4 Things that Kill Relationships: Use the Lockdown to Fix Them

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Sometime last week, I woke up to 100+ messages on the family WhatsApp group. I was as dumbfounded as I was impressed because people hardly talk in the group, apart from the occasional checkup or when there is some emergency.

The math problems circulating on social media provided a much-needed ice-breaker, leading people to tease, argue, and work together to find solutions. Your family is probably better at communication than mine is. Still, I imagined that the lockdown could provide the perfect opportunity to connect with loved ones, share more deeply, comfort each other, and show each other love- from a safe social distance, of course.

The chances are that the lockdown will be a real test for most relationships, especially romantic ones. With the directives to work from home or stay at home, you will be spending more time together. You may already be getting frustrated that they aren’t cleaning up after themselves, or maybe you’re having a hard time reconciling with the person they are in work-mode. But the worst of the lockdown is yet to come, and you might want to intentionally cultivate your relationship, so you emerge from it stronger.

Pole sana to those who are stuck with people they were about to break up with.

Psychologist John Gottman lists criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling as the four horsemen that could ride your relationship out of town. Rather than continually criticizing your partner, be mindful that this is a difficult time for everyone, and critique with love (if absolutely necessary). Let’s face it; stay confined with someone for a while, and they are bound to irritate you. You will roll your eyes or scoff in contempt at something they say or do, even without meaning to. Criticism and contempt will both inspire defensiveness, as the accused feels victimized. When the conflict becomes too difficult, parties to the relationship may stonewall, which is avoiding communication with their partners.

We might joke about it, but many relationships might not survive this pandemic and the resultant lockdown. The end of the lockdown in Xi’an on March 1 was followed by tens of couples seeking a divorce at the marriage registry offices. True, the unions may have been on the rocks way before COVID-19, but isolation certainly aggravated their troubles. For the sake of peace and a smoother isolation exercise, take active responsibility in improving your friendships and romantic partnerships. Practice kindness, avoid the four horsemen listed above, listen openly, be mindful of your partner’s feelings, and help each other feel safe. Create a routine that includes ‘me-time’ so you’re not in each other’s face all the time. As challenging as it may be, stay positive and try to keep each other sane. Make plans for when all this is over, so you have something to look forward to.

A Canadian couple attributed the improvement of their relationship to the quarantine so that it can be done. The dynamic of Kenyan relationships makes the lockdown period even more stressful. Some women are happy that their husbands are finally home because they don’t see them on the regular. Some men are frustrated because their go-to stress relievers (football, drinks with the boys, etc.) are unavailable. Those with a lil sumn sumn on the side are also suffering. But maybe it is an opportunity to get to know your partner better, ignite that spark again, bond with your children, and establish a stronger foundation for your family at large.

Conflict is unavoidable, but if you’re both mature about it and want it, you could come out the other end in one piece.

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