Best Health : 2020-11-01

OH, THAT’S AWKWARD : 41 : 39

OH, THAT’S AWKWARD

Tales from lockdown b —Jennifer,* 28 best health OCTOBER NOVEMBER | “An ‘I’ statement forces us to take responsibi­lity for what we are thinking and feeling, and prevents us from blaming our partner,” says psychother­apist La’Tarra Tynes, owner of The Butterfly Effect Counsellin­g and Psychother­apy Services, based in Mississaug­a, Ont. “When we’re using ‘I’ statements, that doesn’t mean we can’t be assertive. It just forces you not to concentrat­e on judging what your partner did, but more so on how it makes you feel.” So: “I feel mad when you leave the dishes out. It makes me mad because I feel better when things are tidy.” See the difference? Running out of patience? Schedule structured time to talk Arrange a time for you to discuss what is bothering you both and commit to listening. “If you’re busy working all day, it’s hard to be able to communicat­e all your thoughts and feelings,” says Tynes. “It can get left unresolved, which is another issue.” If things become heated, take a break. Explain that you’re feeling emotional or gently point out your partner’s rising emotions, and go for a short walk or take some deep grounding breaths. Return to the discussion within a reasonable time, once you feel ready, otherwise it’s an avoidant behaviour. Ko also recommends scheduling a timed “listening and respecting” period. “One partner gets a full three to five minutes to say how they are feeling using ‘I’ statements. Then the other responds, ‘I heard you, or I heard that it was hard, etc.’ And then they switch,” says Ko. “It’s about having structure to open up and say how you feel, and having the other person reflect what they heard.” Mismatched desire? Meet in the middle What if one of you needs space to recharge and the other craves intimacy to feel human again? Come up with boundaries that work for you both. “When you have sex, those feel-good hormonal levels increase, which increases satisfacti­on in your relationsh­ip as well,” says Tynes. If sex and physical affection are necessary for one partner, the other needs to be open to finding a way to make that work. Intimacy isn’t limited to sex; cuddling, hugging, kissing and holding hands are all ways to show affection. It is important both partners express what they need to feel loved and commit to fulfilling that need. If you aren’t sure what you need right now, there’s a quiz for that! The Five Love Languages, a 1992 bestseller by marriage counsellor Dr. Gary Chapman, discusses how everyone needs to feel loved in five different ways — words of affirmatio­n, gifts, acts of service, quality time and physical touch. Both Ko and Tynes use it in their practices. “It’s important to know what your partner appreciate­s. Sometimes…we assume the other person needs what we need,” says Ko, and this can lead to disagreeme­nts. Try doing the assessment together to explore what you may be missing. Setting boundaries or scheduling sex may seem counterint­uitive to intimacy, but when a global pandemic is playing third wheel in your relationsh­ip, a little extra help can’t hurt. A NEW MARRIAGE TO PUT TO THE TEST “My husband and I had planned an epic two week honeymoon to South Africa for midMay. Then COVID hit, I was temporaril­y laid off, and we had to cancel our trip. Still, we felt optimistic as we decided to use this time to try and have a baby. We conceived, and were thrilled, but I miscarried at six weeks. Losing a job, isolating in a small condo, cancelling a big event that we’d been looking forward to and going through a miscarriag­e—it’s a lot. When you marry someone, you hope they’re going to be there for you through all the ups and downs. For us, we were put to that test right away, and we’ve come through the tumultuous months as stronger partners.”