Lockdown has shown us that the value of freedom is often overlooked as a cornerstone of healthy relationships

Pretty much everyone we know has had the rare experience of spending more unbroken time in Lockdown with their partner than they have in their entire relationship. What did this experience give us as takeaways that can help us grow our relationships going forward?

Lesson One:  The Freedom to be You is a Must-have

To get along with another person we need to have an inner harmony and balance within ourselves. We learned that this meant giving each other time and space and privacy to explore, try new things, express oneself creatively, physically, emotionally and spiritually and to be able to process where we found ourselves. Even though we could not get outside physically, we had to be able to explore in other ways. On some days this might have meant cleaning, the next day cooking, the next day meditating or bringing out our inner creative…without needing to justify, edit or apologise.

For this value to be cultivated, we must be mindful not to control our partner’s choices and to accept them as individuals with their own rhythms, needs and chemistry. 

Lesson Two:  Keep at being Creative and Playful

But for the last 60 or so days, when last did you turn your dining room table into a table tennis table, connect with old friends on Zoom, or sit as a family completing a 1000 piece puzzle, or make Tik-toks with your partner, or bake bread together or dance to songs from the 80’s at 11am in the morning?  I bet you did some pretty unusual things to keep yourself entertained in Lockdown and probably found the inner child in you was surprisingly easy to please. 

For relationships to work, they need to be pleasurable. Period. And that doesn’t mean you have to go to Mauritius or out for an expensive meal, it means getting back your silly, adventurous, open-heartedness and not taking life too seriously (even when there’s a pandemic out there).

Lesson Three:  Honour Rituals that Connect You

Did you watch the sun come up or the day’s end together, or perhaps lie in an hour longer in the mornings? Did you play Scrabble each day, sing songs from your balcony,  try your hand at cooking, bang pots at 7pm or stargaze before bed? What were the rituals you cherished because they grounded you and  had you checking in with each other, connecting and feeling soothed because you knew that you could depend on these moments to be there, amidst all the unknowns….  

We need these checkpoints  and seemingly arbitrary ports to anchor in next to each other. Light moments that allow us to pause and ponder where we are at and where the other person is at or simply to appreciate the companionship, togetherness  and flow of a relationship.

Lesson Four:  Spring-clean, Forgive and Rekindle   

If you went into Lockdown with your partner with unresolved issues between you, I’ll bet you’ve been forced to deal with them by now. Spring-cleaning is not only necessary to clear the muck that gathers in the space we share together, but regular relationship spring-cleaning is vital for dealing with unresolved conflicts, disappointments and hurts – as well as updating expired views we have of each other. 

Immediacy is the art of dealing with matters timeously i.e. before they fester and while they are still molehills. This requires respecting our own boundaries and feelings and not needing to stockpile disappointments with the agenda of overwhelming our partners with damning evidence. Many of us would have realised that we don’t fight well, that we don’t forgive easily and we don’t know how to resolve issues but we also would have realised that when we can’t run away from the person, we’re pushed to pitch up, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, get past our pride and take responsibility. Perhaps we were forced into letting go of needing to be right or needing to win, choosing rather to nudge, not judge. Hopefully, this time of reflection invited us to rekindle empathy and understanding.

Lesson Five: We’re in This Together

Extended time together under challenging conditions will also have given you a barometer on how you work as a team i.e. the stickiness, resourcefulness and resilience you can pool together as a couple. Maintaining relevance to each other is the ongoing work of the relationship and just as you looked around your home and asked yourself whether you still wanted that old jersey or book, with so much time together, you might have begun to wander what had you choosing your partner.   Certainly, after 30 days in close quarters, you would have been acutely aware of what drove you crazy about them but were you able to clarify why they are relevant to you today? i.e. for the characteristics that have you choosing them, rather than the roles they play that have you needing them? And while you are busy reviewing your partner, ask yourself what it’s been like to be in Lockdown with you? What needs to change?

Lesson Six: Slow Down, Be Present and Love

During Lockdown, many people were surprised to find that in spite of the external threats and fear of the unknown, they found the restrictions comforting in that there was no FOMO, fewer “have-to’s” or choices to make, no running around, less deadlines, and they were able to find their own unique flow all within the simple confines of their home with what was at hand. Many people who were in the privileged position of having their basic needs met, realised they didn’t need much to feel content. We took pleasure from the birds singing so loudly, the sky radiating a clean blue, the stars so clear at night, baking our own bread, getting more sleep…all the while feeling immense gratitude for the brave hearts who were fighting on the frontline. 

So let’s remember that busy-ness can take us away from experiencing what’s fundamentally important to us – love. Simply speaking, we all want to feel like a priority to our partners and valued in society. This requires being heard, being supported, being respected, being told we matter, being held and being wanted. 

Personal Reflection:  What delights me about this time is that the big questions we ask ourselves have changed. Now it’s not so much a question of whether we are successful but whether we are useful and so we take a bow of gratitude to all our nurses and our essential service workers who are indeed, invaluable. 

I believe that the major lesson from Lockdown is that we have been reminded that love, empathy, teamwork  and gratitude are the great, big, strong, cozy armchairs for all that is fallible, fragile, fearful and vulnerable within us. And that we are all interconnected and interdependent, learning how to keep not just ourselves but the other and Mother Earth, nourished.

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