How To Keep Romance Alive During A Crisis

Thank you Voice Out for the live interview.

You can download the whole ebook here: eBook Eps 5 – How to keep romance alive during a crisis

How To Keep Romance Alive During A Crisis

  1. How would the extended quarantine affect the dynamic of couples’ relationships?

The pandemic has caused a lot of stress for many people. We were so used to spending a great deal of our time outside and would only spend time with our spouses at night after working hours. When we have been quarantined at home for too long, we may start to feel like a pressure cooker. Our unaddressed feelings and irritations may begin to escalate and become increasingly intense. Aside from the stress of being quarantined for an extended time, couples may also be stressed about their children’s education, household finances, job layoffs, pay cuts, disruption in businesses and concerns about contracting the virus. Therefore, individuals whom are unable to cope with their emotions will be easily stressed and irritable.

Even as a therapist myself, I did feel upset during the MCO as I had to cancel appointments with my clients. As the weeks went by, I became easily irritable and depressed. However, I had the skills to manage my emotions and thoughts because I was trained in this and therefore, was able reduce my negative feelings quickly. A lot of couples would experience these stresses now to a greater deal because they lack the skill and awareness to deal with their negative emotions. Therefore, these unaddressed emotions may start to pile up and place more stress on relationships during the CMCO.

 

  1. Are there consequences of couples living together in quarantine for a long time?

When couples take responsibility of their own feelings instead of depending on their partners to resolve their stress, they tend to do better. Couples who express themselves, communicate clearly, and work as a team also tend to do better. Communicate to them when you feel stressed or when you need help. Talk about your feelings. It will help to relieve some stress.

Besides, it is not just about communicating but also the way you communicate. When couples blame one another or make personal attacks such as “Why are you always not helping me?”, it does not help. When you communicate in this manner, it sounds like a criticism. Due to the emphasis on the word “always”, it implies that your partner never helps out. Little things like this can create a lot of tension and when tensions are already high, a little miscommunication at home is all the spark needed to fuel a conflict. Do not assume help from your partner. Communicate clearly and request help from them. Never demand help from them. Express your feelings and needs clearly. Tell them “I am feeling stressed, can you help me out?”. If they are unable to do so, work out another way to each other.

 

  1. How important is sex in a relationship during the CMCO?

Firstly, sex is an opportunity for couples to bond with one another. The affection helps us to feel closer and intimate with one another. Also, sex is pleasurable and fun. Although, if one of the partners is stressed out already or feeling overwhelmed, they should communicate these feelings of stress with each other first. They should discuss about how to manage their time of sexual intimacy as the other partner has to be consensual in engaging in sex at that time. It always comes back to their feelings and emotions during the time. When stress level is managed well through communication, intimacy becomes a natural thing. “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY

 

  1. How can couples in long-distance relationships cope with the uncertainty of living apart for an extended time?

Firstly, couples need to give each other more support and care during this period. Just simple calls of asking “How are you doing?” or “How’s your day?” is good for the relationship. There is always a feeling of warmth when you receive a phone call from your loved ones.  Couples could also still do things together while apart. Watch a movie or play an online game together. After the game or movie, do not just hang up the call. Talk to each other about the movie and laugh about it together. Sometimes, hearing your partner’s laugh can help with feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

Couples should also try to set time apart for each other through regular phone calls. When you spend time with each other, try not to always discuss about stressful topics. Tell your partner that you miss them. It’s always nice to hear when someone misses you. You can also have phone sex with your partner. Intimacy is not just physical, it is emotional. It is caring for each other, getting to know one another and understanding your partner.

 

  1. What strategies can couples take to keep a healthy relationship during the CMCO?

Self-care is important. Take care of yourself and manage your stress level. If you have been stressed out with work, communicate with your partner that you need some time to yourself to de-stress. For example, you can say “I’m feeling stressed from work, can you help me to take care of the kids for an hour?”. You have to be responsible for your own emotions instead of waiting for your partner to make you happy. Communicate about sharing responsibilities before it turns into an argument.

Also, embrace the change. Control what is within your control and try not to worry about how long this situation is going to last because these things are beyond your control. Be aware of your limitation. Take a breather and adjust your life accordingly to the change. Often times, we feel stressed about things we cannot control because we wished for things to go back to what it was.

Take this analogy of a flood for example – you cannot control an incoming flood, but you can have a crisis management planned. You can move to a higher place, evacuate earlier, put your documents in waterproof package, put sandbags around your place, etc. Therefore, when the flood arrives, the crisis becomes a little more manageable. It is better to work around the situation instead of wishing for ‘the flood’ to not come. Do what you can do within your control.

You can also exercise and practice mindfulness meditation. You do not have to go for a course. There are lots of apps and YouTube videos on mindfulness meditation. If you are unable to cope with the stress, seek help from professionals. There are various NGOs and helplines which offer free counselling. Call one to learn some coping skills to lower your stress levels.

“Remember, you alone get to choose what matters & what doesn’t. The meaning of everything in your life has precisely the meaning you give it.” MARCANDANGEL

 

  1. How can long-married couples better communicate with one another if they have been stuck in ineffective communication?

