Why are my relationships such hard work at the moment? Whether it’s friendships, colleagues, loving partners, family or social connections – they all seem to require so much effort. I know I should be investing more time and energy and when I do, it’s great, so what’s stopping me?
In conversation with my coaching clients, I noticed a few familiar complaints that have been chipping away at our relationships during Covid. How many of these can you relate to?
Judgement can be useful when facing an external problem but, when used to self-criticise, it’s a shocker. If you hear your own voice in the opening paragraph of this blog, you’re probably in the grip of Judgy McJudgeface.
There was nothing like the anticipation of coming home from work to your loving family to get the oxytocin (love hormone) flowing but when it’s Groundhog Day in your home office and the toilet roll hasn’t been replaced AGAIN, you’re less likely to make grandiose romantic gestures.
Self-care factor – zero
When people are under threat of a global pandemic, keeping up appearances often moves down the list of priorities and we’re more likely to reach for the Uggs over the Jimmy Choos. As our comfort level increases, our self-care factor decreases. The catch, is that we’re not ok with greasy hair and monobrows and the shame of being seen in our raw state can trigger self-imposed isolation.
At our best, those social holiday snaps and party pics on Instagram, are reasons to be cheerful. When we are deprived of occasions that give us joy like Birthdays, holidays, BBQ’s etc. all those kind thoughts are replaced with resentment and self-pity.
Keep your distance
I appreciate that not everyone is huggy like me, but even my non-huggy friends are complaining about the lack of intimacy and trust due to social distancing. I’ve noticed, when I’m deprived of cuddles, my humour, language and behaviour is more formal and my only source of light-hearted banter comes from Facebook or YouTube.
Death by admin
Lockdown requires a level of planning and diary management that is exhausting for us spontaneous types. Gone are the “let’s grab a coffee” moments or the “meet you at the gym” texts. Social connections now have so many rules around them that it takes over 4 touch points just to set up a Zoom call.
So, it’s finally time for Friday Zoom drinks with your besties, your enthusiasm soon diminishes when the image freezes, the sound echoes and the time-lags mean that every sentence begins with ‘no, you go first.’
I’m guessing you’re all nodding, but what can we do? Here are a few suggestions to rebuild your relationships:
Start with ‘why’
In the extraordinary effort to look after our health and safety needs in this pandemic, the casualty appears to be our social needs…
- To belong (acceptance, inclusion and contribution)
- For love and intimate connections
- For meaningful conversations
- For social interactions and fun
- To share and challenge ideas
- To create and work together
Take time to reflect on which of these needs are most important to you and consider ‘why’. If you were to add more of this to your life, what would that give you? If things stayed the same, what you will you miss the most? Clarifying why it’s important, will help you access the motivation and energy to invest in that area.
Introducing Lovey McLoveface
It’s vital that you invest in yourself. Judgy McJudgeface is not your friend so pop her on mute when you’re talking to yourself. Find a new friend called Lovey McLoveface and welcome her to your mirror.
When you hear yourself being critical for not being perfect or having unkind thoughts, take a deep breath and apply the same level of empathy you would show to a friend experiencing the same thoughts.
Get to know your strengths (ask us for info about a great Strengths tool) and find ways to share your strengths with others.
Change it up
Yes, it’s important to get into action again but, try not to come out of hibernation with gusto – you’ll be exhausted after your first Zoom fart. Set a goal to do one thing to nourish your relationships every day. It could be as simple as changing the toilet roll without fuss (I really need to get over the toilet roll thing).
What do you value?
Be clear about what you value in your different relationships. For example, I value friendships where I’m accepted for who I am, not what I look like. I recently had to remind my friends not to compliment me on my appearance, so I didn’t have to make a special effort when catching up. On the other hand, I also value credibility so, in preparation for a client meeting, I’ll pop on a little make up to help me transition to ‘work mode’.
Manage your expectations – it’s unlikely anyone will live up to them
If you find yourself wishing he/she would behave differently, be prepared for disappointment and resentment. If you can’t answer the question ‘why should I have to make the effort?’, go back to point one – start with why!
Acceptance is the greatest gift you can give the people in your life. The more conditions you put around the relationship, the harder it is for anyone to live up to them.
My dearest friends are ones who I may not catch up with often but when we do, life is better. I encourage my friends, family and colleagues not to apologise for being out of touch. If you value the relationship – it’s helpful to accept what you can’t change and let it go.
Step over the half-way line
If lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that people can get stuck in a rut quite quickly and that they may not have to capacity (emotionally or mentally) to be where you want them to be. Meeting them half-way may not be enough to help them move to a better place so be prepared to suspend your needs and listen to theirs. Stepping over the half-way line takes effort, but it won’t go un-noticed.
Buy more bandwidth
Trust me – if you want to have an uninterrupted Zoom call while your partner is on Netflix and your teenager is on Minecraft, the best investment you can make is a big NBN plan. You can always change it back after Covid – or am I dreaming?
Article written by Siobhan Turney