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Anna Williamson is a life coach, counsellor, author and TV and radio broadcaster known for presenting E4’s Celebs Go Dating. Here she gives advice on how to save relationships during the coronavirus lockdown.
Relationships need consistent effort and focus at the best of times.
That’s not to say we have to regard being with ‘a significant other’ as a chore - it should, hopefully, be quite the opposite - but let’s be honest, sharing your life with someone can be pretty challenging.
Throw in a global pandemic and suddenly those challenges are catapulted into uncharted territory.
All of us are feeling the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Lockdown is not only a national order - it’s pretty much a global one.
So it’s no wonder that lots of relationships are feeling the strain. Marriages and civil partnerships are being tested as we’re forced to spend more time together.
There are couples with children who are discovering the challenges pandemic parenting is bringing.
And some lovers are in the dating phase, do not live together and are feeling the loss of not being able to physically connect.
Suffice to say, relationships with ‘other halves’ are being tested more than we perhaps ever thought possible.
As one of the E4’s Celebs Go Dating agents, working with people and relationships is part of what I do.
From dating to couples’ therapy to working through break-ups - I’ve seen it all. And never have I seen a call for help more than I have now.
Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed
The first thing to remember is that there is no shame or embarrassment in needing some help at this time. Reach out and admit you need some guidance with your relationship to work out how to keep it healthy.
We are, after all, in unprecedented times. With that comes a huge level of vulnerability and that’s OK.
We aren’t supposed to be totally fine and we shouldn’t feel pressured into feeling ‘we’ve got this’.
As the weeks roll on, we will no doubt find our relationships under more strain than we’d ideally like.
Honesty, compromise and respect
Being honest and taking each day as it comes is key. With a world that has many uncertainties at present, it’s important to focus on what you do know, what you can control, and what you will be actioning in order to keep your relationship happy, healthy and together.
Compromise and respect is essential, particularly if you live with your partner.
This rule is even more crucial if you’re having to juggle working from home and kids under your feet, as my husband and I are. A lively three-year-old and a three-month-old baby are certainly testing all our skills and patience.
Arguing is normal
Like many couples, we’ve bickered over the last couple of weeks.
We’ve tried to ‘claim’ space and time over the other to complete our work commitments – and to protect our sanity from the frequent ‘Mummy!/Daddy!’ interruptions from our toddler mid-conference calls.
I may be a therapist, but I’m also human and these new times we’re in – albeit temporary – are testing to us all. But, we will get through it.
Identify your needs
It’s about putting the spotlight on your relationship and communicating with your other half what you ‘want’ and what you ‘need’– two very different yet important factors to each consider.
Do you want half an hour per day to exercise alone to boost your mental and physical wellbeing, or do you need it?
Do you want some time for the two of you to connect in whatever way you’re able to – dinner together or a Facetime chat if you’re separated by isolation – or do you need it to feel close and loved?
Work out what both of your wants and needs are, compromise where possible, and draw up a list that serves you both.
My husband and I are discovering that we are actually stronger as a unit than even perhaps we thought before this lockdown.
The couple of bickers – and one stinker of a row – have been dealt with, calmly talked over, and we have re-prioritised ourselves and our marriage.
Stress and pressure is totally natural at this time. Without the benefit of being able to leave the house for space and ‘cooling off’, many couples are being tested like never before.
However, there is huge strength and pride to be discovered in being able to work through any niggles as they come.
Once this pandemic has abated, we’ll be able to reflect back on this time together and say ‘we did it – together’.
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