ask and explain why it’s important to you, so there’s no misunderstanding. E.g. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and I just need an hour to read/call a friend/watch Netflix so I feel better.
CREATE A ROUTINE THAT WORKS
With much uncertainty during this time, routine gives our lives a sense of structure, predictability and certainty. Create a routine that includes times for waking and sleeping, time for work, time for solitary activities, time for chores and couple time. Communicate your routine to your partner and encourage them to do the same – or better still, do them jointly.
With all the negativity at the moment, it is important to add in positivity where we can. Make a concerted effort to notice and show appreciation for the things your partner is trying to do to make life easier – perhaps cook for the first time, do household chores they’ve never done before, working as a team, etc. Look for reasons to compliment, reassure and express gratitude.
BRING HUMOUR INTO YOUR LIVES
Having arguments without being able to escape for a bit to cool off is harder than ever. My favourite tip is to make up an imaginary co-worker or flat-mate and blame them for things, instead of complaining to your partner. So instead of moaning at your partner, you can say something like ‘I wish that Karen would wash her own dishes – it would make life so much easier.’ or ‘Karen never seems to make up the bed if she wakes up last. I just wish she could do this simple thing which would make me so much happier.’
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