If you have an overall positive relationship with your partner but lockdown pushes you over the edge and you become snappy.

If right now you feel concerned after you had a couple of nasty disagreements with your partner and you feel that the lockdown period might leave a dent in your otherwise strong and positive relationship, here are some tips to ensure that you manage your disagreements without escalating them.

1. Begin the conversation – develop a ritual

Even if you think you know your partner and what makes him happy and fulfilled, being in lockdown for too long, especially when dealing with the uncertainty and daily flood of mostly scary and negative information, will wear out the strongest of us and lead to feelings of heightened stress, anxiety and frustration. What works for you under normal circumstances might not work in this situation. So in the morning, when you have your breakfast together check in with each other:

– How do you feel this morning?
– Did you sleep well?
– Do you have a busy day planned?
– Is there anything you need from me?
– Is there anything you are dealing with that I need to know about?
– If I need your attention, what is the best way to get it?

The same ritual can be performed at night before dinner. You can check in and see how each other’s day progressed, what was positive or negative, what did your partner struggle with, and what do they wish they could do differently tomorrow.

2. Ask for what you need

Of course, you need to be aware of what you are accountable for in creating a stressful and unproductive situation at home. Are you grumpy all the time and expect your partner to read your mind and to predict what you need? Here is what might be helpful to do. Instead of taking a risk and letting your partner fail when she doesn’t meet your needs, simply say: “I feel annoyed and I need some space, I will go and do some gardening for half an hour”, or “I feel sad, I need a cuddle” or “I really want to have some fun with you tonight, can we just forget about all the stress after 5:30 pm and have a karaoke session?”. When you just say “I find it hard to work today”, your partner might miss the opportunity to explore what it means to you.

3. Show empathy

I know it’s hard for you. I hear that you are frustrated, and you have to work for a reduced salary, or missed out on a promotion, or lost your holiday as a result of this pandemic crisis. There are so many devastating consequences to deal with. Just for a moment, pause and look at it from your partner’s perspective: what worries your partner, what are they concerned about, and what support do they need from you?

4. Develop a culture of appreciation

How can you make your partner feel that she is plan A? That you appreciate her and her efforts to make the lockdown period fun and less stressful for both of you. What can you appreciate in him or her? Every day, find three to five things you appreciate about each other and the efforts you are making to make it work well for both of you. Notice those moments when your partner does something right. People don’t need medals, but simply a thank you or “I really appreciate when you do the dishes/spend extra time with Timmy doing his Mathletics”, “Thank you for making lasagna tonight, you know it’s my favourite”, and never forget the unconditional “I am so glad that you are the one I am in lockdown with.”

5. Repair quickly

Please make a repair attempt after you had a misunderstanding or snapped at each other. An apology without excuses is always appreciated. Use it as an opportunity to improve the way you relate and express any needs that haven’t been expressed.

– I am sorry I raised my voice. I shouldn’t have spoken to you this way; I know you wanted to help me. I think I need to manage my stress better and make sure I take breaks and calm down before talking.

– I am sorry for using such harsh words, I can see how hard you try to keep our place clean and tidy. You didn’t deserve it and I want you to know that I appreciate and love our place and I will take better care of it as well.

Remember that this time will pass, but sometimes the injuries sustained in arguments create painful scars that last for a long time. Appreciate the person next to you; it’s hard for both of you. If you think that you have already caused some damage to your relationship but would like to repair it, check out our course for couples to help you to find a new way of relating to each other and to improve your relationship.