01 Apr Dating and Relationship Advice
Dear Rabbi and Shira,
I’m not sure what to do. It’s been two weeks since I’ve been locked up in a very cramped apartment with my husband of only three months. We are both home all day as he was in the midst of searching for a job while I lost mine due to Covid 19. Now that we are both home 24/7, we are both fighting more than usual with each other. We are constantly worried about money, our future and are unable to connect with each other the way we use to. We spend most of each day snapping at each other, not speaking at all or binging Netflix on separate screens. I’m scared of my new reality.
What should I do?
-Locked with my love?
Hi, thanks for reaching out. Right now, there is so much uncertainty in the air. It’s a hard time for everyone, let alone a newly married couple that was only getting use to the habits and the up-close personality of the person they married. Before we begin, it is important to remember that this is not a normal situation. What is going on between the two of you, does not foreshadow how the rest of your relationship will play out. These are truly unusual and trying circumstances. Our colleague Talli Y Rosenbaum MSC, a therapist in Israel, noted three possible stressors that the current corona situation can be putting on your relationship. 1) Switching into survival mode 2) changing roles 3) both of you not knowing or expressing your needs. Survival Mode: What will happen to us in regarding our health? Our finances? Our families? Every time we read or watch the news, we hear more bad news. Where will the next tragedy strike? These fears and anxieties put us into survival mode. When we enter survival mode, our minds and bodies sense coming danger and become hypervigilant, looking for the incoming danger. When we are in this mode of thought, we no longer think in our calm, rational clear mind. Remaining on edge makes us irritable, and short tempered. Our hierarchy of needs changes as well, focusing less on the more sophisticated needs, and concerning ourselves with more basic needs. Changing Roles: When a moment of crisis hits, it is possible that roles will change as well. Sometimes one partner is “the rock,” unflappable and steadfast, helping to emotionally anchor the couple. But sometimes “the rock” becomes more needy, and the partner who often is supported will need to support. You may feel the reactions and personality of your partner might shifted or out of character, and you might feel this awaken different parts of yourself and new responses as well. Know your needs: Furthermore, we need to be in touch with ourselves and our needs. If we can’t listen to what we need, our partners definitely cannot read our minds. Do you need more time having conversations each day? More support with chores? Do you need to talk more about your fears? Perhaps you need to take your mind off of the situation and distract yourself with another activity? Do you need more closeness or a little more distance? What are things that bring you comfort and solace? Discuss with your partner how you normally cope with stress and ask how you can alleviate his? Perhaps creating a schedule each day of activities will help. Create a schedule together either before you go to sleep at night or early in the morning. While wearing sweatpants every day could be more comfortable, getting dressed each morning, shoes and all can help you start your day strong and organized. Davening at a specific time, eating breakfast lunch and dinner at the same time each day can bring you additional structure as well. It’s so important than when you structure your day together, to please make sure to incorporate happiness into it. What activities can the two of you do together to bring you happiness? Maybe you guys can plan a date night in the house? A homemade meal? Candle light dinner? Perhaps create a min scavenger hunt in your home with clues to it. Ex. Your spouse’s favorite snack, your favorite wedding gift? Start a new hobby together such as puzzles, yoga, painting, board games. You can ask each other open ended questions. For example, if you could choose anyone to be your dinner guest, who would it be? What would constitute a perfect day to you? (for more examples see the Gottman’s love maps exercises which you can find online) Engaging in unique activities together will ensure you will be laughing more with each other and snapping less at each other. It’s also okay and healthy to schedule alone time each day as well, as have different needs, hobbies and interests. We hope this new reality of closeness will unlock the doors to future happiness and love.