In life, we all have our own preferences as to what feels safe and comfortable. We set boundaries to protect ourselves and to mitigate feelings of discomfort or uncertainty. With Covid-19, one challenge some couples are facing is coming to terms with different new normals. One person is ready to resume life as it was before, while another remains cautious and prefers to continue social-distancing. A discord like this can drive a wedge between a couple, leaving them feeling disconnected as they either lead contrasting lifestyles in frustration or experience resentment living a lifestyle that is not of their choosing.
After having this discussion with some of my couples, it has become clear that not unlike any other areas of a marriage or relationship, this too will require some compromise and flexibility. Here is a step by step approach to reaching a new normal together:
Behind your partner’s desire to socialize or social-distance, there are needs and fears. Answer questions like, “how is this decision a product of your beliefs and values?” and “is there a story behind this decision for you?”. The goal here is to empathize with and have compassion for your partner’s needs.
• Inflexibility versus Flexibility
Once you fully understand your partner’s experience, you then each make a short list of all the things you are inflexible about and a longer list of all the things you are flexible about. Remember to keep your partner’s desires in mind when writing out your flexible list. Some factors to consider for the flexible list are time, places, people, and frequency.
Once you have each completed your lists, have a discussion. Be curious about one another’s inflexible list and if you need clarification, go back to step one and have an open discussion again. Get creative with your flexible list. Agree on certain places and activities that feel safe for you both.
Coming up with a new normal together is challenging because we’ve never experienced something like this before. Be patient with and supportive of one another as you navigate this unfamiliar obstacle together. As always, if you feel you are gridlocked on this particular issue or if you feel you need a professional to help facilitate the conversation, reach out to a therapist for additional support.
Y.K., MA, LMFT, CST-Candidate
Disclaimer: this is not meant to act as or replace therapy in any way.
To schedule a therapy session, please call Houston Relationship Therapy at 1-800-913-9613.