Alessia Zolfo – Anatomy of Thought, The Lovers  Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.”
Being isolated for months on end with another person, or with one’s family, inevitably puts a strain on relationships; this is a new situation for us all.
It is important, therefore, that we develop our own ‘rules’ for living during this time of adversity. Everyone’s life has changed in some way because of coronavirus. Remember: We are all in this together.
Keeping to daily routines, where possible, is important, but we will need to develop new routines and new ways of thinking to fit the altered circumstances.
How can we learn pull together in lockdown and still maintain a caring approach to those with whom we are isolated?
Henri Matisse – Conversation. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Somehow, we each have to adapt to a new way of managing our daily life and relationships. There are no recent precedents to fall back on in terms of this wide-scale enforced isolation.
Keep Calm and Patient. Think before Speaking.
We can only try to be calm, considerate and patient, attempting to stop arguments before they really start.
“If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you……”Kipling
More than ever, we need to think before speaking, to have an internal, editing conversation with ourselves: are we really going to achieve anything if we are impatient, critical or undermining?
“We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest;
And deal full many a thoughtless blow,
To those who love us best.”
When we feel angry or irritated by the often petty concerns of a quarantined existence, perhaps we can pause, wait, go into another room, or, if possible, out into a garden or onto a balcony.
Distracting oneself and walking away from anger is crucial now.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Developing a friendly attitude as far as is humanly possible will really help. If we live with a partner or spouse, we need them to be a friend more than ever now, by our side, supporting us when things feel difficult.
Can we make some ground rules together about being friends at this tough time?
“Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend”
“Use this time in quarantine to reinvigorate your relationships.
How, you might ask?
It starts with forgiveness, rounded out by patience, and crystallised by love.”
Charles F. Glassman.
Maintain Loving Kindness .
“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Of course, it is difficult to maintain constant kindness, especially when we are anxious and stressed. We are only human.
We will get it wrong, being unreasonable or snappy. We can try to rectify this, apologising where necessary and trying to avoid blame and criticism of the other when we feel low. It is also important to try not to react to another’s blaming behaviour.
We can also work at not making assumptions about the other person’s words or actions.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
It is important to try to be more gentle, forgiving and understanding of others and, most especially, of ourselves. This is a time to focus on self-care and on communicating our own needs.
Overlooking and forgiving another’s behaviour, as well as our own, is likely to help smooth things over…….
“Forgiveness is the oil of all relationships.”
“Even a smile is a good deed.”
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
Looking for and bringing out the best in the other is what real friendship is about. Doing this will inevitably highlight the good aspects of ourselves as well.
“I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.” — Steve Maraboli
Showing gratitude always makes other people feel appreciated.
Can We See the Child in the Other Person?
Alyssa Monks – Aiden Study  Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children. ”
Having worked in psychotherapy with many couples over the years, I have discovered that, if each can see the child self of the other, they often tend to soften and become more compassionate towards their partner.
What exactly does this mean?
The child that we once were still remains inside us all. She or he is still there, in memories, reactions, experiences. Perhaps this child partly resides in our unconscious mind:
“So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within
“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis
Understanding that the other person has also struggled with their own issues might mean that mistrust lessens and we may see another, more tender side of our partner.
We may glimpse their child vulnerability and feel more empathic towards them, instead of judging and condemning their ‘adult’ front.
Learnt adult behaviour, sometimes manifesting in the form of aggression, often masks vulnerable, defenceless feelings.
“A strong relationship requires choosing to love each other even in those moments when you struggle to like each other.” Unknown.
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Maintain Your Boundaries and Respect Other People’s Space.
Inevitably, isolation will mean spending much more time together. Respecting one another’s personal space and need for time alone is crucial ; if you are working at home, are you able to do this separately?
Being On Each Other’s Side: The Importance of Teamwork In Times Of Crisis.
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”
“Crisis forces commonality of purpose on one another.” Michelle Dean
Look around you, look out at the world together. Creating something to look forward to as a couple or family, whether it is a special meal, or a take- out, a film, or perhaps a video -call to someone special, is important.
We cannot now look forward to holidays or meals out, going to the pub, cinema or theatre, so we therefore need to think together about designing something within our homes that will feel good.
“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Viggo Johansen – The Artist’s Self Portrait with His Wife Martha . Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Offer Comfort and ask for it, when you feel the need.
It is necessary, in this very difficult time, to be able to gain comfort from the other person, to work together as a couple and/or a family.
Teng Chuah Thean – Mothers and the Child. Batik Painting. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
Listening and talking things through is crucial; really focussing on hearing the music behind the other person’s words is especially relevant when we are in the other’s company for many hours each day.
(See next week’s post on this very subject: “Can You Hear The Music Behind The Words?”)
Exercising, meditating, going for walks, if possible, in quiet places, are wonderful ways to relax.
Take in the fresh air, absorb Nature’s sights, sounds and scents…….and take their healing calmness home with you…….
“We sat in silence, letting the green in the air heal what it could.”
“I chose to look to nature and the joys of love to keep me going.”
E. Philips Fox. A Love Story.1903.
‘Wartime’ George Szirtes.There are profiteers
in the cupboard. There are thieves
in the neat hedgerows. There are the rumours
and the alarms. It’s the times
we live in they say. Darling, these are days
of anxiety. Listen
to the high pitched callof small birds. Kiss me.Munch. The Kiss by the Window. Wikimedia Commons.