Relate Counsellor, Holly Roberts, offers some advice on how you can begin to assess and reset your relationships.
It’s been almost a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s safe to say it’s drastically changed the way we live our lives and, in turn, had a knock on effect on our relationships.
The multiple lockdowns and restrictions have really put relationships to the test. Lots of people have seen their friendships suffer due to physical distance and lack of communication. Many of us have felt a sense of isolation that has never been experienced at this level.
We’ve all been through so much the past year and it’s no wonder our relationships have felt the impact too.
So, with spring quickly approaching and with talk of the easing of restrictions not far behind it, now seems like a good time to step back and reflect on how we relate to the people in our lives.
What have you learnt about your relationships in the last year?
The last year has given some of us a chance to spend more time with parents, siblings and housemates and certain family members than perhaps we’d ever have done in normal circumstances.
This may have been a good thing and helped to strengthen some relationships because you’ve been able to dedicate time to each other. But it might also have helped you realise which relationships affect you in negative ways, and confirmed why it was important for you to keep a distance from certain people.
It may have also helped you to understand a bit more about what makes you happy or sad – and what you need to feel mentally and emotionally well. Having our freedom of movement taken away from us helps us to see how much we do or don’t need social interaction with others. It’s often only when you can’t have something that you realise how much you miss it.
Tip: Learning more about our ‘relational needs’ helps us to assess which relationships are good for us and nourish us, and they’re the ones we should focus time and attention on.
Which relationships have changed?
Having to adjust to connecting with people digitally in a meaningful way is challenging so it’s no wonder it’s put a strain on even the strongest of relationships.
It’s meant putting in extra effort and creativity into keeping in touch with those not in our bubble. The effort this requires is huge and can be a real challenge for people who aren’t technically minded or don’t like video calls.
If you’re in a relationship where you’re able to spend time with each other, it’s also worth remembering that the anxiety from the pandemic and lack of space can put enormous pressure on things too.
Most of the usual outlets that help keep us balanced have been removed and we’ve come to rely on those closest to us for all emotional support. Again, this is tough to manage, so perhaps it’s worth considering how much the lockdowns are affecting your wellbeing so you don’t catastrophise and worry that your relationship is terrible.
Tip: Try to take a step back to think about which relationships have changed and what they were like before. This helps to get perspective on whether they were relationships that needed social interaction and being with each other, or whether they were stronger and could withstand the break in physical connection. It’s also important to try to be kind to yourself and those that you’re in relationships with, knowing that it’s tough to try to keep relationships going when you (and they) are struggling.
Who’s in your ‘community’?
The idea of ‘community’ has changed for many people. There may be a greater sense of community which might even feature people you’ve never met! Connecting with others in online forums might have been a lifeline to give you some human contact when you desperately needed it.
Or, your community might have reduced, helping you realise who is most important to you and where you want to concentrate your time on nurturing a small number of relationships.
Either way, it’s likely you’ve thought more about who you want in your community and it’s exciting to think how this can grow and develop when we’re actually able to see people in real life again.
Tip: Take the time to reflect on what community means for you and how you might want to develop the relationships that are important for you. At the same time, it might allow you to feel ok about the relationships you decide to put to one side or end knowing that you are doing something that is positive for you in the long run.
What changes do you want to acknowledge and keep, and what do you want to do differently?
We’re still grappling with the effects of lockdown and the ongoing impact it’s having on us. It’s important to acknowledge the changes that have occurred which might help us prepare for doing things differently in the future.
There may be a reluctance to want to think about how to do things differently as we’re perhaps still unsure about what the future might look like.
Having hope of being able to do everything you want to achieve is important to keep a sense of positivity that helps us through difficult times. But it’s also worth balancing this with the reality of what’s possible to do right now. Sometimes small changes in our own environment can make a big positive impact.
Tip: Think about what you can control and change that might make things a little better for you right now. Feeling like you can affect change is really important in times where we have so little control. It might be something as simple as just keeping your bedroom neat and tidy, or having a run twice a week. Being in charge of your own environment and being able to do something positive for your mental health will have huge benefits for you and those around you.
Join Holly for a relationships Q&A on Instagram Live, Wednesday 3rd March at 12.30pm.
Got a question? DM @iqstudents