Relationships are Hard
by Jonathan Chiaravalle, MA, LPC

Even on the best of our days relationships with ourselves and the people that surround us can be difficult. Adding in the stressors of the pandemic makes it even more challenging. Below are three tools that can be helpful or reduce the damage to relationships. These are mainly focused on romantic partnerships however they can be applied to any relationship (children, work, neighbors, etc).

1. Take a break. I know the idea seems simple but in practice once our amygdala (the part of the brain that regulates fight, flight, freeze) fires off we are triggered and not our best selves. So, quickly say “I love you and I’ll be back in less than one hour.” and then go do something that is not affiliated with the triggering event. Go for a walk, read a book, chop wood, clean the house, sudoku, anything but think about the event so your brain and nervous system can reset. Then you can bring your best self back to the conversation and relationship.

2. Check in frequently but briefly with your partner and others in your life. We are around each other all the time so an extended check in can seem daunting or annoying. However three brief check-ins a day to say I love you, I hope your day is going well and exchange a quick authentic kiss or touch (you know the ones I mean, the kisses and touches that say I love you, not I am just doing this because someone said so). Start on a positive note and end on a positive note. Don’t make it into a gripe session. Just check-in so you can receive and provide support as needed.

3. Learn the love languages. 5 Love Languages Taking the quiz or reading the book can give you some great ideas for helping fill yours and your partner’s love tanks. They can even be translated to children, work, neighbors, etc. We are often exhausted these days so we need to get the best return on our loving gestures and the love languages increases the likelihood of this. And most people will welcome some loving connection. If that isn’t happening it might be time to find some couples counseling to work through the wounds and issues between people. More resources can be found at Present Tense Relating Resources

I am Jonathan Chiaravalle and I’ve been working in the field of relationships, gender and sexuality for the past 30 years. I believe relationships are the most important thing on the planet and we all need to do our best with them. Please make sure they are safe and consensual in all aspects.