One year ago, I wrote a column for romantic couples titled “Keeping It Hot During the Cold Times”. The article responded to the questions: How do you keep on loving your partner after unexpected change, pain or tragedy? Can you keep your love for each other on fire even after Alzheimer’s, amputation, dementia, depression, diabetes, heart problems, heart attack, paralysis, postpartum depression, psychological disorder? I never knew that one year later, there would be another kind of “tragedy” that would be added to the list – a new strain of coronavirus that started in late 2019, referred to as COVID-19.
This virus is extremely contagious and is transmitted from symptomatic people to others who are in close contact through respiratory droplets, by direct contact with infected persons or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. Thus, the government of The Bahamas, and governments around the world created emergency orders for citizens to remain indoors for a certain period of time and to wear facial masks when going to business establishments or meeting people. Schools and churches and all large gatherings were temporarily ceased.
Although in The Bahamas some of the restrictions have been lifted, there is still limited movement. As a result, many couples and individuals are having difficulty adjusting. They have not been in close proximity to each other for such a long time without the ability to get out for a while. Here is the problem: if a couple did not regularly take the time to show loving actions and tenderness toward each other before the lockdowns, curfews and restriction of movements, it would be extremely difficult to do so during these times. It will expose their anger and frustration, and leave them wanting to get out of each other’s presence.
I shared this point one year ago: if tragedy or major change happens before compassion is activated, your marriage is in trouble. If there is very little or no compassion, understanding, openness, sharing, holding each other, loving or cuddling, then there is a greater chance that the unexpected will strike you out.
Now, with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, claustrophobia, etc., many couples and individuals feel as though they are backing up a high wall. If there is one lesson COVID-19 is teaching us, it will be the importance of loving and caring for each other when things are good, so that when tragedy strikes, the reservoir of love and caring will take them through successfully. Unfortunately, the longer the restrictions, the greater the challenge for many. Also, long after all restrictions are lifted, the emotional impact will remain for many.
Many will be dealing with depression, sleepless nights, excessive worrying, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Many will have difficulty reorganizing their lives because of no job or fear of not being able to work for a long time.
What can couples or individuals do during these times? First, and most importantly, stop and think. Pull yourself out of the self-pity mood. Take a look at what you do have right now. Shake off the dim lights of despair and reach up and turn on the bright lights of hope that is truly within reach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States gives this suggestion: “Take care of yourself. Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health.”
Here is a vital suggestion – allow this time to change your beliefs or ideas about life. You may have to truly “remodel” your thoughts and behaviors. In my previous column, I quoted Monte Drenner from his book “Marriage Fitness”. He said, “It is amazing that couples will remodel their house, but not remodel their marriage. I encourage people to find new interests, new hobbies, go to new places and challenge old beliefs with new ideas.”
For those couples or families who are living in one household, pause, take a deep breath and slowly learn how to adjust. Avoid getting under each other’s skin. Find ways to appreciate each other more. If couples are at each other’s throats, agree to sleep in separate rooms while you soften your feelings toward each other. Do not drown yourself in shouting, screams, alcohol or drugs. They will make things worse.
The greatest stumbling blocks to revitalizing a wounded relationship during the lockdown and curfews of COVID-19 are stubbornness and pride. Most likely, even before COVID-19, stubbornness and pride were already the way of behaving, thus making it even harder to adjust during these times. Please, soften your hearts. The stubbornness and pride will only increase your chances of heart failure, hypertension and other medical issues. It can even depress your immune system, making you more susceptible to diseases like COVID-19.
It is not too late to make a change in your relationship and household. Humble yourself and start now.