Have the last 12 months had an impact on your relationship? Whether we’ve been forced to live and work in the same space as our loved ones, have been kept apart due to living in different households, or have had to adapt to an entirely new way of dating, lockdown has affected all of us in some way.
While our experiences will be different, the following advice may bring you some comfort. Here, counsellor and psychotherapist, Katerina Georgiou, answers your questions on lockdown love.
I’m feeling really frustrated and exhausted. Both my husband and I are working from home, but I’m also homeschooling our two young kids and taking care of the house – it feels like I’m responsible for everything. What should I do?
With all of that on your plate, it’s very understandable you feel that way. I can hear a number of conflicting demands on you, in your various identities as a mother, an employee, and a partner. I can imagine you’re operating in each of these roles with strong messages inside of you of what being the best in each of those roles requires (e.g. being punctual for work, always emotionally available for your children, and loving as a partner). Notice what you’re telling yourself, and ask if these are requirements of the others, or requirements of yourself?
I also don’t hear you factoring in time for yourself. If you can, rather than trying to ‘take away’ things from your day, try to ‘add’ things that are purely for yourself. So, if you’re cooking dinner, make that dinner and light your favourite candle; if you’re meeting a deadline, meet it and then sing along to your favourite song. If you can ask your partner to make you a cuppa or run your bath while you’re doing something else, try these as well if you think they’ll work for you.
This won’t reduce the emotional labour as such, but it will increase the space for yourself to help you manage these tasks.
I’m on dating apps, but I’m really struggling with making a virtual or socially distanced connection – it’s such a different dating experience. Have you got any advice on how to approach this?
You’re right that dating in this context isn’t ideal – it can feel everything from unsatisfying, to horribly demoralising. If you had hopes of finding love, starting a family or, frankly, even having sex, then this year will have felt like all of that has had to be put on hold. That can feel like a loss akin to grief, or give way to feelings of panic, which adds pressure to making connections, and so it all goes in a cycle.
Firstly, know you’re not alone in that experience. Secondly, consider moving online conversations to the phone if you feel comfortable enough, or sending WhatsApp voice notes. While this still doesn’t replace meeting face-to-face, hearing someone’s voice and them hearing yours can allow for nuance, and even a bit of flirtation.
Dating apps can also be exhausting, scrolling and matching only to be met with the same kinds of conversations over and over. So why not experiment with something different?
If you usually always respond to people who get in touch with you, try contacting people first. Likewise, if you’re the one sending the first message all the time, perhaps only respond to those who contact you.
Being at home so much in close quarters with only each other is really taking its toll on my marriage. Small things are building to bigger resentments. What can we do to improve things and stop this constant conflict?
It’s understandable this would happen; how could it not take its toll? We are in a pandemic, forced to live in ways we haven’t before, and it can feel like being caged. There would be conflict for anyone in this scenario. I think owning that and knowing you aren’t peculiar for it is strengthening in itself.
Also, this won’t be forever. If you can have a conversation with each other where you both acknowledge there’s a time limit on this, and agree to see where you’re both at by the end of the year, it can be helpful just to put the pressure off feeling like you have to have all the answers to this nightmare right now.
The past year has been really challenging for my mental health, but even more so since the start of lockdown 3.0. I’m finding everything really tough at the moment, but how do I communicate that to my partner?
You’re right that this is tough. It can be easy for people to want to try to fix things when we tell them how we feel, and while they may mean well, this can add fuel to a fire or stop us from voicing our feelings for fear it won’t be heard. So, it can be useful to begin with an opening statement such as, “I’m not looking for advice or a solution, I just want to tell you what I’m feeling,” and check what capacity they have to hear you.
Also, pay attention to what you think you might need in any given moment – is it a hug, some space, some help with a task, somebody to reflect back your words? If you have access to this knowledge, it can be helpful to ask for it right out.
Katerina is a BACP accredited Gestalt counsellor and psychotherapist in a GP surgery and private practice, working with individuals, couples and groups. She’s also the founder and host of ‘Sound Affects’ podcast – a music and mental health podcast, featured in NME’s Podcasts for the People series.
If you’re considering couples counselling, it’s great to recognise that you’re looking for new ways to strengthen and support your relationship. To find a therapist, simply browse profiles until you find someone you resonate with. Then, send them an email.
If you still have questions about couples therapy, here are some resources that may help:
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