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Love in the time of coronavirus: How to live together under lockdown

Love in the time of coronavirus: How to live together under lockdown
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A freezer packed with food. Tins bulging from kitchen cupboards. Wine, whisky and beer stashed away for when only that dull haze will do.

But after the frenetic days of preparing for lockdown, what now for couples and families whose new horizons are four walls and whose immediate company is, for now at least, reduced to those we love?

In China, it appears the divorce rate surged after quarantine ended. One of the first acts for some couples as they emerged blinking into the new light of freedom was to rush straight to the divorce lawyer.

So, the question is, how do we keep our relationships open and loving during lockdown?

Dr Judith Zur, a clinical psychologist and marital family therapist, explains that given the stress of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us will not be at our best emotionally.

Adding to the mix of panic and anxiety, for some, is a primal fear of being trapped.

The China divorce rate does not surprise her, given that underlying problems in relationships were no doubt exacerbated by deep anxieties linked to confinement and the cornonavirus.

But anticipating problems can be key to nurturing relationships with those we love.

Empathy

Zur’s main advice is to communicate: Empathy is key for couples and families alike.

She also shares three other pointers to help nudge our relationships in the right direction during quarantine: Structure, anticipitate and negotiate

Our daily routines have been shattered, structure that we took for granted has evaporated nearly overnight. Faced with this new reality, Zur’s advice is to quickly establish clear divisions of labour in the household, and to allocate tasks between couples and children.

Family members should try to be flexible and be prepared to take on different chores than prior to lockdown. These should be discussed so the plans feel fair and then reviewed after a few days to see if they are working.

And if you find yourself feeling that jobs carried out by family members are not up to your standards, keep quiet and turn a blind eye.

Listen

At a time when we feel scared and stressed, we need to have time for calm and to listen to other people’s feelings.

Men have a tendency to try to problem-solve, but Zur urges everyone to focus on listening without judgement, dismissal or evaluation. Fear can look like anger, she adds, so if arguments erupt, don't take it personally.

Quarantine in quarantine

We all have different needs, one of the most common being space.

But is also one of the hardest to give during a lockdown, when a couple or family are confined to the home for 24 hours a day.

Zur’s advice is practical. Establish a space within the space.

Find somewhere quiet to read a book. In France, we may all now have forms to fill in when we need to go out for a walk. But fill them out and when you do go out, make the most of it. Build them into your daily routine.

And if you need space but your partner doesn't, make sure you accommodate their needs as well.

Finally, Zur urges couple not to act too fast if the pressures of lockdown lead them to think that it is their relationship that is the problem.

Recalling the divorce rate in China, she says that if couples had let the dust settle and paused before breaking up, perhaps problems could have been worked through.

Time together is precious. Perhaps, if we listen, learn, laugh and love we will be able to transform this new stress into strength.