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Paradise or Prison – Locked in with a loved one by Mary Cantrill, Couple Therapist

Posted by admin 8:03 am, 26 April 2020

During the age of coronavirus we find ourselves in a very different existence. Our relationship experiences are no longer as easily moderated with the breathing space we were once able to create through having time apart. The usual coping mechanisms such as hanging out with friends, hitting the gym, or going for a swim at the beach, have ceased with the new normal of staying indoors.

Most relationships are affected now more than ever by the isolative constraints of Covid-19. We miss our former lives and all that this entailed, whether it’s connecting with our support network, the former freedom we may have taken for granted, or the feeling of safety that is replaced with fear of the unknown. While many have transitioned to the online space to continue to work and connect, not everyone is technologically advanced, some types of employment have not been able to be transitioned. No matter how connected you are online, while it does help to stay connected, it doesn’t prevent claustrophobia setting in when practicing physical distancing.

What you will have noticed is that your relational dynamics have intensified significantly (for better or worse).

You are not alone: Each and every person is undergoing a transformation. We are all changing emotionally and relationally. In the search for meaning about the current situation we are all in, be mindful that the people you love are all undergoing their own emotional process in order to adjust to what is their new lived reality. Your partner may be moodier than usual, you might be feeling on edge, your children may be more lethargic or withdrawn. There may be more conflict as everyone is reacting to this rapidly changing landscape.

Focus on the here and now: Some people will be focusing more on the future. They may find their mind spiralling into a series of “what if’s”. Focusing on the present will help with accepting “what is” and managing those anxious feelings that are connected to not-knowing and the desire to want to control the future. Whether you are feeling afraid, anxious, angry, frustrated, or something else entirely, these feelings are grief reactions and they are all normal.

Stop and show gratitude: Hold yourself in check with your loved ones. When you feel like shouting or criticising them step back and take as many deep breaths as you need. Count from 1 to 10 and then count down from 10 to 1. Do whatever it takes to calm down to be able to practice gratitude. Make a point of saying please, thank you, and do little thoughtful things to make this time feel less lonely and overwhelming. Be kind as you would to your closest friends.

Pay attention: When your partner tries to get your attention this is a chance to connect. You have one of two choices: You can keep doing whatever it is you are doing, or you can look up and respond. Each time you respond you are turning toward your loved one which is building connection. When you fail to respond you are turning away. Be mindful of your partner’s attempts for your attention and nurture these moments.

See things in the most benign possible way: Remind yourself these circumstances are stressful for everyone. Don’t let criticism and blame destroy your relationship. Remind yourself that you and your loved ones are all doing the best you can and you can ALL do better.

Thinking about online couple therapy? A few things to consider:

I am offering online private couple therapy sessions to help you get the support you need. These sessions focus on strengthening communication, managing difficult emotions and helping couples pull together to draw on the strengths of their relationship.

Online couple therapy means you get to relax in the comfort of your own home. Couples enjoy the perks of a being freed up from the stress of traffic and parking. In our current climate it is also a means to getting access to therapy when there may be no other way. To keep this space protected, please treat teletherapy exactly as face to face therapy.

I recommend couple therapy every other week and will prescribe interventions that will help you learn about patterns of interaction that are helpful or hurtful and how to break them by developing skills to thrive. As a couple therapist, my interventions are brief with the goal of my job becoming obsolete. Most happy couples graduate from therapy after around 20-ish sessions but therapy is not a one size fits all approach. During the first session, I will work with you about your expectations and set goals that will help you shake up your current cycle to get the relationship and love that you deserve.

The first online couple session is 75 minutes to allow you and your partner the opportunity to feel comfortable with the online space and technology. For all bookings please contact MindRight on (02) 8065 0326 or email info@mindright.com.au

Author: Mary Cantrill, Couple and Family Therapist