3 Ready-to-Use Practices for Peaceful Relationships in Challenging Times
As lockdown is lifted "relationships again will be thrust into adjusting to a new 'new normal.' These 3 steps will help you reconnect with your beloved in a way that deepens your closeness and leaves you both feeling more in love,"
Relationships can be challenging under normal circumstances. Throw in the pervasive fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic, and the stress can damage or even sever relationships—right when we need each other’s support the most.
In the early weeks of quarantine, many couples found comfort in being confined to the same physical space. Being together 24/7 is intense, as is being separated when one or both of you are serving on the front line. Nerves are frayed. It’s easy to get upset—even about who left the lights on or who forgot to feed the dog.
But as the uncertainty and threat persisted, conflicts at home have been on the rise. Now, as we begin to return—phased or total—from lockdown, relationships again will be thrust into adjusting to a new “new normal.” And we cannot assume leaving lockdown will resolve any strife.
These painful disconnects left unresolved can lead to deeper trouble. In China, for example, the divorce rate spiked as quarantines were relaxed, and, here in the U.S., calls to lawyers are already up.
In our book Grabbing Lightning: The Messy Quest for an Extraordinary Love, we get to the heart of this matter “It’s easy to blame this on spending too much time together. However, at the heart of this phenomena is our inability to maintain a deep loving connection when we’re frightened—pandemic or not.”
In addition to our professional practice of helping people amplify the love between them and ameliorate defensiveness and fear-reactions, we know from personal experience what it’s like to drive each other nuts in close quarters, as we spent our first several years in love living and working together in a tiny one-bedroom walkup apartment.
In Grabbing Light, we share a now familiar story of frustration and angst experienced in close quarters via a range of actions and reactions (emotions)—from criticism to short tempers to hurt to silence and physical space—and the ensuing process of self-talk and trying to get back to love when feeling angry, confused, misunderstood—and afraid.
Via our own hard-won personal mastery of transforming conflicts into deeper connection—plus Paige’s doctoral research on the role of fear in conversations gone bad—we suggest essential tips of a mindful makeup conversation.
Having to grapple with relationship challenges when you’re both scared and stressed can feel overwhelming. But you can do it—especially if you see it as a soul nudge, an opportunity to deepen your love and strengthen your communication.
These 3 steps will help you reconnect with your beloved in a way that deepens your closeness and leaves you both feeling more in love:
To deescalate the conflict, deescalate yourself first.
It all starts with you. How can you expect your partner to listen calmly if you’re freaking out, throwing subtle jabs, or pouting in silence. After all, whoever holds the silence long enough wins.
The quickest way back to love begins with each of you trying to reduce our own defensiveness—a deliberate shift in your self-talk and one that dissolves your distress just enough so your caring heart and clear mind come back to the forefront.
You know you’ve done that when: Your desire to reconnect lovingly will be louder than your impulse to be defensive and right.
Nurture your loving connection first. Talk about the issue later.
Once you deescalate yourself and restore some equanimity within, it may be tempting to jump right into a discussion to fix whatever when wrong and move past it. Don’t. Instead, remind yourself your pain is coming from the disconnect between you and your partner—not from the issue that triggered this specific argument.
With that awareness, ask yourself: How can I simply approach my beloved in a way that brings us both back to feeling the love we share? It can be as simple as a gentle touch and genuine smile.
A favorite approach: Whoever’s ready first goes to the other and says, “I’m sorry for my part.” Your partner can respond: “I’m sorry for my part too,” followed by a full embrace of love again, now ready to tackle whatever triggered you.
Go for deeper understanding and closeness. Forget the quick fix.
It’s human nature to aim for a clear solution when there’s a rift. But attempts to go straight for a solution can backfire and reignite the tension.
Avoid this by focusing on two key objectives: One, learn more about your beloved’s experience—even if it’s a bit difficult to hear—positioning you as receptive and curious, not defensive or judgmental. Two, share what you’re feeling honestly—even if it’s uncomfortable to articulate—careful to choose words and tone of voice that make it easy for your beloved to listen without getting triggered again.
With this practice, you’ll find it easy to co-create a good solution. But, at times, you might find the point is to get better at reconnecting to love—within yourself and together.
The journey can be messy, but if you play with these methods, you’ll evolve your unique way of using your conflicts to enhance your closeness instead of being pulled apart. When that happens, you’ll see your relationship reach new heights and dimensions of love and well-being.
For more, read about love in lockdown.