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How to survive a pandemic with your relationship intact

2020 could well be described as unravelling, rearranging, surprising, delaying, restricting, and disappointing. Whilst there have been moments of unexpected joy and feeling incredibly grateful for what I do have, it sure has been a doozy!

We thrive on certainty and hope. Instead, this extraordinary year has snuffed that candle out with one big cough.  Everyone has been affected by the shifting goal posts of restrictions, the pressures of work or lack of work. Many have lost their sense of purpose, there’s financial and health concerns and relationships have been jolted.  More than ever do we need to rely on them to collaborate, care, and cajole one other compassionately to maintain well-being.

Unfortunately, a critical mistake is when so many concerns compete for our attention, our intimate partnerships lose priority. As a neuropsychotherapist working with over a thousand clients supporting their relationships for nearly a decade, I’ve seen how easy it is for them to unravel, particularly this year. To avoid your relationship coming to a screeching halt, here are my top tips to survive a pandemic with your relationship intact:

Manage your stress response. Healthy stress spurs us into action, gets us where we need to be and rise to the challenge. Uncontrolled, consistent stress shuts down the parts of our brain that helps us relate to others. When you are in this brain state, you are not so good at processing information and showing empathy. Naturally you’re more likely to be agitated, crabby and not the best version of yourself for your partner. Look out for the physical signs in your body as they are often indicators of what is happening in your mind. Ensure you seek out credible information about the pandemic from reliable less sensationalised sources. Ask questions if unsure instead of ruminating.

Check your alliance: Healthy couples approach adversity by ensuring they consistently check-in on their alliance with a shared vision based on values that feature respect and kindness. It could be as simple as “Where are you at?” or “How can I help you today?” “How can we tackle this….?”. The reality is, adult love is conditional, is tested and requires on-going maintenance. Newly loved up couples may think a good relationship involves calm seas; an experienced couple knows it involves good seamanship!

Learn a healthy and assertive approach to conflict: Our memories are incredibly unreliable particularly when our raw emotions are triggered, and reality is skewed. Some avoid conflict at all costs and many go about in all the wrong aggressive methods. Adopting a respectful and kind assertive approach where feedback is delivered in a non-blaming way and received that way is your road map to success!

Weave positivity into every day: The happiest couples have around 20 positive interactions for every negative one according to marriage researcher, Dr John Gottman. This is not some unattainable romantic movie reel, but a daily intention to encouragement, gratitude and acknowledging your partner with emotional attentiveness.

Learn from the experts: Humbly collaborate with wise loved ones who exude strength by discussing their means to cope with fear and uncertainty.  Strategise on a healthy approach that builds on your current strengths.

Look outward: The pleasure centre in your brain is rewarded when you look out for others with altruism. Nurture your mental health as a couple when you care for others as a united front. Post a note on the fridge of two people each month you can reach out to.

Find relationship mentors: Ask advice from those flourishing couples you respect. You don’t have to follow what can be acceptable patterns of family history that may feature unhealthy relationship habits and divorce. Learn from those experienced couples that can direct you on the right path. Ensure you have the courage to adopt a “help-seeking” mentality when you can’t move forward or find yourself in toxic cycles of disconnection.  Seek out a reputable and accredited therapist for an unbiased perspective with someone who can impart well researched tools.

You deserve a dynamic, thriving and passionate relationship; one that launches you individually and as a couple to great success. Even in 2020!

Joanne Wilson is the Relationship Rejuvenator and author of Renovate Your Relationship – All The DIY Tools For Your Most Important Project ($29.99). She is a neuropsychotherapist inspiring the community for thriving and dynamic relationships that impact generations for mental well-being. Find out more at relationshiprejuvenator.com.

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