One of the under-discussed impacts of isolation is on our relationships. For those already destined for a separation, this situation is predictably a bit of a nightmare. For many others the intimacy of isolation can quickly become a pressure-cooker of intensity ready to pop.
Relationships are often held together by the invisible strands of our conscious and unconscious coping-mechanisms and stress management techniques. We each have our own habitual patterns and so does every relationship. These patterns keep everything familiar, manageable, neat and tidy; and include when and how we spend time together. So, when we’re stuck within the same 4 walls 24/7 underlying problems can suddenly surface and make it very hard for us to cope.
I have a client whose primary source of rage right now is that whilst both her and her husband are now working from home, she appears to have solely taken on the task of home-schooling the kids. Meanwhile he gets on with his (very self-important) job. This behavior is completely habitual, as is the fact that she hasn’t mentioned any of her feelings to him yet. She has, quite understandably, taken a moral high ground and they continue to exist in their magnificently co organized habitual pattern. This benefits no-one.
So, how can we work with our own patterns usefully?
Identify our feelings
This isn’t easy as emotions are usually layered. Our tendency is to identify with the one that feels most familiar to us. Underneath the anger may be feelings of helplessness, lack of self-worth, rejection or loneliness but we need to allow ourselves the time to connect more deeply to ourselves; including any resistance to doing this or any excuses for not prioritizing ourselves.
It’s useful for partners to agree to sit down routinely and listen to each other, especially when we are all under pressure. We don’t need to end up on the same square, we just need to listen to how each other are and how the other person is coping.
This period of isolation could be a great opportunity for individual and collective self-awareness and therefore positive change and transformation of our relationships. In fact, it is very likely that many relationships will either change for the better, or else come to an end. It’s for us to decide if we are willing to do the soul-searching that’s necessary.
Now based in Brighton, Russel has held a Body Psychotherapy practice since 1996, having completed a five-year training at The Chiron Centre. He is accredited with UKCP and CABP. Body Psychotherapy can be effective for working with any emotional, psychological or relational issues and is particularly useful for addressing trauma. Find out more about Russell’s work here.