Relationships in Lockdown

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Dana Sarhan, (MSc, MFT)  Photo Emile Issa

Our lives, as we know it, have experienced a shift to unknown grounds. We have, all of a sudden, witnessed a change in our realities, immobilizing and destabilizing our daily rituals, what we know as normal, and our patterns at work and at home.

Our ability to respond to overwhelming chaos and crisis is directly proportionate to our ability to stay connected to ourselves, our bodies and our loved ones. How do we do this when our focus has shifted towards survival, health, financial and economical crisis, food and shelter? This new normal can shift our relational dynamics with our partner and our colleagues. Never have relationships been more important for providing a sense of safety, intimacy, and connection. Our aim is to learn to strengthen bonds despite it all.

Working from Home

While many have lost their jobs, most have turned to work from home using creative and modern tools of technology. Our lives have been diffused into one confined area. What we used to consider as our private lives is now fully exposed to our work life and colleagues, combining all of our life’s aspects into one. It can be hard to differentiate and disconnect both worlds at this point. When do we stop working? How do we shift from the employee or employer to being a partner at home? A parent at home? A mother or a daughter, a son or a father to family members at home?

Making-Work-From-Home-Work

While you try to adapt to new dynamics, be mindful of creating new boundaries and dissolving old ones. Self awareness and reflection is key here as it will help guide us in what we can and cannot do every day, how much we are able to give, and when we need some alone or intimate time.

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In order to do that, it is recommended we cultivate and maintain a relationship with ourselves before and while we maneuver our relationships. We need to be aware of our boundaries, the old and new, when we need to recharge and have ‘me-time’ slots, when we want to connect, and how to communicate all of the above. Our responsibility as adults in relationships also includes a responsibility to ourselves, to maintain our health internally and not just externally. This is a lifelong continuous process, yes, yet is especially important in times of stress and chaos.

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In addition, create a routine with small targets and goals every day. This will not only cultivate a sense of discipline and clear cut time management, but it will also help ease the anxiety, worry and pressure that come from wanting to do everything at the same time. When those goals have been completed, take the time off to disconnect from work in order to be able to shift to your other roles, just as you would do when you used to come home from work. I call those “self-soothing slots”.

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Relationships at Home

Communicate clearly and openly, about what you feel and how you think. Not only will you be holding space for yourself, you will be experiencing it together. If you need time and space from your partner or family, state that without criticism or anger, and clarify that you will be back. Then be the one who comes back.If you feel you are not connecting enough, communicate that too.

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Open and clear communication is important to keep you both in sync.  As friend and colleague sexologist Natalie Hatjes, MS, CHt advices; “communication is essential in a relationship always, but especially during these times of uncertainty. Ask for what you need, stay present, and practice gratitude.”

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Final Thought

This historical shift can be a test for us to reassess our lives, how we’ve been living, and how we’ve been conducting our relationships. We, at the end of the day, are learning how to adapt to change, reconnect with ourselves and loved ones, and are learning how to breathe. We are surviving. This experience has humbled us. Now is the time to question old dynamics, slow down, and refocus on what is actually important; your connectionto yourself and to those you care about.You may end up feeling happier in lockdown after all.

Dana Sarhan MSc, MFT

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