When the lockdown was announced in France on March 17th, I first felt unsafe, then I felt restricted and trapped.
For two or three days, I found myself spending most of my time imagining the reasons why COVID-19 was happening and why it was taking place now.
Maybe this was a fraud. Maybe we were being locked down at home to face our wounds to a deeper degree. Maybe we were being locked down to experience the birthing of a new age. I thought that perhaps, this was what humanity had been looking for—a revolution we would have all called in.
After hours spent wondering which story was the best bet, reality got back on top. My partner and I decided to live this quarantine together.
We were already used to almost living together permanently and sharing space daily. But I’m experiencing that being quarantined with him in the time of COVID-19 is absolutely different.
In fact, before COVID-19, we would also enjoy our own private times in clear, separated containers—work, sports activities, yoga classes, times out with friends or family. This time brings major restrictions for one who is used to spending much time out of their home and away from the relationship unit.
As a consequence, in the first days of the lockdown, it became clear that this quarantine presents all the ingredients that are needed to make a couple’s life a road filled with obstacles.
Triggers may end up generating more actual conflicts, as the space that is normally used by both individuals to do their inner work, regroup, and process their “negative” emotions is brought to almost zero.
This new way of life that we are all experiencing right now has led me to face the hard facts and explore my own way of relating when it comes to the romantic arena—including patterns that I thought I had overcome long ago.
Here is how I’m learning to adapt:
One evening two weeks ago, I found myself initiating an argument because my partner was starting to cook without me when we didn’t talk beforehand about what to cook (he wasn’t preparing what I like) or even if we had finished working and were ready to have dinner. It felt to me like my opinion wasn’t taken into account and that I didn’t matter enough to him. I felt nervous and angry quickly, and initiated an argument—yes, only because of this.
The event was actually taking me back to old wounds and times of my childhood where my needs weren’t truly considered. I “just” had to participate in what was happening at home—whether it would make me happy or not.
My partner and I ended up spending more than an hour arguing. Much energy was spent—first trying to “be right,” then clearing the energy that had been birthed through this argument.
I felt deeply sorry for the whole situation. I had allowed my emotions to control me, which caused a reaction that could have been completely avoided if I had paused to respond rather than react.
The following morning, I reflected on this episode and an important truth came to my awareness.
Having such reactions repeatedly could deeply damage my relationship. I had to find a healthier way to handle the triggers arising through our connection during the quarantine—even if I wasn’t used to such constant proximity.
I therefore decided to work on changing my mindset.
I decided that I could choose to focus on what is “wrong”—or I could choose to not give meaning, attention, and power to the small, unnerving things that punctuate the daily life of our couple.
I decided that it was most likely not necessary or even productive to argue about things in order to make a point.
I decided to stop finding faults within his behaviour.
I also noticed another tendency within myself. The uneasiness and fear this COVID-19 quarantine brings to my emotional system could be strengthening the needy behaviour that I can have sometimes in the context of relationships.
As a consequence, I could have focused my attention on my partner as a distraction to not face my own emotions or the realizations I’m having about my own path, my writings, or my work.
I could have focused my attention on him—what he does or doesn’t do—as a means to not feel my own struggle and face what I need to improve in my life.
I could have overanalysed him or even “us” to not go deeper within.
I also could have avoided respecting his space, only to get his attention and presence and have my own nervous system calmed through him so that I could avoid self-soothing and practises of self-care on my own.
I could have overthought the negative pieces of our past, remembering days when this or that harsh caustic fact was spoken between us. I could have focused my attention on what he isn’t doing or “doing right” in order to avoid feeling my own emotions, my own confusion, or lack of grounding.
I decided to not do those things.
I understood that I have the power to not take this path. I believe that we have the power over our emotional reactions and responses, precisely by consciously choosing which fact we give our attention to: the small unnerving things, or the loving stability and warmth that’s behind.
Both stories exist, and one can choose which is the most important. Which is actually worthy of existing within their thoughts and nervous system? Which story is the most valuable to feed?
Through this quarantine, I’m revisiting and understanding to a deeper degree a huge fact about relationships.
One always has the choice to delve into blaming or accusing another by overanalysing their behaviour and possible small faults. This reassures the ego by focusing its attention elsewhere so that it is never to blame and it hardly ever has the time or space to dive deeper into understanding itself.
Constantly giving our attention to the external gives a means to not be present with oneself. Thanks to COVID-19, I’m actually being given the opportunity to project less on my partner.
When I feel triggered by his behaviour or one of our interactions, I ask myself the following questions:
>> Am I imagining a story about what is currently happening, or do I have actual facts that could back up the way that I’m feeling and show that I’m not projecting for good?
>> What about pausing for a short while and finding my center again, so that I can offer the response that feels the most aligned?
>> Does this event need a reaction on my end, or if I’m honest will the trigger and sensation linked to it simply be gone in a few minutes?
>> Is this “negative” sensation that I’m feeling within myself worthy of spending energy talking about it or trying to make a point?
>> Which similar incidents of the past that happened between the two of us could bring reassurance as they ended up turning out well?