Love in Lockdown
Did your partner’s chewing become especially loud during lockdown? Has home co-working with your partner provided surprising insights into their use of the phrase “let’s circle back on that” during Zoom calls? It would seem that we have all learnt a lot, good and bad about our partners and family whilst in lockdown.
It may not surprise you that we have seen a 40% increase in new family law enquires since lockdown began. So, as a busy specialist family team advising all sorts of people about lots of different issues, we are going to share with you what have we learnt and what tips couples could use to help them through difficult times, particularly if there is a chance of entering a second lockdown!
Language It is easy to overlook how different language can create such different responses. Language is a tool that can be used to help couples improve their communication with each other and their family. For example, saying “I’m right – you are wrong” will mean that the issue being discussed just gets stuck in a deadlock. To be able to move these discussions, a couple need to listen and try to understand each other and then use different approaches to try and find a solution. Ask questions like – what needs to happen for us to find a solution to this together? What options are there for us to be thinking about to help us reach an agreement? Can I do anything differently? Using language that describes your feelings in a non-accussing way is always good, “I feel like/that…”
Organise Personal space is important. Everyone needs time to think so create that time for yourself. If you are both working from home, carve out separate workspaces and if you can, close the door between the two of you. Also, try to limit your verbal communication with each other during the day but do make time in the evenings to talk about what has happened during the day. Be intentional about time spent together and find good things to focus on.
Communicate We have heard a lot about people “biting their lip” and not saying what is really on their mind during lockdown because they did not want to cause an argument. This will leave you feeling like you are living in a pressure cooker! Sit down with your partner to discuss everything that is on your mind. If you both know when you are going to do that together and what the discussion is going to be about then the sort of issues that crop up won’t come as a total surprise to either of you. Make a plan for how you are going to handle everything as a team or just listen. Talking and feeling listened to are important skills that can save relationships. Talk about what you want, not about what you don’t want and be open and honest – none of us are mind readers!
Keep Calm Important discussions can deteriorate quite quickly if people feel threatened which usually leads to them being defensive. Arguments are normal and can even be healthy. Couples and Family therapy refer to positive arguing. We all have to have discussions about finances, parenting, future plans and wider family issues. How many times during those conversations do you always end up in the same place, having the same argument, saying the same things? Plan how you are going to have these discussions which may sound strange but does actually work. Can you agree that you are each going to take turns talking for 10 minutes without interruption? Ensure that you don’t bring other people’s opinions or observations into the discussion – it’s your discussion and other people’s opinions should have no place or value in that. Remain respectful of each other and use the emotional intelligence you have to apply some empathy. Recent divorce petitions have regularly cited not sharing the household chores so put that on the list to discuss if you haven’t already. This is a big topic and one we could write a whole article about! If you feel yourself getting worked up, try what a client of ours did recently and splash yourself or submerge your face in very cold water – it is a quick way to bring your heart rate down!!
Depression Being in a relationship that is falling apart is a lonely place to be but even couples who would say they have a good relationship have started to feel elements of depression during lockdown. They have then started to question their relationship wondering whether that is the cause. The reasons for depression are personal to the sufferer. Some people slip into depression as a result of loss or a painful change in circumstances. There are other areas of life that can trigger very specific types of depression too. Don’t suffer in silence. We can assure you that there are many people out there thinking and feeling the same as you – just know there is a lot of support available for you and be willing to embrace and use that support.
Organise Date night seems to have seen a resurgence. Plan a night for yourselves and be creative! This can bring some much needed fun and anticipation into your relationship. We can’t really set out here what some couples told us they have tried (use your imaginations!) It is easy to forget the good times you have had together as a couple. Cooking and eating together is normally good fun or, if you can, order in a takeaway and enjoy that together. Take time to look at old photos, reminisce the good times you have shared together and remember what made you fall in love with each other in the first place.
Practice appreciation and gratitude, as challenging as everything can be there is also a lot to be grateful for.
WhatsApp We have all learnt so much about new technology. Set up new WhatsApp groups to stay in touch with family and friends and local groups in your area that can offer support. Facebook can be good for this too, along with Instagram, Skype, Twitter and Zoom. The world of social media can open up your world if you are felling lonely and/or isolated. If the recent TikTok trend isn’t up your street, think of a new hobby or skill you might like to learn and go on YouTube to find out more. You will quickly find different ways of joining online groups who have the same interests. However, don’t forget that hearing a voice at the end of a phone and having an actual conversation can mean more to some people than anything else. Keep a balance between the virtual world and the real world, despite how easy it has become to shut yourself away.
Never get drawn into dating websites unless you are actually single. We have seen a significant increase in people creating a fantasy life online when they are involved in a relationship. These people often like the adrenaline rush of the secret exchanges of messages and, in some cases meeting up. However, take a moment to think about this, what if your partner’s friend (newly single) finds your profile online? What if you found your secret messages posted all over social media because the person you have been messaging has found out that despite saying you were single you are actually married/or already in a relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of forgetting that once something is in writing and out in the virtual world, you lose control of who sees it. People do things you wouldn’t expect them to do when they feel hurt and there is often no going back with divorce being the most likely outcome.
If you would like to read in more detail about some of the issues referred to above then we recommend the following books:
- Why good people do bad things – Debbie Ford
- Lasting Love – Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks
- 5 love languages – Gary Chapman
- Feel the Fear and do it anyway – Susan Jeffers
We hope these tips are helpful. We have found ourselves discussing some of these with potential clients who are trying to figure out whether they do really want to separate. If you or someone you know ends up needing legal advice about their relationship then we are here for you and will support you through the process of separation and divorce. We are finding new ways of working all of the time so can offer Zoom and Skype calls if meeting face to face isn’t possible or comfortable for you.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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