One of the areas of learning in Lockdown is of course in my relationship. I absolutely love my man, and instead of being worried, I chose to be curious about how 12 weeks stuck in a tiny flat with him would challenge us both.
There has been snapping, inevitably. I am patient with how irritated he gets around my failures regarding the shower curtain, cupboard door and bathroom lights. I am very aware that I am in his flat, for what was always supposed to be a temporary arrangement, and having a woman in his space that has been his bachelor pad for 13 years was always going to be a challenge. I cried with gratitude when he rearranged his shelves to create a temporary workspace for me to write in, and helped me wheel an office chair and small table up the street from the second hand furniture shop in January. He helped me through my debilitating anxiety in February, hugging me and rubbing my back as we got my breathing under control. When he received the NHS letter telling him to shield in March, I was suddenly paranoid about making him ill, so suggested I go stay somewhere else to keep him safe from the threat of infection. He grabbed me, kissed me and said No chance.So here we are. What was going to be a few weeks while I sorted out my own new place has turned into a few months, and while I love it, I have to remember he didn’t choose this.
So with the awareness that this time is an opportunity to deepen my love and relationship with him, I will be gathering snippets of the billions of pieces of relationship advice out there, and summarising my findings here.
THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES – GARY CHAPMAN
You often think you are doing everything you can to make your partner feel loved. The reason they may not feel loved is because you are speaking a different love language. You could be working really hard in what you think is love, but your partner may not feel love like you do through that method. You may love hearing I love you, but that may not be important to your partner, so they don’t say it as much as you wish they would. It doesn’t mean they don’t love, just that they express it differently.
It’s important to work out what your primary love language is. One of the five languages usually resonates the most with us. It may have come from your childhood, how you felt love from your parents. Another way to explore this is to work out when you have been hurt in the past. which love language was being withdrrawn when
what we think is an act of love might not be seen that way by your partner. Find out what your partner’s love language is and fill up their love tank. It might take a while if they’ve been running on empty for a while. Love is a choice. You can chose to do the actions and the feelings of love will follow.
We have another handy colour-coded diagram, and because he is very supportive of my journey towards a healthier headspace, and because spending 24 hours a day with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having quality time, my love turned off the TV this evening and we had a helpful conversation about these. We sat on the sofa, turned to actually face each other, and look into each others eyes. I showed him the diagram and asked which love languages he thought were his. We realised, with some relief, that we both have the same languages. Quality time, physical touch and acts of service, in that order. He said he’s not very good with complements, and I said that’s OK because that’s not so important to me, and anyway I’m good at complements, so I can complement myself and he’ll say yeah that. But he is great at listening and encouraging, which is part of words of affirmation, so we’re alright there. And we both like gifts but especially the ones that are handmade or that involve time out together (like Tickets to a gig) so really our gifts are about quality time anyway.
We talked about the importance of knowing what each others needs are so that we can be sensitive to them, and make sure we are either meeting them, or at least not violating them. He apologised that recently he’s been very snappy, but we realised how frustrated he is to be locked in here, that he really misses his job, the sense of achievement, and is really struggling with the fact that he’s not even allowed to answer the door when his friends drop off shopping. He is a deeply social person, always on stage or at events, helping friends out or meeting up for coffee. I don’t miss these things much, and I need to remember that he is taking this much harder than me, so if he is getting stressed or snappy, it isn’t really at me, it’s just near me.
I said don’t hold back, feel free to vent your stress, is there anything I can do to help?
He looked at me very seriously and said, ‘No, I just need you to be OK. Because if you get, y’know, bad again, like February, then I can’t do anything, I can’t drive you anywhere.’
‘Oh my God of course, you’re worried I might get anxious again.’
‘Yeah, and I won’t be able to help.’
‘I have been so much better,’ I said, ‘since I’ve been doing my morning sunshine thing, taking care of my mental health,’
‘Yes, yes you are, you’ve been really good.’ he said.
‘So what I can do for you is take care of myself?’ I asked.
Well how obvious is that. Me taking care of myself is also an act of love for him. Win win win.