April 14, 2020
April 14, 2020



Eric Hiew (M.A. Coun.)


Lockdown, quarantine, movement control order: all words we have heard too much in the past couple of days. Staying in all day can be challenging. When you are in close proximity with someone 24/7, even if they are your spouse, little grievances can all too quickly become big mountains! With so many tips flying around social media, let’s have a look at some of the best ones to help keep your relationship with your partner secure and strong. 

  1.  Spending time and doing things together as couple

We’ve all heard that relationships require work. This is true! Just like going to the gym, a good relationship (and a physical body figure) require effort and maintenance to stay healthy. Set aside your devices (e.g. phones, tablets and computers) and spend quality time with each other by playing a game, catching up with each other’s day (especially if you are still working from home), or hear each other’s point of view about the current situation.

Offer support to one another whether it be something simple like doing house chores, cooking, taking care of the kids, or getting essential stuff - try doing them as a team. Even better, practice your communication by providing clear directions to one another in each situation. However, do remember that since things might not go as planned, being flexible is also necessary. 

   2.  Communicating calmly

During this period of MCO or lockdown, it is crucial to remain calm as there is already a lot of anxiety due to the sudden change of lifestyle. Lashing out at your partner in anger, frustration, or intense sadness usually yields short-lived results because the intended message is hidden beneath those negative emotions. Research shows that your rationality reduces significantly when your emotions are heightened and you would go into survival mode (or what psychologists call “fight or flight”). However, it is also important to understand that these emotions are not wrong or bad, but our resulting actions can lead to positive or negative consequences. 

…Stop and Breathe…

What can we do when we start feeling tense? If you notice your body muscles start to tense up, your fists tighten up, or there is a surge of energy felt around your chest area: Stop and breathe. Mindful breathing can help bring back the rational side of you. You may go back to your partner and engage with him or her when you are feeling calm and ready.

   3.  Resolving differences respectfully

If you have something that’s bothering you about your partner, bring it up for discussion in a gentle and compassionate way (using a fake voice or imitating a character is not recommended unless that is something your partner enjoys). Minor problems can disturb the relationship and resentment will build up as a consequence. Set aside a time (say for an hour) in the week, set aside all your devices (yes, just like the times when you are having fun), and have the discussion.

Do your best to listen to your partner’s perspective attentively even if you disagree with their point of view. After all, it is their experience. When it is your turn to share, share your point of view without invalidating or belittling your partner’s view (e.g. “your idea is flawed, it is silly”). Share the “air time” with one another else it will be a lecture, not a discussion.

Your tone of voice is equally important as they can send different messages to the recipient of the message. A strong, loud and fierce tone may send a message that suggests “I am angry with you” rather than “I do not wish to be disturbed at the moment” or “could you give me some space?”. In contrast, a calm tone gets messages across more effectively. You could inject some humour, but sarcasm or overdoing humour can be counterproductive.

Another noteworthy point to think about would be couple expectations. Most times, unmet expectations can escalate into heated arguments and pointing of fingers. Instead of expecting your partner to do things (e.g “You should be helping me with the chores. It is common sense”), try requesting or inviting your partner to participate in the activity with you instead (“I need some help with this task, could you give me a hand here?”). Of course, there will be a risk of being rejected by your partner when you extend the invitation to participate with you. If that happens, rather than jumping to the negative conclusion that he or she does not care about you, try enquiring further first. 

If you are the partner that could not attend to the request at the moment, instead of rejecting or ignoring their requests, provide a reason or offer alternatives (e.g. “Not at the moment, but I can do it later when I am done with my task on hand”). This will suggest to your partner that you are present in the conversation and understand their needs.

In summary, couple relationships are like two individuals dancing. For the dance moves to be in sync with each other it requires lots of practice, coordination, trials and, very importantly, collaboration. Mistakes will happen, but keep trying until you get it. To dance well with your partner takes time. Might as well start practicing now!

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