Relationships in the time of corona

Heeding the needs of loved ones in these testing times can help sustain relationships

When Covid-19 hit, the hardest thing to do was staying home. I was like a prisoner in my own apartment, an experience shared by so many. Suddenly, everything that gave me energy had been taken away, and it left me feeling irritable.

I ran out of patience and began to vent my frustration on people close to me. I knew it was unfair. I was being selfish in focusing concerns solely on myself, on how Covid-19 was affecting me. It took some time to realise how much it impacted the whole world. Switching the focus from myself to the broader picture helped me have a more mature view.

When millions were losing jobs, some were busy posting on social media about how they were not able to get a decent haircut or a manicure. I was more concerned with my limited freedom, rather than the deteriorating health of millions of people. I was not putting things in perspective.

An article in John Hopkins Medicine stresses on broadening your support system instead of heavily depending on your partner for all emotional needs because everyone has their own threshold. We all come with individual needs. Speaking to my parents and friends helped immensely during the most difficult times. Never have I been so grateful to the internet for keeping people connected.

It had always been easier for me to complain and find faults in everything, but Covid-19 taught me to introspect. Instead of focusing on the negative, I started working on myself through yoga and healthier habits, and better communication.

Humans tend to show their worst side to the ones who love them the most because we know they will always be there for us despite our unacceptable behaviour. Chartered Counselling Psychologist Krista Rajkarnikar says the pandemic has actually given newfound hope to relationships.

“It is fairly early to have a more specific response to this question, however studies have suggested it is not all bad for relationships. Despite higher divorce rates and various lockdown-related interpersonal difficulties, people have also shown higher rates of care, empathy, concern, and love for family and friends during these pressing times,” she said.

What stands out is the support people received from their families as Covid-19 took a toll on many aspects of people’s lives. A recent Monmouth University poll showed that  most people were still satisfied with their relationships despite the stress of the pandemic.

The poll showed that 51% of the respondents expected their relationship to emerge stronger from the tests the lockdown had put them through, and 1% said their relationships would get worse. Although the findings are reassuring, people are not  numbers.

It is important to focus on individual needs, because we all suffer differently. Even if the majority of people are doing better, it does not matter on an individual level for those who are doing worse. For them, statistics do not mean anything.

In the end, it all comes down to choice. That is what the pandemic has taught us—do we want to hold on, or let go? It is up to us to shape relationships, because they demand they be nurtured. From my reading of people in my life, I have seen that the pandemic is helping people appreciate what they have instead of run after what could be, and take responsibility for their actions.

I know couples who postponed their weddings, and they have all said that despite the stress and anxiety of having to replan the wedding, their relationships have got stronger. Before the pandemic, people with jobs could hardly make time for their loved one, but being together also helped many couples re-bond.

Despite vaccines being rolled out, uncertainties abound. It helps to be more patient and understanding of others as well as of ourselves. This is not an easy time, and relationships take work.

We spend so much time paying attention to other people’s lives, celebrity scandals on our phones that we must remind ourselves to be fully present when we are with the people we love. We have a desire to be heard but we also need time to listen. It is also important to realise when it is an unhealthy relationship, and when it is time to walk away instead of trying to keep fixing it.

I learned the value of nurturing my relationship by listening to people who knew its healthy definition. In most relationships, it is easy to find faults when you go looking, and in the same way it is also easy to find solutions if that is what you want.

A healthy and happy relationship gives people the emotional strength to handle life’s various stressors much better. Always remind yourself that you are choosing to stay in a relationship because it makes you happy and because it makes you a better person. The companionship and emotional support are helpful for your mental well-being.

Anjana Rajbhandary writes this fortnightly Nepali Times column Life Time about socio-cultural issues, mental health and physical health.

Anjana Rajbhandary


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