During the past year we’ve all spent a lot of time reflecting on the impact of COVID and how it can isolate people, how people can feel cut off from human connection and can crave physical closeness. Whilst these are hugely important areas and areas that can be completely devastating for many people. I have noticed through my work, that clients are bringing the opposite concern to their sessions - that they are feeling overwhelmed and claustrophobic. This has led to many interesting conversations around how COVID is not just impacting individuals but also how it's impacting people's relationships with their partners.
For the majority of us our lifestyles have changed significantly over the last year - we actually miss the dreaded commute or just wandering around the supermarket. These things that have been taken away from many of us have resulted in us all becoming confined to our own little worlds with our own families whatever the size. Someone once described the feeling to me as a, ‘prison’ whilst at the same time ensuring I knew that they still valued their family - so many conflicting emotions to manage. These changes can and do impact close relationships, let's face it when the feeling of groundhog day sets in or we’re homeschooling three kids every day whilst trying to work from home and boredom prevails; the last thing many of us want to do is make an effort to keep the spark in our relationships.
Believe it or not there is a name for it - relational boredom.
And it can affect different couples in different ways. Some people look forward to the stage of their relationship where they can sit in front of the tele in their pj’s waiting for the weekly grocery delivery to arrive whilst others desperately cling onto the passion and excitement of a new relationship for as long as they can, with a continuum in between. How COVID has impacted this process is that it created uncertainty, so in times of uncertainty what do we all look for?
Yep you’ve got it - certainty or stability.
This means that although we may well be experiencing relational boredom the need for stability and safety is stronger than our need to inject a little excitement in any way we can. Not good for our ever increasing levels of boredom! On top of that the ‘opportunity’ to simply do something different is also limited at the moment, we can’t simply go out to a new restaurant or go to the cinema to watch the next big release. Even if we decide to go for a romantic stroll everyone else has decided to do the same and we end up engaging in the 2mtr social distance dance with strangers. Sometimes it all just seems like too much effort doesn’t it?
The pressure of the pandemic can test even the strongest relationships - who'd have thought that spending so much time together can cause emotional distance? It's ironic really. It's also important to say that it is completely normal to have a certain amount of negative emotion towards your partner (they will more than likely be feeling exactly the same as you). Spending all your time together, worrying about finances, feeling you have no personal space, managing health issues, managing school issues, trying to pull your weight at work, supporting older family members and having that feeling of lacking control of what's going on all around you can all increase your emotional state - its no wonder we are all on edge! And when we are on edge we can push that negative energy onto the ones closest to us by being overly critical or irritable. So recognise this. Recognise how much you are dealing with and how long you've been dealing with it. Recognise it, acknowledge it and be open about it. You are absolutely not alone. Sharing how you feel will offer others the opportunity to share how they are really feeling and then you will have just opened up a supportive connection.
If you feel you’d like to work on your relational boredom then try adding something that makes each of you smile into your day, this could be anything like a private joke, a funny message delivered with a cup of tea, a different meal in the evening, a recording on your phone, you could even try doing a tik tok together!. They don’t have to be big gestures, just ‘different’ moments in a normally repetitive day.
So, try not to judge yourself too harshly, try not to dwell on negative feelings, be compassionate towards yourself and your partner and be mindful of how you are feeling inside because these are not permanent emotions they soon, just like the pandemic, will ease.