Relationship Advice: Tips, Ideas & Resources to Balance Partnership and Individuality

September 1, 2020
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Maintaining individuality is critical to establishing a long-lasting, healthy partnership. Therefore, equal efforts between attending to oneself and making the relationship work are necessary. 

– Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. Psychotherapist and Re-partnering Coach

Relationships, both personal and professional are being tested more than ever right now. With many of us working from home full-time, looking after children due to school closures, or isolated alone, how will this impact our relationships?

US citizens started social distancing, with ‘Stay-at-Home orders’ officially in the beginning of March 2020. A little over five months in and you tell me, are your relationships being tested?

We were forced to ‘Stay-at-Home’ and live, work, eat, and play either alone, a whole family with children who constantly need to be entertained, or housemates managing communal living. While it is not yet known how long these measures may last, divorce lawyers have already forecasted a spike in splits later this year due to self-isolation.

Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. states it best, “Maintaining individuality is critical to establishing a long-lasting, healthy partnership. Therefore, equal efforts between attending to oneself and making the relationship work are necessary. Our relationships will be hugely important for getting us through this unprecedented time but self-isolation, social distancing and concerns about issues like finances may also place us under added pressure.

So how can you ensure tensions do not arise and if they do, are quickly dispelled? 

We will break the tips, ideas, and resources into three sections:

Your Partner

Your Family

Your Self

Let’s Start with Your Partner:

  • Keep Communicating:
    • With so much going on and tensions running high, it can be hard to keep an open dialogue—especially if you’re scared, upset, or tension is already present. When experiencing these emotions, try and stay mindful of your responses.
    • Open Communication Tips:
      • Be As Clear As Possible:
        • If you are frustrated or stressed, try to use “I” statements to communicate how you are feeling. ‘I feel’ is very different to ‘When you x, I x’ or ‘You make me feel’, it’s very easy to slip into the blame game when we are stressed, and it doesn’t help anyone.
      • The Power of Open-Ended Questions:
        • As a Certified Life Coach, specializing in Health & Fitness, we ask powerful questions to encourage awareness, introspection, and action. It is widely known that “why questions” lead to defensiveness, embarrassment or insecurity and are therefore to be avoided. When I put on my coaching hat I ask: what, when, how, where or whom to invite clients into exploration and change talk.
        • “What” questions are especially effective to encourage clients to expand options and explore solutions. The following list are examples for “what” open-ended questions to promote powerful behavior change:
    • “What’s on your mind today?”
    • “What has gone well since we last spoke?”
    • “What’s one thing you want to get off your chest today?”
    • “What about that is important to you?”

One of my favorite books I like to bring around the dinner table, or Zoom calls with friends/family now, The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion. This book is one big compilation of questions–1001 of them you can use to launch great conversations in almost any context. And many of these questions are likely to trigger other questions you may also wish to discuss. Think of this book as a tool to spark interaction–and to know and understand others, and yourself, better.

  • Making Assumptions on How the Other Person Feels:
    • Assumptions breed resentments (breakdown the word…Assume makes and ASS out of U + ME). Assuming your partner will feel the same way about everything you’re going through will likely not be the case. The antithesis to assumptions are clear and open dialogues. Avoid mind reading and ask your partner, “how are you feeling today?”  Meet them where they are at and actually be curious about how they are feeling!
    • Use open-ended questions regularly. When we ask, “how are you?” people most likely come back with one-word answer: “fine”, “good”, “great”. Dig deeper and perhaps ask:
      • “What are you feeling grateful for today?”
      • “What excites you right now?”
      • “How did your work conversations go today?”
      • “What conversations made you feel XYZ?”

