We are encountering in our online sessions an increase in conflict in the couple since the period of confinement has begun. These difficult times where we are forced to be confined to our homes, to spend all our time with the people we live with, are a real test for couple relationships.
Research has shown us how couple conflicts can become triggers for psychological disorders such as stress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depression) and addictive behaviors.
In addition, we already have the first study on the effects that confinement is having on Spaniards, and it confirms what we are seeing in our daily practice where we are witnessing an increase in cases of acute stress, with significant anxiety symptoms.
However, conflict in itself does not have to be something negative. Precisely, these moments of tension can be opportunities to better understand your partner, change things that are not working, adapt to new ways of doing things and strengthen our relationship.
We know that the emotional support of the partner is fundamental in the development and maintenance of anxiety, whether for better or for worse. That is to say, if there is a good couple relationship where the person feels supported, understood, understood, there is an effect of relief of the anxious symptomatology.
On the other hand, if there is permanent conflict in the couple, anxiety and depressive symptoms become more evident and intense. Here are five tips to improve and strengthen your relationship, which in this situation of isolation become even more relevant:
Accept the person as he or she is
A couple relationship is much more than love; there is a union of two distinct, independent and autonomous people in a common project.
We are all different beings, the education received, the culture, the experiences lived, our beliefs, complexes, prejudices, make us all different and we have both positive and negative aspects.
We can assure that in a couple relationship the difference of opinions is assured. However, the way we manage this difference will be the key to a satisfactory relationship.
“If two people always agree on everything, I can be sure that one of them thinks for both of them.” Sigmund Freud
I propose that in this confinement you take the opportunity to accept your partner as he or she is:
- Respect that your partner may think differently from you. There are always different ways of looking at the same situation.
- Instead of refuting and pretending that he/she is wrong, simply listen to what he/she is telling you, seek to understand and understand rather than contradict and criticize.
- Identify what expectations you have of your partner. Surely you already know well enough to know if what you are expecting from your partner is realistic or not.
In my sessions I always use the following metaphor: “An apple tree will always be an apple tree and will give apples, are you sure you are not asking for pears from the apple tree?”
Clear, open and honest communication
Communication is fundamental in a couple’s relationship, it is undoubtedly one of the fundamental ingredients and all studies confirm that dysfunctional communication is one of the main causes of rupture in the couple.
When we talk about communication in couples therapy, we understand it from a global point of view being much more than words or verbal communication.
There are people who have difficulty in expressing their feelings and emotions, but love is not only expressed in words; holding hands, a look or a hug at a given moment has greater power of communication than a two-hour dialogue.
In this moment of confinement where we spend many hours with our partner, the communication you have with him/her will be fundamental to develop a healthy and strengthened relationship. In this sense we recommend you:
- When you have something important to say, look for the right moment, even plan it with your partner so that there is no interference.
- Respect is fundamental in communication. Do not insult, belittle or undervalue your partner. Keep calm and have constructive conversations, in case you can’t, interrupt the conversation and leave it for later.
- Speak clearly, do not be ambiguous in your message and make sure your partner understands what you are saying.
In the moments in which you see that communication is being impossible and you begin to see how aggressiveness is increasing, I suggest you do a simple exercise that can end in a fun and enjoyable moment: Assume the role of the other.
The idea is that each of you assume the role of the other, that each of you write down the arguments that your partner has told you, that you internalize them and that from here on you will have the discussion again but this time, changing the roles, that is to say, each of you will speak and behave as the other one does.
With this exercise we change the perspective that each one has on the problem, it increases the understanding and comprehension of other points of view favoring the dialogue and the search of agreements.
Legitimize your partner’s emotions
Implicit in the act of loving is the act of recognizing the other person, of legitimizing that your partner is a person with thoughts and emotions.
“When a person discovers that he is loved for who he is, not for what he pretends to be, he will feel that he deserves respect and love”. Carl Rogers.
In this sense it is especially relevant to value our partner, when you ignore the behaviors, behaviors and attitudes of your partner, you are making it invisible. This type of behavior is devastating for the other person, very intense negative emotions appear, since it means a devaluation of what a person is, of his or her own existence and value as a human being.
For this very reason, in these moments of isolation, it is a good time to focus on validating the emotions that we can all feel in difficult moments like these:
- The partner is a good channeler of emotions of sadness, fear, pain, uncertainty. See what you can do to validate these emotions with your partner, a single phrase may be enough: “The situation is difficult but you are not alone, we are a team and together we will face this moment”, “I understand you and I understand you ….”.
Emphasize the positive in your partner. It is a good time to value the person with whom you have decided to share your life, when was the last time you have told him/her how much you value that he/she is by your side? When was the last time you have recognized something positive about him/her?
Review the couple’s rules and commitments
In this situation in which the days go by in the same way, without external stimuli, without having access to other people to talk to or places to go, it is important to review the rules that the couple has.
These rules are the commitments and unwritten rules that are created in every couple. In a natural way each one assumes certain tasks, a certain role that makes each one assume responsibilities.
This situation of confinement has made an important change in our habits, in our daily activities, in our routine, so there will be many of the rules that we had before that now have ceased to make sense.
A very common conflict in couple relationships is usually the different distribution of tasks, the workload that requires household chores and / or childcare, etc.. Now times and availability have changed, but what has happened to those rules? does the same distribution of tasks still exist? is it balanced?
Establish clear rules as to who is in charge of what.
- Seek a fair balance in time and burden of all household chores. There has to be an equal distribution between the two.
- Establish time for each one individually. It is important that the couple does not destroy each other’s individuality.
- Keep space and time for yourself, as well as encourage and encourage your partner to have time for him/her.
- Now is a good time to rethink who does what, the responsibility of each, recognize the work that the other does and establish rules and commitments that are more equitable and rewarding for both.
Discovering new ways to enjoy as a couple
One of the main symptoms of wear and tear in a couple’s relationship is the loss of satisfaction. Monotony, routine and apathy are present in the couple’s daily life.
Always doing the same thing produces an effect of habituation to the same stimulus, causing a reduction in activation and excitement. The human being is attracted by the new, the different, the surprise, and it is in these new experiences where satisfaction and interest appear.
If we want to keep passion alive within the couple it is necessary to introduce new elements, different ways to enjoy, being creative to detect what changes or novelties you can bring to your relationship. An important part that influences in a determinant way in marital satisfaction is sexual activity, although it is not the only way to enjoy within the couple.
We must not forget that sexuality is an inherent part of every human being, it directly influences our health and our quality of life. Sexuality is a part of our identity and of our personal growth and development. In addition, within the couple it is a key element to create moments of intimacy and affection.
- Introduce surprises in the day to day, doing something that your partner does not expect, seek to surprise your partner.
- Find a space and time to spend time with your partner. Plan it and give it the importance it has to have.
- Use a sense of humor, tell or comment something funny, introduce fun and play in your relationship, make your partner laugh and have fun with you.
I hope these tips will help you to strengthen your relationship. Now you have the opportunity to take advantage of this situation and focus your efforts on improving and strengthening your relationship.