These are uncomfortable times for all of us. Due to the COVID-19 circuit breaker, the home has become the centre of multiple activities. Besides caring for their children, parents have to juggle multiple roles in a confined space. At work, they may be a teacher, doctor, cook, housekeeper, employee or supervisor. At home, they are also caregiver and spouse. While adjusting to the new normal, we cannot ignore its impact on our lives and relationships.
Prepare, Anticipate and Plan
Most individuals are aware of the triggers or stressors that affect them or their significant other. As such, it helps to anticipate such scenarios and plan in advance on how to manage them. If these situations cannot be avoided, wait for the challenging moment to pass, by removing yourself from the situation or redirecting your attention. When you are calm, re-examine the situation and seek to understand why it was a trigger. Avoid pointing fingers and work towards a common understanding. For example, acknowledge each other’s differences and agree to modify unpleasant behaviour.
Acknowledge that everyone has a different trigger and tolerance level, and refrain from judging yourself or your spouse. It is normal to feel stressed and feel the need to express our frustrations.
Deconstruct the reason for stress by saying: “I feel stressed because of A,B or C…”. Then, separate the aspects that can be controlled or changed from those that cannot.
Challenging situations also offer opportunities. Often, children become the priority for parents. As a result, focusing on themselves and their relationship takes a back seat. But parents should also make the most of this time at home to focus on each other, improve communication, re-connect and build your relationship. Show gratitude to each other in simple ways. A hug, a “thank you” or an “I love you” can go a long way in helping your partner feel appreciated.
Understand and know each other’s strengths so you can lean on them as a strong support during difficult moments.
Explore and Discover
Marriage and close relationships are all about building each other up and supporting each other. Why not start dating again? The purpose of a date is to get to know each other better. Set a date and time to watch a movie after the children are asleep or have a meal together without the kids. You could even do chores together, and make the mundane fun again. Make an effort to connect and communicate with each other while preparing a meal or washing the dishes.
Couples often tend to have different personalities, and hence have different ways of dealing with stressful situations. Understand and know each other’s strengths so you can lean on them as a strong support during difficult moments.
Just as the body requires a combination of nutrients, the mind needs a variety of physical, mental, emotional and social activities to function smoothly. Go to the park together to get some exercise and fresh air. Try out some creative work or sign up for an online course together. Practise gratitude and count small blessings. Research in positive psychology shows that having short bursts of positivity and feel-good moments enhances a person’s well-being more than big achievements and success.
Most importantly, when things get too tough, ask for help! Reach out to loved ones or professionals for a listening ear and support. While the occasional scolding and ranting is generally acceptable, verbal and physical abuse is not. If you find that you are a victim of such abuse, you are advised to reach out and call the various helplines for assistance:
Promises Healthcare: https://www.promises.com.sg/services/family-relationship-services/
Community Psychology Hub Online Counselling: https://www.cphonlinecounselling.sg
PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family protection Specialist Centre: 65550390
The contributor is a Psychological & Educational Therapist at Promises Healthcare.