By Jennifer Rego, MSW, LICSW
In previous articles we discussed personal growth and challenges during the pandemic. But, it’s also important to look at how this time has impacted our most intimate relationships. If you are coupled or otherwise partnered, it is important to reflect on your relationship – especially in times of significant change. Some couples may have found themselves in strained circumstances while others may have had growth. So where are you as a couple?
Change and Relationships
In relationships we usually have a portion of our life that takes place outside that partnership. Maybe that was going to work, or participating in hobbies, or chatting with friends – really any time away from each other to peruse the things that made us the happiest or felt the most ourselves. Even if it was not necessarily a “fun” activity, having the opportunity to recharge and grow personally can help bring energy back to your home. Without these external experiences combined with the isolation of being with one person all the time, you may have been forced you to evaluate (or avoid) your most intimate relationship.
At this moment, what changes have occurred that are impacting your relationship? It does not have to big changes like breaking up or getting married – but changes within your relationship that were uncovered that highlighted who you really are as a couple. Maybe those realizations can lead you and your partner to deeper conversations that improve or clarify things that have been lying dormant for years. Maybe you feel lost with how to get space again. Maybe you do want an ending. Whatever resulted in your life the last year or two, let’s reflect on the ways that you can continue to improve the relationship with the one you saw the most, ate with the most, and maybe, quite frankly, you may need a break from.
Here are five area to consider:
1. Be honest
First, let’s take a personal inventory of thoughts:
- What is not working and what was hard about going through this long period with your partner?
- What is working better now?
- What is giving you the fuel and nourishment to be in the relationship? Do you tell your partner what they are?
- Do you feel as though you are able to share in a healthy manner?
2. Be realistic
Next, let’s take stock in what is happening in your relationship now versus what was happening in the past. Think about roles and functions in your relationship as well as emotional ones. For example, did you always pick up the kids from school and your partner always did the dishes? Was night the go-to time to chat about your day together but now you are working different hours? This is a great opportunity to re-evaluate your roles as things re-open. Explain your needs and preferences in your routines and listen to your partner. Together you can find that sweet spot.
3. Be kind
It may seem redundant to say but this was a tremendous year! Being kind is not only when things are going well but especially when they are not. Did you notice anything about yourself and the way you respond to your partner? Were you kind to your partner? What did you notice that they did for you that was so kind? Was it something small? Did it go along way? Remind them of their value. Being in a loving relationship needs kindness and compassion.
4. Bring your strength with you
This past year we had to go on pause in almost every area of our life. What was something that you missed that is now available to you? What did you realize that you need? Spend some time alone and look back at your strength. How did you cope? How do you continue to grow that strength as an individual and make that a part of your daily live?
5. Reflect: Am I projecting?
It is easy to blame or point fingers at our partners when we feel challenged or frustrated. In couples therapy, I always ask folks to consider, “what am I doing to add to this dynamic? What can I be responsible for that IS in my control?” Being aware of your trauma, past or triggers is incredibly important to building a healthy relationship with anyone. We must notice when we feel loss and try to control our partners behavior. So, make sure and check in with yourself and communicate.
After so much being removed and put on pause, returning to some sense of normal can still feel somewhat odd. It is okay to look at this past year and say, is this the person I want to be and is this other person the partner I want to be with. Whatever trials your relationship endured, it is important to ask these questions to determine what is needed or best for you and your partnership. As always, it can be extremely helpful to have personal guidance through your partnership journey with a qualified professional, such as a couple’s counselor.
About Jennifer Rego, MSW, LICSW
Jennifer is a psychotherapist with over sixteen years of experience in the mental health field based in Massachusetts. She provides individual and family counseling, movement-based healing, clinical supervision and facilitates various workshops in the community with other multi-disciplinary professional providers.