How lockdown emotions impact your relationship?

couples relationships lockdown lockdown 2.0 the relationship paradigm Nov 13, 2020

Here is an article I wrote for Red magazine

Lockdown is a time where the disrupted world will unleash a whole range of emotions. These are likely to be heightened by the continuing uncertainty and lack of control.

Here are twelve key emotions, the impact they can have on your relationship and how to deal with them. The first 8 are negative emotions as these will be more likely. I have also listed 4 positive emotions that can be a wonderful antidote:

  1. Scared

This is one of the fundamental emotions that is really strong and visceral.

We may be scared that:

  • we or our loved ones will get ill and even die
  • we may lose our jobs and not find another one
  • we will run out of money and may even become homeless
  • our basic physiological and safety needs are under threat
  • life in the future will be very different

This is likely to trigger the primeval fight, flight or freeze response.  Our body will become flooded with adrenaline to get us ready to cope with the threat. Longer term this can create significant physical and mental side effects.

How will this impact on our relationship?

You may go within ourselves, freeze in our internal comfort zone and be unwilling to be vulnerable, to share feelings or be intimate.  This could make your partner feel excluded and rejected and create a downward spiral.

How to manage this?

Share your feelings and get support from your partner. Physical contact and hugs are hugely important. Together you will be stronger.

  1. Helpless

This is where we feel impotent and out of control; being taken by the tide with no escape.  We can either focus on what we can change or feel that we are a victim of the circumstances.  We may catastrophise and focus on the negatives.  The glass may not even be half full; it may have disappeared

How will this impact on our relationship? 

If your partner has similar emotions,you can end up dragging each other under. If they are being positive, you may find the mis-matching irritating and it could drive a wedge between you.

How to manage this?

You need to ask for help and get support and encouragement.  Having the sense that as a couple you can support each other through this and have something positive to look forward to and enjoy will be very powerful.

  1. Anxious

We may be worrying about the unknown future, finding it hard to sleep and worrying about what will happen next.

How will this impact on our relationship? 

If you are both aligned, you could be helping each other to make mountains out of molehills.  If you are differentiated, then one may be frustrated that the other is seeing the world very differently. This could cause the relationship to start to drift apart 

How to manage this?

Be open and honest about what you are both feeling and ensure that the anxiety is being listened to.  Work together to see what can be done to lessen that anxiety and bring more certainty into your lives.

  1. Overwhelmed 

Our world has suddenly changed and become much more unpredictable. We may now be fulfilling the role of partner, parent, teacher, worker all in our home space. This is really hard to cope with and makes us less resilient.  The feeling of overwhelm is very likely as we no longer know which way is up and what the priorities are.

How will this impact on our relationship?

Your partner is likely to have different pressures and be responding in very different ways which could be immensely irritating! 

How to manage this? 

Accept that your partner is different and will be coping as best they can.

Be clear on the activities and decisions that you are jointly responsible for and agree who is doing what and what the priorities are.

Talk to each other about your own overwhelm list and see how you can support each other.

  1. Frustrated

Freedom to go out to the pub, restaurant and shops is now curtailed. Holidays are on ice and Christmas may not happen. There is nothing that we can do to change that no matter how much we curse and mutter.  We can only change how we allow this to affect us. 

How will this impact on our relationship?

You may take out this frustration on each other by being bad tempered and moody. That is not good, particularly if your partner is also feeling vulnerable.

How to manage this?

Talk this through, voice your frustrations and then let them go as you jointly seek pleasure where it can be found.

  1. Irritated

Being locked in with your partner 24/7 without escape is a great opportunity to develop your relationship, free of distractions.  It can also become a living hell.

How will this impact on our relationship?

Your focus may start to be on all those things that they do that annoy you; the messy sink, shoes across the floor, inequality of effort on housework.  Little things can build to become profoundly irritating and you may take this out on each other with arguments, shouting and huffs. 

How to manage this? 

Raise these minor irritations before they fester.  Talk about them in the format of ‘When you leave your shoes across the floor, I feel annoyed and worried that I will trip up in the dark’ rather than ‘You are so messy and inconsiderate, clear up those shoes now.’

  1. Lonely

We may be separated from our friends and families. There is contact by phone, text and other apps but that is no substitute for physical touch. It can feel that you are adrift in this different world and just want to hide in your safe cave. 

How will this impact on our relationship?

There may only be room for one in your cave, so your partner may feel excluded and unwanted. 

How to manage this?

Talk about how you are feeling and what your partner can do to be alongside you and ensure the loneliness dissipates.  Hugs (at least 8 a day) and physical contact are really important.

  1. Sad

Sadness at what we have lost due to Lockdown is understandable. It is a place that can be strangely comfortable.

How will this impact on our relationship? 

Sadness is a very individual emotion and, if held onto, could create a divide in your relationship 

How to manage this?

Share and maybe shed some tears for what you have lost and then try and move on.

You cannot change what has happened, but you can change how you allow it to affect you in the future. 

And now we move onto positive emotions that can be a great antidote to the negative ones above:

  1. Loving 

One of the greatest gifts in life is a loving and fulfilling relationship.  In tough times love is hugely empowering.

How will this impact on our relationship?

Sharing love whilst navigating through tough times will make the relationship flourish and give you reassurance that together you can cope with a lot.

How to manage this?

Connect with that love you have for each other and spend time nourishing it.  Create moments of intimacy where it is as if the world has stopped and nothing else matters.

  1. Appreciated

Appreciation is hugely powerful but often fades with time in relationships. In difficult times it is particularly important as we may be feeling more vulnerable.

How will this impact on our relationship? 

Knowing that your partner appreciates you can create a warm glow that lasts for hours or days. It will cause your relationship to blossom.

How to manage this?

Maybe share a list of 10 things that your partner generally does that you appreciate.

 And then, regularly, say very specifically what your partner has done that day that you appreciate.

  1. Grateful

Gratitude is hugely important to our own sense of worth and purpose. In difficult times we often focus on what is wrong with our world.

How will this impact on our relationship?

Noticing the good things rather than focusing on the negatives can be uplifting to you and your relationship

How to manage this?

Every night before you go top sleep share three things with your partner that you are grateful for. It will get both of your subconscious minds into a positive frame before you go to sleep.

  1. Hopeful

The hope that all this difficulty will pass is really important and freeing.

How will this impact on our relationship?

It will help you both focus on a good future rather than being stuck in a difficult present. When the hope is shared it can blossom.

How to manage this?

Talk through the things that you are hoping for and your future dreams. Maybe draw, separately, pictures of your ideal future and share and discuss.