The Anglican Communion’s Director for Gender Justice, Mandy Marshall, sets out some thoughts for making relationships work during a lockdown.
It’s all about relationships. Many of us find ourselves in unfamiliar situations - we are no longer able to leave our homes except under circumstances for medical needs, food and essential items. Even outdoor exercise is now a luxury. A year ago many of us couldn’t possibly imagine that this is where we would be now. However, those who have lived through epidemics are familiar with the situations the rest of us find ourselves in. We have much to learn from our sisters and brothers in Christ who have lived through SARS and Ebola and not least in regards to maintaining healthy relationships with those around us.
When we are cooped up in one place for a long time small irritants start to become bigger and Bigger and BIGGER until we burst and react. Managing these small irritants when they are still small is so important, so that they do not grow into the huge weight we create when we let them fester. However, being honest and open about our feelings and talking to someone about what is frustrating or annoying us can make us feel vulnerable. Some cultures are not used to such open conversations and discussions between family members but it is important to do so when we are in such close proximity with each other for long periods of time.
A key question to frame all of this is “How is what I am doing affecting relationships?” Am I building them up or am I diminishing them with my words, attitude and actions?
When discussing irritants more specifically, firstly we need to look inwards and ask ourselves the following questions:
- Why is this irritating me?
- Are my feelings reasonable or am I overreacting due to the situation?
- Does it feel unfair?
- Is it that I like things done my way and that other person isn’t doing it the “right” way?
- Do I need space and privacy to collect myself and find it hard to achieve this?
We need to reflect on our own thoughts and actions before we speak to others and see if it is our thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that need to change first.
Secondly, find a time and space to speak to your family member(s) when neither of you are tired or too busy to discuss your issue.
- Explain how you feel, what the issue is and why it is irritating you, without blaming the other person.
- Listen to the other person's response without judgement (this can be very hard when we want to justify why it is irritating us).
- Listen to how they feel about the issue.
- Explain what you need, listen to what they need and be willing to seek a compromise where you are both giving a little and reaching a mutually agreed upon solution if possible.
- If the conversation becomes heated, then agree to stop and return to the conversation at an alternate agreed time.
This is a simple process but one that is hard to do! There is a temptation to jump in and interrupt the other person and stop listening to what they are saying because we want to justify our position.
It is important, more than ever in these difficult and stressful times to listen, speak kindly and respond well with love rather than anger. Try it. Most of all remember love is patient.