Your Family:

  • Establish a Routine:
    • It can be tricky to establish a routine when your whole day happens within four walls, but it is crucial for long-term success. Relationship psychotherapist Kate Moyle says, “Make your own routine. Children especially thrive on routine, but it’s helpful for adults too. It can be particularly challenging if there is more than one of you working from home, so try and carve out time to be spent together and time to be spent apart.
      • Example, 7-9:30 a.m. Work; 9:30-10:30 a.m. Workout (alone or with your partner); 11 a.m. you all sit down and have a coffee together.”
  • Set Family Goals and Expectations: After you and your family set a routine, sit down after dinner one night to set goals and expectations together—and discuss how this is going to work.
    • For example, children will be expected to do homework, help with chores around the house, and stay productive throughout the day doing XYZ while mom and/or dad work.
    • This also is a great opportunity to come up with a family project. Do you have a long to-do list you have not found the time for yet? Awesome! Complete this task now.
      • A fun project I did this past winter with my mother, organize all your family photos into photo books, or create one using Shutterfly or Costco Photo Albums. Amazing to relive all your memories again, and create an epic story from them!
  • Designate Areas of the House:
    • Even if you live in a one-bedroom apartment, try to designate areas as ‘work’, ‘chill-out’, ‘privacy’, ‘interaction’. If you are not living alone, sit down with your roommate, partner, and/or children to draw up rules about these spaces. You can even play a fun game with yourself, or others where one breaks the rules you get punished with a silly joke (think quarter jar, no alcohol for the night, have to clean XYZ, etc.)

Your Self:

  • Ensure You Are Not Working All the Time:
    • If this is your first time working from home, congratulations! Establishing a ‘work-from-home’ lifestyle is harder than people make it seem. Living in yoga pants, not doing your make-up, and working from your couch sounds amazing until you realize you are working from the minute you get up, to the minute you go to bed.
      • Establishing a clear relationship between ‘home life’ and ‘work life’ is not easy. It can be hard at the beginning to differentiate the two; however, once you establish clear boundaries between the two your life will change! With this said, there will still be home and life admin to do—set a time for this. It may feel like the house is a tip or needs some cleaning to do. Complete these tasks after “work-hours”, similar to what you would do when you would go into the office, or travel for work.
  • Treat Yourself and Others with Kindness:
    • Regardless of who you are sharing your home with, every relationship can be improved with kindness—especially yourself! Recognize that everyone has felt some strain. One of the best ways to get out of a ‘funk’ is to be open, honest, and kind to yourself and others. To do so, start by looking within, and discover what your own superpowers are. If you are curious to learn more, grab your own copy and download THE POWER OF LOOKING WITHIN TOOLKIT.
    • Wake-up and practice gratitude daily. After you practice gratitude, quickly, write down your daily to-do lists.
      • To-Do List Examples: keep your to-do list between 1-5 NON NEGOTIABLE tasks you must complete, 5 people you need to connect with today (outside of work), & 5+ crazy, fun, silly ideas you have in your head!

Regardless of who you are sharing your home with during self-isolation, every relationship can be improved with kindness. Remember, recognize that everyone is going to be feeling some strain. Even children who are delighted to be off school will sense there is a negative backdrop to it all. Practice gratitude, and daily thank those around you. 

Pat yourself on the back every day for what you have dealing with, and extend such generosity of spirit to those you live with. If you feel yourself about to snap at anyone try one of the three techniques:

  1. Step away from the situation and try the ‘5 second breather’ technique: inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds.”
  2. Immerse yourself in nature! Go for a walk, jog, run, bike ride, or simply grab a book and read outside! Vitamin D does wonders to our soul.
  3. Call a friend, family member, or loved one and chat about nonsense. Remember what it felt like to go out to dinner or drinks with your girlfriends? Do it virtually! Call a friend randomly or schedule a virtual call! Trust me, virtual interactions are amazing. It gives you something to look forward to, or see what your friend is doing whenever you call!

Remember, every relationship is being tested. It is up to you to simply make the best of every situation and look at the glass half full, rather than half empty in life.  

About The Author:

Haley Shaw is an Online Health & Fitness Specialist with her company Amp Up Fitness. Amp Up Fitness specializes in Online Training & Nutrition programs, challenges, and consulting. You can connect with Haley on her website: AmpUpFitness.com where she works with corporations, and individuals nationwide to elevate their Wellness On-The-Go resources.

Occasionally she hangouts on Social Media where Haley shares lifestyle & workout tools and tips for busy bee’s: @HaleyAmpUpFit on Instagram and www.Linkedin.com/in/haleyampupfit LinkedIn.

Trainer Haley’s Mission:
“To help thousands become confident within themselves to take on anything in life.” 

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