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“This Is What Happens to Couples Under Stress”: An Interview with Esther Perel

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-interview/this-is-what-happens-to-couples-under-stress-an-interview-with-esther-perel

newyorker.com

“This Is What Happens to Couples Under Stress”: An Interview with Esther Perel
The therapist, author, and podcast host offers wisdom on navigating romantic relationships under quarantine.

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Creating routines

Creating routines

Too much is expected of modern relationships: your partner is supposed to fulfil roles that historically used to be spread out within communal structures. Your partner is supposed to be your best friend, lover, psychotherapist, child-care co-worker, and dishwasher.

What is essential during a crisis is to create boundaries, routines, and rituals. As best as possible, separate daytime and evening, week time and weekend, working time and idle time, family time and individual time. Routine creates a structure and brings a certain sense of order.

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How to respond to the "invisible work"

During the pandemic, being at home with a partner reveals the "invisible work" they're doing, which may be taken for granted. This expanded view of ourselves and our partners can go in two directions.

  • In one direction, you are curious and say, "I never knew. I really appreciate it. I realize how I let you do everything." It becomes a source of connection.
  • It the other direction, it becomes a source of blame where you want to complain and tell your partner just how much you are doing. This way, you're not going to get help.

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How people should fight

Couples go through harmony, disharmony, and repair. So they will inevitably get into arguments. However, what matters is how you fight. Don't highlight everything negative while taking the positive for granted.

  • Start by saying to yourself, "What are the one or two things that they have done that I can appreciate?" If you start with that, you will fight differently.

  • Stay focussed on the one thing that you're upset about at this moment. Don't end up talking about other things.

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The positive side of a crisis

During disasters, our priorities get reorganised. The extra often gets thrown out. Changes get made. "We will move. We will change jobs. We will live closer to our parents." There are so many new openings.

The cracks in relationships may be amplified, but the cracks can also let the light shine through.

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The one thing to improve relationships

While couples are stuck together during this crisis, it's important to know that they'll turn on each other and take things out on each other. This is normal.

Instead of fighting, admit it together, and go from "I and you" to the "we." "What is this doing to us? What does 'us' need at this moment?"

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Having friends that stay married

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Attending to the health of one's friends' marriages might serve to support and enhance the durability of one's own relationship.

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Conflict mistaken for passion

Arguments and disagreements in relationships are normal, but screaming matches and every day fighting isn’t.

People who seek out conflict in their relationship for the intens...

Conflict mistaken for passion

Arguments and disagreements in relationships are normal, but screaming matches and every day fighting isn’t.

People who seek out conflict in their relationship for the intense reconciliation are often addicted to the dopamine that they get after the fight is over – which isn’t healthy for either person.

Keeping the peace

Ignoring problems in a relationship in order to avoid conflict will only mean that the problems pile up until they can no longer be ignored – and by then, it might be too hard to fix.

Marcus Aurelius

"You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

Marcus Aurelius

Premeditate

Premeditation is one of the most powerful of the Stoic tools for coping with stress. Is involves visualizing the future and imagining all the bad things that could happen

This puts things in perspective. We tend to blow things up in our minds and make them appear much larger than they really are. By imagining all of the worst things that could happen, you come back down to earth and realize the present isn’t so bad.

Act Like You’re Not Stressed

Stoics thought that, when experiencing a heavy emotion or mental state such as anger or stress, adopting the behavior of someone who feels the opposite way can actually help us alter our state.

Scientific evidence indicates that things like body language and forcing a smile can actually change our mental state, making us happier, less stressed, and more confident.