Couples Communication During COVID-19
Whilst COVID-19 runs rampant across the world, we’re locked in our houses with our families.
This can be a beautiful opportunity for bonding and to cultivate the closeness you’d previously dreamed of, but seemed far fetched with everyone so busy with all their activities. Now those activities have been suspended and we have an abundance of time to connect with one another. This is a blessing when we learn how to connect skillfully and practice doing that with each other.
When we don’t, tensions will rise and your house can begin to feel like a prison cell. You might notice yourself feeling irritated with your partner’s habits, perhaps even the very same ones you once adored. And you might start observing all the differences between you and your partner and questioning why you are even together.
I’d love for you to experience the former not the later, so this blog offers some essential information to keep in mind when communicating, as well as a strategy you and your partner can do daily to keep the engine of your relationship purring smoothly.
Your feelings tell you more about you then about the other person.
If you’re making your partner responsible for your feelings rather than taking full ownership of them, you’ve fallen into one of the most deadly thinking traps of any relationship: blame.
The foundation of any healthy communication is to appreciate that your reality is not the same as your partner’s.
You’ve learned certain things and come to believe in certain things and so has your partner. This is known as conditioning. Sometimes your conditioning overlaps with your partner and sometimes it doesn’t. No matter what though, your feelings are the byproduct of the stories you are telling yourself about the situation. In Your Success Code, the Intrinsic Brilliance Institute’s internationally acclaimed brain training program, there’s a formula we offer:
Data + Meaning = Feeling
Taking responsibility for how we feel is the foundation of empowerment and only when people are empowered can quality communication truly emerge.
What this sounds like: using “I” statements when speaking of your feelings. Fully owning the experience you created for yourself without any blame (this includes self-blame).
There isn’t actually a right way to do things.
All relationships are built on agreements, consciously or unconsciously adopted. Times of uncertainty and change like the one we are in will stir up those agreements. Those agreements are like ‘When I say X you’re supposed to do Y.’
When one partner insists on doing things the way they have always been done and the other wants to change – to adapt and adjust to the current context – this can cause a lot of friction in the form of disappointment and unmet expectations. This why #1 is foundational. Secondly, what’s most important to remember here is that no way of doing things is inherently more “right,” “proper,” or “correct” than any other. I know our egos want to tell us that our way is better than theirs, but guess what their ego is telling them? In their eyes, they are right. And so if we communicate from this space, there will always be some separation. If we actually want to truly and meaningfully connect, we need to transcend the concept of right and wrong and genuinely appreciate each other’s perspectives.
Above every layer of apparent difference there is a layer of unity – a way in which you can meet and join one another in the same space.
What this feels like: Meeting the person where they are. Not expecting them to come meet you, but taking responsibility for joining with them compassionately. Connecting with how they are feeling inside yourself. You’re feeling frustrated? I know what that’s like. I’ve felt that too. And communicating from that place of connection.
The energy matters far more than the words.
When someone is speaking kindly and lovingly, we can’t help but feel that. And our tendencies are that we want to call the other person out when they aren’t, particularly if it’s our partner. “You shouldn’t be speaking to me like that” we want to say to them. And maybe we’re skillful at moderating our tone and delivery. But pay close attention to the space that it comes from inside you. Is it gentle? Compassionate? Or is it indignant and self-righteous? If it’s an accusation of the other, I’ll wager it’s the latter.
The invitation here is to pay attention to your own energy when you’re communicating. The further off center my loved one is, the louder I turn up the intensity of the love inside me. This is what takes practice. Shifting into loving graciousness when someone else is being snarky or grumpy. But this practice is so essential for the health of your relationship, not to mention your own joy and satisfaction in the moment.
What I discover time and time again as long as my focus is on communicating lovingly, I feel loved and so does my partner. And that’s really the foundation of all communication, isn’t it? Sure there’s the content, but the context is far more significant.
What this looks like: both your and your partner’s face softening as you connect to loving appreciation of yourselves and one another. Frustration and frowns are stunned as your state shifts into love.
BONUS practice for extra skilled communication:
Layering upon these 3 foundational principles, you can use this communication strategy to give one another feedback. It’s the Clean Language model way of offering feedback and there are 3 components to this framework:
State the facts
Share the meaning you made of them
Share the impact that meaning has had on you
When you did/said X, the meaning I made of it was Y and the impact that had on me was Z.
For example, when I saw you put your plate on the kitchen bench instead of putting it in the dishwasher, the meaning I made was you weren’t really listening when I asked you to help out around the house more, and I felt upset about that and like I don’t matter to you.
The reason this communication strategy is so valuable is that it helps the other person a) understanding what’s going on for you internally and b) know what specific behavioural adjustment they can make to be an even more supportive partner.
Applying these 3 foundational principles and the Clean Language framework for offering feedback and you and your partner are bound to improve your connection and communication during this season. Enjoy!