Lockdown learning: #8 Marriage glue

A short series of 2 minute observations

The lockdown has put a lot of pressure on households. We are seeing a lot more of whoever it is we are living with.

Sadly, we are at our most unguarded with those who know us well and so we are often cruel as well as kind – revealing our flawed nature.

It can be very bad. In Britain, calls to the domestic violence helpline have risen by 50% and the domestic murder rate has more than doubled! I fully expect that as lockdown eases and people can begin to move on, we will see an uptick in separations and divorces.

I know many things put relationships under strain – no space (physically and psychologically); external pressures – money worries, sickness, bereavements; internal pressures – boredom and frustration; divergent  needs, food likes, love languages or activities.

I feel fortunate – I really like my wife and we get on well (and we have many rooms!) Spending time together is no hardship at all but it still requires us to build rather than damage our relationship, if we are to emerge successfully out the other side of the pandemic.

So if we all know what creates the tensions in relationships – what is the glue?

What do we need to do, to build rather than break relationships in the current circumstances?

I am sure all of us will have our own preconceptions based on our experience. However, as a fan of data I was very taken by an article that highlighted the statistical importance (~94%) of kindness and respect in everyday living…

You are watching TV when your partner wants your attention (e.g. something they are reading, something that needs to go on the to do list, sorting a date). What do you do? Do you ignore them, groan or turn your attention to them?

It’s a real, daily call to put a priority on the other person.

Your response to these ‘bids’ for attention signals how likely your relationship is to prosper. Respond positively to 1 in 3 and the odds are pretty low that you will make it to the long term, 9 in 10 and the future is golden. Its your choice.

9 in 10? This level of respect makes good events great, reinforces the value both place on the relationship and reduces conflicts to fights (not war). In the end, it is kindness which is apparently, but perhaps not surprisingly, the glue. So says the Love Lab and Gottman Institute in NY.

Maybe Tolstoy’s quote from Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is true only about the symptoms not the causes.

and maybe I need to keep my batting average up…