No matter what your relationship situation is, this (and any) crisis is a great time to have a breakthrough in your relationship.
“There is a spiritual solution to every problem” ~ Wayne Dyer
The Coronavirus pandemic has revealed many cracks in peoples’ love lives, especially those who are parents and juggling their jobs at the same time. So many women and men I speak to are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, angry or even numb. The crisis is putting tremendous strain on marriages and intimate relationships. It’s causing old, subconscious wounds to come up that sometime your partner can trigger, because that’s the very nature and intent of relationship on a spiritual level – to help us become of aware of, and heal, old triggers so that we can grow.
Relationships are our greatest spiritual teachers, and if you are both willing to be vulnerable and willing, you can heal and grow old wounds and unleash an even more profound sense of love, courage and connection in these times.
Even if there are a million stresses that may be pulling you two apart, the greatest form of capital you can invest in is your relationship with your spouse or beloved. Your relationship is not something to be taken for granted – you need each other more than ever; and nourishing the seeds of connection and partnership is vital in these times to keep the flame alive.
Many couples are in some form of survival and pain mode. As the crisis continues ripple across our society, it’s tearing into the fabric of our relationships.
The reality is that we’re going to have to find new ways of making our relationships (and parenthood) work in the new post-Covid era where new cracks are being revealed on in our society.
We don’t know how long the period of stress and uncertainty is going to last – it could be one year, or ten. You want to failproof your relationship, starting now!
It will involve releasing some old ideas and patterns, and creating a whole new way of relating.
So how can you go from Surviving to Thriving in your relationship in these times?
Some good news is that I’ve discovered many tools that have helped couples navigate their love life, which I want to offer you.
1. Patience, patience, patience. As I’ve mentioned, the crisis IS going to bring up our inner demons, past and current hurts, exhaustion and victimhood. It is only natural. If you really love your partner (which I’m sure you do!), then you must practice patience. Remember, both you and your partner are doing your best, and the current situation is pushing us to go beyond our capacity into areas of deep discomfort (It is in the space of discomfort that we grow, by the way). Given that we all hate pain, this is going to feel very triggering.
A tool I find helpful is Instant Forgiveness. Whenever your partner does something that triggers you, the first thing you do is to forgive them. Likewise, when you do something that’s potentially hurtful, forgive yourself. Then, take a time out for breathing or a ten-minute meditation. There will be opportunities to reconcile, ask for forgiveness or speak your mind, however, it’s important to first collect your thoughts, be with your emotions or calm your nerves.
2. Set up weekly date nights. Take the initiative to infuse your relationship with romance and connection. Whether or not you feel like it, make it a practice, almost like a dharma. Dress up, set up a candle, play some calming, sensual music, and chat! Play a game and bring in your flirty, playful side. Escape the everyday normal by creating sacred, warm, connecting spaces between the two of you. Remember, you are each others’ romantic partners and besties (even though these times can bring out our adversarial sides!). As a woman, you have the unique ability to bring beauty, love and embodiment into your relationship.
3. Nourish your relationship everyday. You may be feeling disconnected or overwhelmed right now, but everyday you get a chance to begin anew in your relationship. Begin to appreciate your partner whenever you can, and let them know you see them. Sometimes the very things we want is someone to understand and witness us in our day to day. Do small acts of kindness for each other, like making each other breakfast or taking care of the kids while the other is resting. Try not to get into a tit-for-tat situation, where you’re adding up what you’re doing vs. the other (hint – both of you are going to feel like you’re the one struggling and need more understanding!).
Krishan and I also do a practice where we share our gratitudes over breakfast, and over dinner, we share our highs and lows. We have also been doing ten minute meditations, and even offer each other a mindful hug (taking three deep, slow breaths together, to synchronize our hearts) at random times in the day.
4. Do something sacred and pleasure-filled for yourself everyday. Whether it’s taking a walk outside or doing yoga, meditating, or being part of an online dance group, do something for you. Not intellectual or head-based – more heart-based and something sensual and fun. It could be something that brings about a child-like sense of joy and wonder! Connecting with your inner child and the feminine, pleasure-seeking side will support you in feeling a sense of joy that’s outside the hustle bustle of everyday life.
Remember, you are the creator of your own happiness. “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety or processions, we can never be free.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Investing in things that will give you a sense of satisfaction and joy, including practicing self love, following your dreams or building your spiritual practice is what’s going to ultimately nourish yourself and your relationship.
