How To Deal With A Relationship Meltdown In Lockdown

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How To Deal With A Relationship Meltdown In Lockdown

Maintaining a healthy relationship is challenging enough during normal times.

But what do you do when, in addition to relationship problems you already have, you also face financial worry, the anxiety of contracting COVID-19, and being confined to a small apartment for weeks?

Here in Spain, where I have been living for the past two years, life happens outdoors.

Spending time outdoors in a café restaurant is part of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Children can be seen playing in the streets until late at night with neighbors. And friends seldom walk by each other without having a chat.

RELATED: The Unexpected Challenge COVID-19 Added To My Relationship

So, imagine all children under the age of 14 not allowed outdoors for more than two months and being locked down in a small apartment with parents, grandparents, and maybe even an elderly aunt.

It was no surprise that during the first two weeks of April alone, there was a 47 percent increase in calls to Spain’s domestic violence helpline over the same period last year.

The number of women contacting support services — designated as essential by the government — by email or on social media is said to have increased by as much as 700 percent, according to a report in The Guardian.

The figures are much the same elsewhere in the world, but Spain was particularly hard hit with some of the strictest COVID-19 lockdown rules in the world.

Nearly every family will tell you of some relative who died from the virus. But the ripple effect and fallout in mental health problems triggered by the lockdown will be felt for years to come.

Having gone through two traumatic divorces myself, I’ve had my fair share of relationship problems.

A relationship ending in divorce can be compared to the pain suffered from the death of a close family member. The disappointment and trauma suffered can haunt a person for a lifetime if the pain is not transmuted into a new beginning.

Find a therapist to work with.

The first step in learning how to fix relationship problems is by seeking external help from an experienced therapist.

External stressors will compound underlying relationship problems. It's the same effect when families spend much time together (like over Thanksgiving or Easter).

The simple fact of having to accommodate each other 24/7 in a small house or apartment is a major stress factor. Issues that need to be discussed over a quiet moment are pushed under the carpet as we grind our way through the daily treadmill.

At the same time, we spend an average of about four hours a day surfing on social media accounts or get pulled into the distraction of TV soaps or sports events.

It is not only hours of our life that we sacrifice, but also precious relationship time.

In modern society, we have moved from prioritizing the needs of the family and the community to the self-expression and freedom of the individual.

In our ancestral genetic program, we have the need to melt into a tribal bond. In primitive societies, it was a matter of survival. The individual who broke the community code of conduct was expelled and inevitably died in the cold.

In the modern relationship, defining boundaries and space becomes a major issue once it has moved from the romantic idealization of the partner into accommodating different needs and expectations.

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Choosing a partner is not based on a rational decision.

We find something sexually or emotionally attractive in the other. We fall in love with a partner who, on a subconscious level, we expect to fill a void.

Such an expectation is bound to be met with disappointment. We cannot expect or demand from a partner to make us happy. Happiness is a state of mind and can only come from within.

A healthy relationship starts with self-love. 

This begins with forgiving of the self and the other from a previous relationship.

I’ve never understood how some people have been able to jump almost immediately from one relationship into another without acknowledging the period of grief that comes inevitably from separation.

Relationship patterns will simply repeat themselves.

The good news is that problems can only be solved in a relaxed state of mind.

For couples currently going through a difficult time, it's important to acknowledge the current fears, anxieties, and stress factors. It's impossible to solve a problem when you're in a highly-stressed fight or flight mode.

A body flooded with stress hormones is simply incapable of cognitive problem-solving thought. It's typical in stress-induced arguments for couples to lash out with hurtful tit-for-tat arguments.

These are mostly instinctive reactions coming from the brain’s amygdala.

Take a break, go for a walk in nature, and find ways and means to relax the body in such a way that you bring all those stress hormones back to a normal level.

Problem-solving and forgiveness can only emanate from a calm state of mind.

Life is a topsy-turvy cycle of ups and downs. Real spiritual growth in a relationship occurs when we can self-reflect on what shadow the other triggers in the self.

Love has many shades and dimensions. But at the same time self-sacrifice has its limits. Some relationships simply reach a dead end and have outlived their purpose.

Living together is not a relationship. Years of a precious life can be wasted away living in a state of quiet misery.

RELATED: 5 Effective Communication Skills To Make Your Relationship A ‘No Fight Zone’

Reino Gevers is a life coach and author. In his book new book Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul he has chronicled how pilgrims walk-off personal problems and build resilience. For more information, visit his website.