(or: Relationship Skills when times are tough)
So let’s be honest. No matter how wonderful, amazing and lovable your Significant Other may be, sometimes they are just the most annoying, aggravating person in the world. And let’s face it, with the times we’ve had of late (lockdown, anyone? Homeschooling to add to the fun?) many relationships have been under a tad more tension than usual. Throw in some lousy weather, and the fact you’re living away from your family and friends and before you know it, everything – and especially your partner – becomes just a little too much.
Sounds familiar? I hear you.
So how do you stop everything from building up and leaving you wanting to run for the hills (oh wait, not allowed. Lockdown. Metaphorical hills then)? Here’s my take:
Breathe. If you’re in this place, it may be that your S.O. is also not at their most brightest and bushy-tailed, so if you ask them to change while you are feeling frustrated (regardless of whether your S.O. didn’t clear up their empty crisp packet YET AGAIN) their reaction might not be the one you desire most.
Because at this moment the potential ingredients for a vicious cycle are extremely present. Low mood, feeling pressured and confined (whether literally in lockdown, or feeling isolated because it’s just the two of you in a country that doesn’t feel like home right now) are a BAD combination.
And the most common reaction to this situation is to:
- A. Augment the negative, for example “S.O. is always so … [fill in annoying trait]” and then
- B. Retreat within yourself and worry about this trait: What if this never changes? What if it gets even worse. What if it affects X and Y? Etc. etc.
And in no time at all you’ve come to the conclusion that your life will be unhappy forever unless you make drastic changes NOW. And the walls keep closing in and big words like BREAKING UP and GOING BACK start swirling round your head.
So how can you stop this? Here are 3 steps I’ve found to be very effective to help you return to a better place:
1. Take some space
This is the time to check in with yourself and do all the clichéd things that you know you should. Take a bath, go for a walk, think of a small action you can take to make yourself feel better, that sort of thing.
But don’t overdo it. Take some space, yes, but only so you can do some self-care.
What you don’t want to do at this point is to retreat further within yourself and start obsessing over points A & B above. I think it’s important to recognise that the more you deal with a relationship issue or problem on your own, the bigger the chance you will back yourself in a corner until your view becomes The Right One, for example “S.O is annoying, nothing is going to change, and they will be like that forever”. And in doing so, you can lose sight of the many other aspects of the situation.
This is because we humans generally like things that are clear and simple, black and white. So once you’ve taken your breath, made time for some self-care, and found yourself in a somewhat better place, have a critical look at your take on the situation and check whether your perspective could maybe be a little one-dimensional.
2. Have a conversation
This does not necessarily have to be a conversation with your S.O. at first. If you’re not ready to talk to them, phone a friend. Important consideration: Make sure you don’t call someone who agrees with you unconditionally because you’re you. Although it’s nice to have people who always have your back, in this case it’s more helpful to talk to someone who is also able to help you see different sides of the situation. That point out, for example, that yes they are annoying, but they also made you breakfast in bed. Your friend may also provide you with insights about what you might need in practical terms to turn things around.
The goal is to broaden your view, see if there is another option rather than upending your life as you know it.
And don’t feel guilty about talking this through with a third party, it’s okay. If your S.O. is in a low place themselves, or tends to be insecure, or is stressed about lots of other things, telling them how unhappy and overwhelmed you feel could cause them to panic, and then the conversation may turn messy and exhausting, therefore accomplishing nothing.
However, if you think both you and your S.O. feel ready to talk things through, go for it. Really listen to the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Hear them, without trying to change, justify, explain. Be open to feeling what it’s like to be them. This really is the fastest way of reconnecting and re-noticing the attractive and wonderful parts that made you fall in love in the first place. Which doesn’t mean they don’t ever have to put the cheese back in the fridge ever again, but it does tend to return perspective on what are reasons for drastic changes, and what are not.
3. Date Night
Yes. Organise it. This week. Even though you may not be able to go anywhere, make an effort. Get out of those clothes you’ve been wearing all week (yes, lockdown. I know) and wear that thing your S.O. likes (or get out of those clothes all together, that generally works too ;)).
If you are the romantic 1000-candles-all-over-the-house-type, go for it. If Netflix and pizza is more your style, great. If you have babies/toddlers and no babysitter, maybe you can share lunch together during their afternoon nap instead.
What I’m saying is, it’s time for some relationship maintenance. To catch up, hang out, share some nice food, have sex. Not all of these ingredients are compulsory, but try to include at least one or two.
Good luck, I hope you feel better soon.
By the way, it’s totally normal your relationship won’t always feel like newly-wed honeymoon bliss. If however, you feel like the above steps won’t cut through what you’re experiencing, or you’re worried your relationship is in more serious trouble, don’t struggle on your own. Reach out and get some help – it’s what I’m here for, and it’s amazing what a few solid conversations can do, Drop me a line or book yourself in for a free 30 minute consultation, and we’ll talk soon.