The reality of living with loved-ones in lockdown is getting clearer to us all now. What remains to be seen is how long we’ll be having to co-exist in such close confines.
“Normal life”, different for each of us in small ways, did typically, share one common element. Namely, that during the day, as families, couples and housemates we separated for the day and went about our business individually before reuniting at the end of the day. These comings and goings, as predictable as the tide, rolled in and out each day creating guaranteed spaces of togetherness and apartness. Not any more.
It’s been a week in the UK. Here in France it’s been a little over two. In Italy it’s been over three. As the Italian journalist Francesca Milandri wrote in her extremely touching article in The Guardian last Friday …
“First of all, you’ll eat. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do. (Then) you’ll find dozens of social networking groups with tutorials on how to spend your free time in fruitful ways. You will join them all, then ignore them completely after a few days.”
More chillingly she went on to say …
“Many of you will fall asleep vowing that the very first thing you’ll do as soon as lockdown is over is file for divorce.”
Perhaps that seems a little strong? Perhaps not. But her article was entitled “A Letter to the UK from Italy: This is what we know about your future” and the Italians have been confined to their homes that much longer so maybe they know something we don’t yet know.
My selected quote from her piece doesn’t do it justice (read the full article here)
It simply highlighted, if bluntly, a wondering I have been having. Not just about my couples’ work clients and how they’ll manage, but also, more personally. So much of my marriage has been punctuated with the comings and goings of travelling for work – often for a week at a time.
In my case, I can say that this rhythm of arrivals and departures has been both a good and bad thing. It’s created space in which missing and valuing each other can happen and also, by and large meant that we are both pleased to see each other when we do and in pretty good connection when apart.
It’s also brought its challenges. As attendants of our Making Relationships Work and Finding Love workshops will know, how we both respond in the critical few moments following my return home from a stint away, can determine either a loving reconnection or a day or two’s resent, hurt and shutdown - if we don’t take the time to witness each other with appropriate respect and kindness.
Happily I can still say that after two weeks of lockdown all goes fairly well here at least, but Emma and I both are aware, I’m sure, of a dawning sense of concern about the future given the uncertain time frame. What has begun as something of a blessing – sustained time together – might feel more like a curse if we don’t make time for clear communication.
When I reflect on the many couples I have worked with, there are some I can’t help feeling will thrive on being stuck together. Even the ones who are in difficulty may find themselves unavoidably facing one another without opportunity to escape, distract and soothe elsewhere. There might be something to be said for that.
Others, particularly those who’ve merged or entangled their lives too closely for healthy individuation to thrive, may find the long periods of closeness in a potentially confined space overwhelming.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
With this in mind, I have adapted my one to one work with couples to an online format.
I have developed three, 1-day modules (5.5 hrs + breaks). Each of these takes the couple through three steps needed to restore/create intimacy, trust and empathy – vital ingredients in sustaining respect, kindness and love.
These three steps are …
Letting go of past grievances.
Visioning a positive future and the tools to sustain it.
This, I have come to see is equally essential/valuable whether the couple are committed to staying together, when one or both parties are ambivalent about their future status or, (maybe especially) when they are thinking seriously about separation.
I hope you find the idea of using this strange time fruitfully and that as a couple you might feel drawn to come and work with me. You can call me for a chat (+44 7976 843715) or visit my website to find out more.
Warmly and with thanks,