Securing Your Relationship During a Pandemic

- 3 mins

Securing Your Relationship During a Pandemic

In PACT Couple therapy we look at relationships through the lens of safety and security. The phrase “you are in the fox hole together” is heard often. This military metaphor describes soldiers protecting one another from the battle waging outside of the foxhole. For many couples seeking therapy, the battle has taken place within the foxhole.

These are clearly unprecedented times. Day by day, hour by hour, collectively, we are experiencing a change in our way of living. And in addition to drastic change we have the added element of uncertainty. The military uses the acronym VUCA to describe these times. Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. For some couples, elements of VUCA may be existing in your relationship as you navigate this new world together.
It’s a good time to come together with sensitivity and flexibility. Relationships are complex in the best of times and perhaps more so now. For instance, if both partners are anxious, it may be difficult to soothe one another. One practical tip is to take turns. Dr. Harville Hendrix’s conscious dialogue can be a wonderful tool in these moments. Mirroring your partner’s narrative, reflecting it back and then empathizing with them is the key!

Keep in mind that anxiety is rooted in memory and what is happening in real time is being fueled by memory systems of other times and moments in your life when you felt uncertain, worried or untethered. Being sensitive to your partner’s past experiences with ambiguity and uncertainty makes a difference. Additionally, you and your partner may not have had support in these earlier moments in life. The opportunity exists now to offer support to one another in a fair, sensitive and mutual way.

With more time potentially together at home, consider creating a place where you feel most comfortable and at ease. Being together in a comfortable space with the intention of having “low pressure” conversations is recommended now. Set aside time for conversation that isn’t about the COVID-19 pandemic. There may be more time to enjoy movies and TV together. Streaming comedy shorts, or touring a museum virtually may offer respite.

If you do find that you become irritable and behave in insensitive ways, repair it quickly. This is not the time for “threat in the foxhole”. More importantly, there is simply too much unrest in the world and it’s not the time for war in your foxhole. And if your partner takes the step to repair an error with you, “resolve to absolve”. Correct your errors and get back to being caring and considerate of one another. I have a memory of the aftermath of 911. My husband Russ was working with the National Guard that night assisting emergency vehicles on their way to Ground Zero. When we ultimately reunited, I recall that I chose that moment to become irritated with him for one reason or another. In PACT therapy we learn that reunions can be challenging in general and this was a significant reunion. A “VUCA” moment for us and my timing was poor. I regret that moment to this day but I’m grateful to have learned through PACT that errors need to be corrected with humility and haste. And, we’ve also learned it is extremely beneficial to plan for your reunions.
Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity exists around us. Let’s work together to create safety and security in our relationships. It’s our best defense.

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