If you know that the communication is breaking down but keep expecting change from your partner, it is not going to work. If you yourself do not do anything different and expect change, it will never work. Insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different outcome. If every conversation has turned into an argument with your partner, change the way you talk to them. Perhaps you could change your tone or change the manner of your request. For example, take washing the dishes; if you request for your partner by saying “Wash the plates” and it always does not work, you could change it to, “I’m stressed out, can you help me to wash the plates?”.

If it still doesn’t work, keep trying another way. Only change what you can change. When this still does not work but you do not want to have an argument, then get yourself rested and just do the chores later. I understand that this may sound unfair. Why should you be the only one to control your feelings or change your way of communicating? However, you must first evaluate the situation. Which one is of higher priority now? Would you rather prevent the argument or continue your way where the situation may possibly worsen? Changing another person is beyond our control. Only control what is within your control.

 

  1. What can you do if your partner gives you the ‘silent treatment’?

Firstly, you should respect your partner’s need for space and try to communicate at a later time. Reflect upon reasons they might be giving you the silent treatment. Look back and try to figure out the issue. After giving some time, engage with your partner again and ask them if they are willing to communicate. If they are still unwilling, respect that and try again at a later time until they are willing to talk.  If you think that you were the reason for your partner’s silent treatment, apologise to them.

If this does not work and the silent treatment persists, you could suggest that you both seek help from a counselor. You cannot be together without any communication. In the session, you can tell your partner that you would like to understand what is troubling him or her. Tell them that you want to learn how to support them and make the relationship better.

 

  1. How can people cope with abuse from their partner?

When it comes to emotional and verbal abuse from your partner, it often can be attributed to miscommunication. Learn to help your partner calm down and learn what frustrates your partner. Clear the misunderstanding. A lot of time we think that our partner’s anger is selfish and unjustified. However, sometimes these reasoning may not be true. Our partners may feel angry because they feel stressed, they do not feel cared for, or they might feel alone. Therefore, each person needs to communicate their needs and emotions clearly to one another. Acknowledge their feelings of frustration and help them to calm down. Once he or she is calm, ask your partner what you can do to help. You need to create a safe space where both of you can communicate with each other calmly and clearly.  

If physical abuse happens and it threatens your safety, get help immediately. Your safety is of upmost importance. Call for help from NGOs such as the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) or the police. Do not wait. When it comes to abuse, we cannot fight fire with fire. Do not react, respond to them calmly. When someone is shouting at you, it might be hard but you must first calm down. In doing so, your partner’s anger might not escalate too much.

Reacting does not put you in control of the situation. This applies to any situation. Calm yourself down first before speaking. For example, in the show “The Dog Whisperer”, Cesar Millan always teaches dog owners to first be calm instead of training the (seemingly out-of-control) dogs. It is about the energy. When your energy is calm, you will feel more in control. When you are reacting, it is more automatic. Responding differs from reacting as it comes from a state of calmness and control. It is logical and rational. You can go to your room, lock the door, and calm yourself down before approaching your partner again. You should try not to use your emotion to react but rather, remain logical when things get out of hand.

Also, try not to argue with your partner in front of your children. If this was unavoidable, you have to let your kids know that the argument was not about them. A lot of time kids feel that arguments happen because of them. As parents, you must stress to them that the argument was not their fault. Apologize and explain to them that mum and dad are experiencing some stress. If you observe that your children’s behaviour have changed or you noticed observable elevated feelings of anxiety or stress, seek professional help for your children. Professionals such as child therapists and play therapists are well equipped and trained to help your children deal with these feelings.

Always listen to your intuition on what keeps your safe. If things get out of hand, you need to take care of your personal safety first.

 

  1. How can we help victims of abuse who still love and forgive their abusers?

Encourage victims to talk to a professional counselor. It is a vicious cycle. I had a client who knew it was an unhealthy and abusive environment but it was incredibly difficult for her to leave the relationship. However, after each counseling session, she got a little stronger and finally after a year and a half, she was able to leave the relationship. Therefore, the constant support and encouragement from others is vital.  It is not a one-time thing.

As a friend, you cannot just talk to them once and expect him or her to immediately walk out of the abusive relationship because many victims believe that their partner still loves them and therefore, would provide excuses for their behaviour. Hence, we need to continually empower the victim through constant encouragement and slowly pull them out of the relationships. Besides, victims may have other reasons for staying such as the financial dependency on their partner. Therefore, what you need to do as friends is to give them the strength to choose to leave the relationship for themselves. Do not get upset with them but rather, continue to support them. It will get frustrating at times, but continue to offer them support.  Just be there and support them through these difficult times. They need to know that there are others they can count on. However, if you feel that their safety is threatened, you may need to force them to go the authorities. When it is a matter of life-and-death, you can no longer allow your (abused) friend to make the decision.

I have written another ebook is free for download. “I Love You, I Hate You. What is Wrong With Us?

 

© Faith Foo, www.faithfoocounseling.com  [2020]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Faith Foo and www.faithfoocounseling.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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