2020 04 14 01


Relationship & Lockdown

A day, a week, a month, even a year. How long will I have to cope with this lockdown or the social changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. As I am writing this we are in week three of lockdown in South Africa. I live with my wife and two children just outside Port Elizabeth in a small coastal village. We have space. We have a...

view. But so much of this is relative. And so much of this can be a prison of a different sort. Slowly the course of the two weeks, with three weeks to go, I notice the little anxieties and irritations come to life in the house. Suddenly space becomes an issue. We can’t go out as we normally do. We are constantly rubbing shoulders, in each other’s company and looking at each other for something….something to take these feelings of boredom or anxiety away. I read that all over the world domestic violence has increased during lockdowns. This could be a very testing time for relationships. And the normal space and emotional distancing and potential for each of us to decide how much emotional distance we need on a particular day has gone out of the window. We don’t have the luxury of using physical distance to provide emotional distance. Many people during this time have very little, if not almost no physical space to retreat from each other. Physical space and emotional space are absolute necessities. We all need a moment (some people much longer, even days) to retreat into ourselves. A time to recharge, reflect, regain emotional individuality, and re-affirm our personal sense of ‘space’. Then many of us can go on again and re-engage in relationships. If we don’t get this ‘space’ we become irritable, anxious, even depressed. The result is often a break-down in parenting, broken and sometimes destructive communication, or in the extreme, emotional or physical acting out onto others in the house. Some people ‘act in’. They will turn to alcohol or passive-aggressive behaviour, or fall into depressive bouts( oversleeping, binge-eating and de-motivation often reflects this). Lockdown is such a change in our normal routines that it has elicited deep and unconscious anxieties. Anxieties that often find their expression in the space of relationships. How do we deal with lockdown, our relationships, and all the cascading emotions released from this seemingly unnatural period?

Space is a necessary requirement in any healthy family. And any person has a right to it. Physical space is used as a way of protecting, controlling or punishing people (think prison or time-out for children). It is also a way of expressing intimacy and togetherness. If we can’t enjoy a moment of space at a physical level, it becomes essential to allow yourself and others in the home a sense of ‘space’ through being able to retreat inwardly. Communication and awareness of your own needs and the needs and rights of others become essential. Give each other the right to engage or retreat when needed. Some people need more time alone than others, therefore ‘gift’ your partner (or child, or parent) a time to be on their own, physically or mentally , or emotionally.

Finally, make sure there is a reason why you are doing all this, why you are ‘enduring’ the lockdown, and why you are doing the particular things you are doing to cope with lockdown. Make sure there is a purpose behind it and it is not just a time to get through. Everyone has their own purpose, and each reason is personal to themselves. Maybe you see it as part of a greater goal, or you see it as a time to reflect and learn and grow in yourself, or family, or relationship. All in all it becomes part of building a relationship and learning more about yourself and/or your partner. Be safe, be well.