Keeping Your Relationships Happy and Healthy During Isolation
Managing Expectations During Isolation
The realities of social isolation are sure to both challenge and change our relationships, regardless of how happy and healthy they were before the COVID-19 crisis. Luckily, there are things we can all do to make sure these changes are for the better. You may already be experiencing difficulties in your relationships at home. You’re stuck with the same people in the same limited space. You can’t ‘escape’ by going out and neither can they. It’s important to remember from the start that this is a marathon and not a sprint. No one has all the answers and there’s no handbook. We can think of our family members as a newly formed group. Group development theory says a newly formed group will go through a ‘honeymoon’ phase then a period of conflict before things settle into a new normal. My own kids say isolation so far just feels like they’re on school holidays. I suspect that may change over the coming weeks… Our expectations for our relationships are what we think they should look like and feel like. So much has changed since self-isolation and our expectations need to change too. It’s imperative we have realistic expectations about our relationships. With our kids, partners and housemates. Everyone is stressed and unsure and we need to recognise that. For example, if you used to enjoy a quiet Saturday morning to yourself while the kids were out at sport with your partner, you’ll need to adjust this expectation. If you used to appreciate your partner’s romantic gestures, you’ll now need to remember they’re in survival mode and may not be feeling romantic. Especially if they’ve lost their job and are worried about their health. If your kids are usually motivated but are now finding it hard to get going, lower your expectations here as well.
Introverts and extroverts
Recognise too that people are going to react and respond differently to us now. Let that be OK. Introverts recharge by being by themselves. The introverts in your home are likely to enjoy some aspects of isolation but it will be hard for them when they can’t get away. During isolation the introverts need time and space to be alone. They’re not rejecting the others, just taking care of themselves. Extroverts get their energy from being with others so can feel cut off because they can’t go out and interact as normal. During isolation they need to keep connecting virtually and not expect to get all the interaction they want from their partner (especially if he or she’s an introvert!). Respecting the differences between introverts and extroverts will help you maintain happy relationships with the people around you.
Your next step…
With this is mind, think about the expectations you have for the people you’re in isolation with. What’s changed in your own weekly routine that you now have to adapt to? Who are the introverts and who are the extroverts? Talk about this together and work out what you each need for each other. This would amount to taking an important step to maintaining happy and healthy relationships during isolation.
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