The uncertainty, constant disruptions and other challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have strained relationships, especially emotionally intimate relationships. The stress can prompt short tempers and other behaviors that undermine the affection we feel for one another–a foundation of good health. No matter your situation, making even small efforts to nourish your relationships can help make them stronger and more satisfying. Here are some suggestions.
Commit to communicate respectfully. Whenever feasible, when you are with family or friends, turn away from your phone or computer to sit down together, look directly at the person and stay focused on what they are saying. Avoid interrupting. Hear them out instead of rushing for your turn to talk, even though you may be preoccupied or disagree.
Work on ways to talk about difficult feelings in a collaborative, helpful way. Especially if you tend to overreact or take things personally when discussing hot button subjects, this will help you avoid automatically feeling threatened and fueling a conflict.
Feeling overwhelmed during the conversation? Take a pause. Use calming techniques. Mention that you need a time out, step away and engage in activities–like counting to 10—that help cool your temper.
Practice patience. Consider if you’re frequently mentally ticking off every misstep of your partner or family member, thinking, for example—“Wow, he walked right by the overflowing trash can.” Try to make adjustments and show support if the person seems to be having a bad day or not at their best. It’s key for helping someone feel unconditionally loved.
Find ways to maintain trust. One way is to avoid saying things or making promises you don’t really mean or can’t follow through on just to be polite or keep the peace.
Show appreciation. Whether saying “thank you” to your coworker, picking up coffee for the friend driving you to an appointment, or taking the kids out so your partner can get work done—all of these gestures of gratitude and generosity help solidify relationships with the people we care about.
Keep finding new ways to connect. Even if you need to keep distance from a close friend physically, look for a joint effort toward something rewarding. This could be an adventurous walk, a shared lifestyle change toward healthier habits, or expanding your minds together through discussing books, movies, or podcasts. All can help strengthen your bond.