Rose Kent is a wonderful friend and therapist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. During ‘lockdown’ in 2020 she wrote an ‘A – Z’ of advice for couples, about how they might best maintain and repair their relationship during stressful times. I have reproduced it below with her permission.
These ‘A B C’ notes on maintaining and repairing relationships during “lockdown” are based on personal and professional experience. They’re also relevant for when our relationships with partners are under any kind of strain.
Feeling irritable, can’t concentrate? Wondering why you can’t cope? Switching between blaming yourself and blaming your partner? You’re not the only one: this is really, really normal in close relationships during anxious times. And being ‘isolated together’ is a major additional stress.
You may just use the notes as occasional ‘tips and hints’ . Most of us have at least some relationship struggles, often hidden from view… there are NO perfect relationships!
Alternatively, start with A, B, C as if you were starting a new “Exercise Programme” (- with the eventual goal a more healthy relationship) and commit yourself to working on a different letter of the alphabet every 2 to 3 days, then check your progress by re-starting from A!
- Plan, monitor and practice- there are no ‘instant rewards’!
- Accept it feels forced and artificial at first
- Learn from your ‘lapses’ and try again
Let’s start with A, B, C….
A. Appreciate your partner. Hopefully, you always say ‘thank you’ as normal courtesy to your partner. Now – look out for anything that s/he regularly does that you’re grateful for, and tell her/him (“I’m pleased you still…” ; “I appreciate that you often …”). Don’t make a big performance out of it – just a statement .
B. Bite your tongue! Try to reduce (20% less every day?) the number of times you disagree with or contradict your partner . Notice the times you start to reply with “Yes, but…” and – pause- just bite your tongue! Expressing a contradictory opinion is best kept for the times that it really matters – important discussions and decisions- and then of course works best if first of all you’ve properly listened to and understood what your partner has said (- see also below…)
C. Co-operate & Communicate Increase the number of small things you work on/plan together: “What time shall we have a tea break together?” “What about discussing a cleaning rota for the kitchen – is that a good idea ?” (… and then you can also practice avoiding “yes, but…” responses!)