Many of us have found ourselves spending more time with our partners than ever before. Inevitably, there will be times when habits that may not have been a major issue before, such as not loading up the dishwasher or leaving clothes on the floor, suddenly start to grate on your nerves. So if you've found yourself responding to your partner in ways that are out of character, or maybe you're concerned that your relationship is more strained than usual, the following tips should help your relationship to not only survive lockdown, but to thrive and even become better.
1. Be Constructive.
The way you say things is as important as the words you speak. If you and your other half are having an argument or disagreement, resist the temptation to go in there 'all guns blazing'. Try pointing out the good things they've done and praising them for it and you'll find that they'll be far more responsive, and receptive, to anything you ask afterwards.
Another way to diffuse the situation is to use phrases such as 'I feel...' rather than 'You always...'. By starting a sentence with 'You always...' you're accusing them straightaway which will instantly put them on the defensive. However, when you use the phrase 'I feel...' you are taking responsibility for your own feelings and they won't instantly feel as though they are being blamed for something before you've even got your point across.
2. Listen. Listening is probably the single most important skill we can develop in a relationship. In the heat of the moment, you'll often desperately want to get your point across and make yourself understood. However, listening to your partner is the only way to fully understand what's actually going on in their heads. Let them speak first. Listen to what they have to say (even if you don't agree with it) and try not to interrupt. Take a moment to process what they've said and then say what you need to say. Sometimes, even allowing them to get something off their chest and speak it out loud is enough for them to calm down and put things into perspective.
3. Never bottle it up! You're not doing yourself or your partner any favours by keeping what you're feeling to yourself, especially if something has distressed or annoyed you. Bottling up your feelings is just as likely to trigger bitterness that can morph into resentment and eventually come out in other, potentially more destructive ways. Always remember to talk about it, especially if it's something that truly matters to you.
4. Keep things fresh. It may be a cliché, however making the effort to keep things interesting and enjoyable in a relationship can make a hugely positive difference to the time you spend together. It can be all too easy to take that special person's presence in your life for granted and become a bit complacent. However, especially in lockdown, this type of mindset can cause feelings of monotony and discontentment. Even when our lives feel limited by social distancing and travel limitations, you can still show your partner that you appreciate them with an occasional surprise, a compliment or even making plans for the future together.
5. The grass isn't always greener. It's very common for people to end up looking outside their relationship if they think there could be somebody out there who is a better potential mate.
Sometimes, the problem in a relationship isn't our partner's problem at all. We all have personal issues that we have to work through. Finding someone else might appear to offer a quick fix, but eventually you'll find yourself dealing with a similar problem with your new partner because you didn't work through it the first time. The most successful relationships are generally the ones that have been offered time to thrive, nurture and work through any problems. Appreciate what you have and build on it.
6. Let go of silly things. It's important to talk when you've got something on your mind, but if you keep focussing on the little things that wind you up, your relationship will quite possibly end up like battle zone if you don't allow some things slide now and then. If it's something that in the greater scheme of things won't make much of a difference, why not simply ignore it? There is no such thing as the perfect person and, most likely, you do things that your partner finds frustrating too!
7. Don't smother them. Give them space. During a lockdown, giving your partner space isn't always easy. Couples who spend every minute in each other's pockets can quickly start to feel as though they have lost sight of who they are, especially when their own interests start to take a back seat. It's important to give each other physical space to pursue your own interests but if you don't have physical space to do that, then let them watch a film while you read that book you've been meaning to read. It's also important to be respectful of noise and distractions. For example, if you like playing video games or want to watch a film that your partner isn't interested in, wear headphones!
8. Avoid the green-eyed jealousy monster! Jealousy has ruined countless relationships. There is absolutely nothing less appealing, less attractive and more repulsive than the ugly green-eyed jealousy monster. If you're worried that your partner may seem distracted or isn't giving you the attention you desire, it's easy to start suspecting them of infidelity, especially if they're constantly glued to their phone. The way to counter this is to start to develop shared interests. Find common ground and build on it. Plan what you'll do together after lockdown... maybe a holiday... somewhere you want to explore... or maybe think about home improvements. With spring just around the corner, if you're lucky enough to have a garden, work on a fun project together outdoors.
One of the most important aspects of a relationship is trust. Trust doesn't always come naturally. We may have been hurt in a previous relationship or lied to by someone, but it's important to remember that it doesn't mean your partner will do the same thing. Sometimes, the quickest way to drive someone away is to accuse them of something they aren't doing.
It has been known for some partners to deliberately attempt to arouse their partner's suspicions to make themselves feel wanted... they actually WANT their partner to feel jealous. Again, the best way to resolve this situation is to ignore what they're doing on their phone, but praise them when they're doing something with you. Focus and reward the behaviours you want, but ignore the ones you don't. It's simple, but it works.
9. Go easy on yourself. It's far too easy to stress about whether your relationship is as healthy as you think it ought to be. We are constantly bombarded with images of the 'perfect' relationship in movies and on TV, but always bear in mind that these are just stories. Real relationships have all kinds of ups and downs. If we go into a relationship believing that life is always going to be perfect, then we have already set ourselves up to fail. Life just doesn't work like that. It is perfectly normal to go through times in a relationship where life can feel a bit dull or not quite as we imagined it would be, but that's fine! When we learn to accept a relationship as it is and are grateful for what we have, things just start to fall into place naturally.
10. Keep working on it. Relationships aren't perfect because, unless you're living in a fictional movie or romantic novel, people aren't perfect. Some relationships can be easier than others, but all relationships need work. As long as we never take our friendship and relationship with our significant other for granted, your connection to each other will continue to stay strong and continue to grow and develop over the years.
One thing is certain, putting in the effort and building a happy relationship will bring rewards not just during a lockdown... they will benefit your relationship for a lifetime to come.