If you are feeling the calling to work one-on-one with a coach to transform your life for the better, this is a great time!
5. Work on creating your own inner harbor of safety and emotional resilience. Most of us have relied on the outer world to give us a sense of security – our finances, work or relationship. Yet these times are forcing us to see that nothing is permanent, and we have to seek that sense of joy and security from within. Tools such as self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, self-empathy, meditation, all help. Moreover, self-care, such as getting enough sleep, taking care of one’s health, eating healthy and exercise support in one’s mental health.
Create a support group of friends – whether it’s a meditation group, or a circle of women, a service- or faith-based community – a community that can cheer you on and hold you in your personal growth and remind you that you are not alone.
If you are going through a breakdown, disillusionment, anxiety, grief or despair, that’s valid and normal – yet you must be proactive and look into ways of getting support and tools for your mental and emotional health. This can come in the form of a therapist, life coach or some sort of personal development training. This can no longer be something to wait for – your marriage, family and personal sanity is on the line!
6. Communicate your issues with compassion and skill: I never find that bottling things up for a long period helps. In fact, when we stifle our emotions in our relationship, it shows up as contempt and criticism – which triggers our partner’s defensiveness and stonewalling patterns. These four behaviors – contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling are shown to lead to a breakdown (read: divorce) in a marriage, according to marriage counselor Dr. John Gottman.
Personally I have found that it takes a lot of awareness to see what fuels my seeds of insecurity and anger, which are also connected with my childhood wounds and coping mechanisms in a relationship. Also, I can fall into defensivenes, controlling or cold-shouldering if I’m not careful. These behaviors are hard to avoid, and yet they are important to recognize and bring about skillful means to handle.
Here are a few tips that are important to maintain safety and trust in a relationship, especially when theres a disagreement.
If you are in an argument, never walk out or go silent on your partner – that will erode the safety and trust in your relationship. Arguing and being angry is fine, but try to do it from a place of building awareness and compassion at the same time.And try had to not nag or criticize. Learn to treat your partner with respect and trust, and see the value that they do provide. Commit to being your partner’s backstop, always, and always team with them. Try to practice deep listening skills – where you simply listen to the other without filters and with compassion.
Also, recognize that you two will experience breakdowns – make it ok and hold space for each other through it.
If there’s something bubbling up, try to create a safe space with your partner to share how you’re feeling. Then, skillfully communicate in this way:
– Appreciate them for something, sincerely. In mindfulness practice, we call it watering the positive seeds.
– Let them know that there’s something bothering you. Share how you’ve been feeling, and what you’ve been needing. Be sure to make it personalized to your experience, without blaming or condemning them.
– Make a request from them. Try to make it specific and byte-sized. Remember, they can say no to you! So be open to that.
– Acknowledge and thank them for following through, if they do.
Now, these discussions, especially if it’s highly triggering for you, may be difficult to do. More so in these times, where you may be overwhelmed with responsibilities and feeling a huge strain in your relationship. In these cases I would recommend working with a therapist or marriage counsellor.
Remember, relationships need to evolve to handle this new dynamic, and it’s both partners’ responsibility to support in the evolution.
Basic things that have been put aside or relegated to others (or, viewed traditionally as a woman’s role) like one’s health, food, cleaning of the home, childcare and education, parental care, etc. are now needing to be handled by both partners – that too in times of stress and uncertainty. Career and creating financial stability and protection (viewed traditionally the man’s space) is also now being shared.
As individuals, and as couples, being asked to truly build our foundation at home on every level – mental, emotional, spiritual, physical.
Couples need to work together more than ever, learning new skills, while keeping the flame of their love and chemistry alive. Each couple will have to figure out how to wear their masculine and feminine hats, learn to communicate better and sacrifice something to make the situation work better.
The good news is that, by allowing the crisis to break you down and experience a breakthrough, you can reached new levels of compassion and understanding. You must allow yourself to get in touch with your vulnerability and triggers, identify your narratives and patterns, and also be able to hold space for the others’ (which is no easy task, when you’re triggered). This doesn’t mean you need to resolve everything – rather, you can hold a safe container for each other to process what’s arising.
Through doing all of this, you can create a new sense of respect and love for your beloved… even a softening. You will find yourself working better together, and even bringing back the fun and romance! By courageously showing up for yourselves and each other, you can heal cracks and start dreaming of a more fulfilling and aligned future. You can learn how to be with the sense of uncertainty and fear, and holding space for inevitable moments of breaking down, with courage and compassion.