Changing Dynamics of Romantic Relationship During the Pandemic

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

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Changing Dynamics of Romantic Relationship During the Pandemic

Dr. Shambhavi Samir Alve | June 09, 2020 13:05 hrs

GUWAHAI: Human beings are social animals with an inherent need to be connected to other individuals – psychologically, emotionally, socially, physically and, considering the changing times, digitally as well.  

Among all the other bonds that we share, romantic relationship has a strong position for itself. Research has time and again revealed the effect intimate relations have on our biochemical makeup. Falling in love and sharing intimate moments with a romantic partner can bring a rise in dopamine and oxytocin level, which are also called as the ‘feel good’ hormones. 

Studies suggest that the adrenaline rush experienced by an individual when attracted to other, is similar to those indulging in a thrilling sport or taking a roller coaster ride. 

The pandemic outbreak followed by lockdown has reflected shifts in romantic relationships across the globe. 

Almost all of these relationships fall in either of the two categories: being quarantined together or being geographically separated because of the sudden lockdown. 

However, emotional friction is what remains constant for all. Let’s take a look at few measures we could incorporate to avoid or correct relationship discord.

1. Being aware of our own emotions

Whenever we are upset, irrespective of its cause, our thoughts have a tendency to bring back foul memories from the past making our mood go for a toss. Moreover, in order to relieve the distress, knowingly or unknowingly, we project those feelings on our partner; calling names, playing the blame-game, counting their past mistakes, are few examples of such behaviour. The intention is not to hurt our partner but to guard our own emotions. The key to avoid projection lies in ‘being aware’ of our present emotional state. Consciously attending to questions like, “How am I feeling right now? What are the current thoughts running in mind?” can be extremely helpful in alleviating unhealthy mood. Installing a real dust bin in our room to throw away paper with our unhealthy emotions and thoughts written over it, can be an excellent technique to work on ourselves.

2. Communicating our feelings 

Once we own the clarity of our feelings and thoughts, the next step is to express them humbly. Communication is the substratum of every relationship, but in romantic relationships it can be a two-way sword. The challenge lies in how we let our partners know what their behaviour made us feel like. The kind of words, tone, and pitch we use, besides the non-verbal cues of walking around with heavy feet or purposely putting the phone on airplane mode or uploading WhatsApp ‘status’ will only make the communication faulty further. To avoid such circumstances, we can express our feelings through a letter or an email, but hold on to it for 10 hours; only if it still feels the same, send it across or else simply reword the message. Saying ‘sorry,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘I love you,’ are some of the simple yet powerful ways of expressing our thoughts and feelings. 

3. Strengthening trust

A relationship that carries hue of doubt doesn’t make any couple last for long – neither physically nor emotionally. Especially in today’s pandemic phase, digital is helping us connect with people, known as well as unknown, in spite of being geographically away; the possibility of bumping into a past lover or finding some virtual friend attractive cannot be ruled out. This can further build a plot for doubt and mistrust. Instead of stalking online, clearing the cloud of doubting thoughts with straight, to the point communication can be fruitful. Creating and indulging in a dedicated ‘us time’ every week benefits as well. This time can be more than just physical intimacy, like reading out books to each other, cooking together, sharing childhood memories. 

4. Maintaining healthy boundaries 

For the relationship to grow strong and healthy, setting individual boundaries is inevitable.  Considering the fact that we all come from different family backgrounds and were raised in different fashion, difference of opinion will prevail across all domains of ‘togetherness.’ Accepting each other’s individuality and respecting these differences is crucial. However, ‘respect’ as a virtue needs to be cultivated time and again in romantic relationships. Especially when we grow old together, the instances of taking him/her for granted occur on a default mode. Thus, a conscious effort at respecting his/her individuality is necessary. Having said that, embracing our own boundaries is equally important; for instance, saying no for physical intimacy when we don’t feel like, is absolutely fine. Setting boundaries also means there is no room for abuse – physical, emotional, verbal and/or financial. 

In a nutshell, self-awareness, communication, trust and setting boundaries are the four pillars of every romantic relationship. If any one of them breaks, the entire construction can topple down. However, at any junction if we feel the pillar/s is/are getting weak, seeking professional help is advisable. End of the day, romantic relationships have a strong impact on our mental health and so it becomes a matter utmost importance and care. 

(The author is a Ph.D. Psychology, MBA-HR and Developmental Psychologist, Clinical hypnotherapist, and Arts Based Therapy Practitioner. Views expressed in the article are her own. She can be reached at dr.shambhavisamir@gmail.com)

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