Covid’s Arrow – Managing Relational Harmony in Difficult times

The Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, once said: “Let there be space in your togetherness” and never has there been a time where this has been more relevant for romantic relationships as now.

The restrictions on social gatherings, access to bars, clubs, theatres and leisure activiries and the need to work from home is radically altering the way individuals and couples up and down the spend  their waking hours. Everyone is now having to spend such time at home and this can present serious challenges to couples, particularly those in relationships already on shaky ground.

Why?

Because for relationships to thrive, a delicate balance needs to be struck by couples between spending quality time together and ensuring each has quality time alone. The unprecedented changes enforced by the virus will likely upset this balance in many relationships, and concepts of basic desire and yearning, (over)familiarity and interpersonal connection play a significant part here.

Regardless of how much you feel you “love” your partner, it is perhaps worth reflecting upon the nature of “desire” and “yearning”, both of which are often characteristics of healthy romantic relationships.  Generally, when we feel can’t have something that we want, or that what we want may be inacessible, our desire for that thing tends to rise and our yearning increases. Think about how your attention is drawn to, or focussed upon whatever you desire but somehow cannot attain or reach. Consider the amount of time you spend thinking, planning and passionately wishing for whatever you desire to manifest. The perceived value of that thing rises in your mind and you want it all the more.

Consider the opposite. Imagine that what you like is widely available. It is easily accessed and its everywhere. You can consume it whenever or wherever you like. In this scenario it is perhaps inevitable that you begin to take it for granted and appreciate it less and less. Its value, in your eyes, plummets.Now look at this from the context of a relationship. In a typical day, and up until recently, it is likely that you and your partner may not have seen each other for several hours during the day due to work commitments, perhaps socialising separately with your respective friends, or pursuing separate external interests or leisure. At the end of a working long day, or having spent time separately, you may have looked forward to returning home and reconnecting with your partner. You may have had a yearning, desire, or excited anticipation to seeing him or her.

Now with more and more outlets for separate individual expression closed off, you may now be finding yourself confined to the home environment with your partner for longer and longer periods of time.  Initially you might look upon the continued presence and company of your partner favourably and considered it a welcome development, or gift of real support to you particularly in these difficult times. However, as this continues, with each waking hour spent in the same space as your partner, lover or spouse, there is a risk that your increased familiarity with him or her starts to breed irritation and annoyance, lessening your tolerance and grate on your nerves. Your passion may also begin to wane and you may begin to take your partner. lover or spouse for granted.

If you are already feeling concerned about your own relationship, or would like to prevent this type of scenario from occuring  then now is perhaps the time to prepare and plan ahead for how you are going to manage personal and shared space with your partner. Whether you are struggling in your relationship or not, it can be helpful to maintain interests outside of your relationship, so that you have a clear sense of personal identity, and keep the flame of desire burning.You might want to consider how to spend time apart within your own home and what separate daily activities you can undertake. For example, rather than shopping, walking the dog or taking a stroll together, you might take this in turns, alternating and carving ‘alone’  time outside as well as inside your home. You may also plan to explore new hobbies or personal interests away from your partner in your home environment, developing space in which you spend time with yourself, listening to your own needs and preferences.

It is imortant to ensure that you balance this with quality time spent together, so that the interpersonal connection is enhanced. This can be done, by perhaps considering activities that you can do together with your partner inside the home, that you both enjoy, and where your attention is actively focussed on each other. This latter part – ie active focus – is important as it is the demonstration that you actively ‘see’ your partner, that you are attentive and appreciative of him or her that cements the interpersonal connection.

Overall, a routine that caters for, and balances individuality or ‘space’, as Gibran puts it,  with relational togetherness, may bode well for the strength of your relationship and enhace its capacity to weather the storm of the challenging times ahead…

If you’d like support in establishing such individuality, contact The Hove Counselling Practice.