Reality has completely changed in a few short, disruptive, life-altering months. This new reality has also changed relationship dynamics. Some couples are stranded, unable to see each other due to lockdown rules. Others are living in close confines, sharing self-isolation together.
And the results are mixed: for all the talk of “Coronababies” there’s talk of “Covidivorces.” Divorce rates in China have reportedly soared following quarantine. Equally, come the year 2033, we’ll be welcoming the “Quaranteeny” generation — those conceived during lockdown.
Self-isolation is a huge, huge test for any relationship. Will your relationship endure? That depends on how well you’re able to navigate these 4 main challenges.
1. Tensions surface with nowhere to hide
Most of us will be familiar with relationships that are rich, nourishing and loving, but have their limits. Those friends you enjoy meeting for weekly coffee but wouldn’t choose to travel with for an extended period of time, the best buddy you wouldn’t choose as a housemate. No two relationships are the same, as any two individuals create a unique chemistry.
A post-corona meme shared on social media jokes: “Can I see myself being quarantined with him? Does he come with toilet paper?” It’s lighthearted, but contains truth. The scale of people we’d choose to be quarantined with is slim. There aren’t many (if any!) people who you could live with in such close quarters without conflict.
As a result, it pays to view your relationship with balance. If there are issues between you, there’s no need to overreact. However if these issues reveal parts of the relationship that up to this point have remained hidden, then there’s something to consider.
If you can find harmony during this stressful time, developing closeness and intimacy and a sense of togetherness, you know what you have is pretty special.
2. Adversity makes us ask existential questions
We all like to convince ourselves life is full of certainty, that we know who we are, that our identities are fixed and dependable. With any huge disruption, be it the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a global pandemic, our sense of identity is suddenly thrown into question. The areas of life we saw as part of ourselves no longer appear so dependable and we start to think about the bigger picture.
During lockdown, we’re forced to confront the parts of ourselves usually hidden in the shadows. With extra time to reflect, and the things we’ve taken for granted no longer available, we might start to question where we are in life. Am I happy with my work? With my decisions? And, naturally, with my partner?
This isn’t something to be afraid of. No relationship is an obligation, and it’s healthy to occasionally check-in to see if it’s what you really want. Questioning a relationship isn’t a direct sign of dysfunction or an inevitable break-up.
It pays to explore, openly and honestly, what truth the heart presents. Does it lead you towards your partner? Or away from them? This naturally reflective period could be a pivotal time in the journey of your relationship.
3. The risk of codependency and projection
A balanced relationship consists of two people who have rich individual lives, feel emotionally independent, and choose to support and nourish each other. This isn’t easy, though, and it takes a lot of work to avoid the pitfalls of co-dependency and projection. Without opportunity to nurture our social lives by seeing friends, or even following our normal routines, we may start to look to our relationship to fulfill our needs.
Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, and the ability for your relationship to step-up and support you through this time is admirable, pay close attention to unrealistic expectations. Even though these are unprecedented times, it doesn’t mean your partner is responsible for your emotions, making you happy, or being there 24/7. We still have number one responsibility over our inner-world.
In addition, codependent traits risk psychological projection. We look at our partner and expect them to know exactly what we’re feeling, or project feelings of anxiety or frustration onto them, blaming them for the way we feel.
A few sprinkles of this here and there are fine, but be conscious of allowing self-isolation to blur the lines between your reality and your partner’s reality. A healthy way of dealing isn’t to avoid these feelings altogether, but to openly communicate your needs and wants when they arise. The test here is how you both respond.
4. Quality of communication is revealed
Communication is everything in relationships. But poor communication between two lovers isn’t always clear from the outset, especially during the honeymoon period. Usually, times of hardship or adversity are the moments when the quality of communication is revealed. During lockdown, emotions are running high, routines are out the window. This means the foundation of the relationship — the quality of communication — will be exposed.
Will your relationship sink or swim? This depends. It is possible the situation will reveal a complete misalignment in communication styles that give an indication of the future projection of the relationship. Lockdown shines a light on the broken parts of the relationship that were previously hidden. Will self-isolation be the difficult moment bringing you closer together, or push you apart?
It is always a team effort
If both partners are willing to learn, adversity can be used as a way to grow and develop, together and individually. Sometimes difficult moments reveal the strength of the relationship, an unbreakable bond or a mutual, lasting unconditional love for eachother.
Although these are difficult times, soon you might look back and realize if you can make it through the test of self-isolation and quarantine, you can make it through anything.
More helpful articles: