The joy of lockdown being wound back has been tempered by the simultaneous spike in the number of couples seeking separation advice.
Almost half of Australians surveyed in May by Relationships Australia experienced a negative change to their relationship during isolation, and a national mediation service said numbers of people thinking about breaking up have risen more than 300 per cent.
There’s no one size fits all solution, but I have a four-step strategy for staying together than means my husband and I haven’t blinked through a stack of ups and downs in our 27-year marriage.
First, know that people are complex but a basic truth is women want to be understood and men want to be appreciated.
STEP ONE: IT DOES TAKE TWO TO TANGO
It’s tough to drag someone up kicking and screaming if both people aren’t on the same page and committed to having a great relationship. Both have to really want it, and there are no overnight fixes.
My husband and I shoot for microscopic truth, where we want a level of honesty between us that can withstand anything outside.
You need to say everything—but don’t say it to anybody else. Nobody.
Sometimes you’ll think, ‘I can’t be bothered’. You’re human. Just acknowledge it and come back to why you’re in it.
STEP TWO: EMOTIONAL INTIMACY IS YOUR FRIEND
None of us have got it together. But you need to let your partner know all that and see the messy ugly side or you won’t get emotional intimacy.
That’s the space where your stuff and truth bump into your partner’s and you commit to figuring out everything.
So, I say to my husband, ‘I just don’t get you’. And he gets fired up, and when he has a go back, I get fired up too: ‘Fine, keep that s—t up, that works really well.’
When that happens to you—and it should, it’s normal—you need to say you’re feeling reactive and your partner needs to care enough to say, ‘I’m here, let’s talk about it.’
Otherwise you’re stuck with button pushing.
STEP THREE: FIXING IS A BAD FIX
This step is about not fixing anything. For real. Trust me.
It’s where you or your partner say, ‘Tell me more. Tell me more. Tell me more. Is there anything more?’
Nobody is fixing anything. Just listen and validate the experience by saying, ‘That must be really important to you.’ Don’t tell them how they should feel or think or solve things.
Go back to step one if you need to and remember the purpose is to have a phenomenally close relationship. Emotional intimacy is being okay with wherever someone is at, and not trying to force correct them.
STEP FOUR: KNOW YOURSELF
If you don’t totally understand yourself, it’s hard to be there for anyone else.
You have to know your boundaries, what you need in life, you have to be comfortable with and love your fears, happiness, sadness, disgust.
The more self-acceptance you have, the more you can be there for someone else.
International life coach, Sharon Pearson, is the founder of The Coaching Institute (link below) and bestselling author of Ultimate You.
Link to The Coaching Institute: thecoachinginstitute.com.au.
The Carousel would like to thank Sharon Pearson for her story.