“This Is What Happens to Couples Under Stress”: An Interview with Esther Perel
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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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.
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.
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.
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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Instead of making relationships complicated and overambitious, we can just take care of these three essential but overlooked aspects:
Paradoxically, by limiting our expectations about our relationship, we can concentrate on the three critical ingredients of kindness, understanding and vulnerability, and have a simple yet loving connection.
By simplifying and clarifying, we can release ourselves from our complicated conflicts and pursue a deep and profound bond.