Do you know how to love someone from a place of empathy and kindness?
There are three groups of partners who are most affected by COVID-19's forced togetherness.
Couples who are reveling in 24/7 togetherness because their loving, intimate, and passionate relationship was unshakeable before the virus struck.
Extremely civil couples in strained long-term marriages who are sharing the house as housemates do — coming and going with minimal intimate contact. They may share meals and even share a bed, but how much joy and laughter and touch is there?
Then there are the "in-between" couples who are making do with this challenging situation that puts every relationship under a microscope. They are proactive in looking for new ways to improve their relationships.
If you’re in the last group, I’m speaking to you!
Most major cities have reported that dog adoptions have gone up since the beginning of COVID-19.
That’s because if you’re looking for unconditional love, pick a dog! Your odds are far greater than with a human companion.
However, you aren’t locked into that grim reality that your relationship needs more.
To learn how to love someone more, here are 5 steps to embrace empathy and kindness in your relationship.
1. Contribute to each other's lives.
How much time do you spend each day thinking about how to make your partner’s life more wonderful?
According to Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., founder of Nonviolent Communication, this is a natural component of love — the desire and commitment to finding ways to contribute to one another.
2. Consider their needs, at the moment.
Which have been the most effective ways to put a smile on your partner’s face? Some partners keep doing what they think will work again and again, feeling confused when those strategies fail to work again and again.
Others do what they want someone to do for them — again — that lacks empathy and consideration. It just doesn’t work now, or when selecting a Christmas gift!
When we consider the needs of our partner and carefully craft options to please them, the relationship must improve.
3. Don't let resentment build.
Passion is one "make it or break it" option for long-term relationships, but first, you need to get the other parts right.
Sexual desire is based in large part on trust and a feeling of safety in a long-term relationship. While passion for passions’ sake may be enough for a hot weekend, if you’re going to see that person month after month and year after year, you cannot afford to let resentment build.
You will find yourself cut off and out in the cold, sexually and emotionally!
4. Get your finances together.
Finances are the other biggest challenge to long-term relationships. Particularly during COVID-19, the financial pressure can either bring you closer together — you two against the world — or it can make one of you leave a sinking ship.
Again, the biggest difference in both groups is not the finances — it's the empathetic connection between the partners, a skill which you must develop in yourself!
5. Have fun!
Fun is a surprising component to success during COVID-19. Even if fun wasn’t important to you before, when you were busy with work and have many entertainment options, now that's no longer true.
Amazon Prime and Netflix are only entertaining for a while, aren’t they? If you can make your partner laugh — really, really laugh — you will find that your relationship is safer than the homes, in which there is little laughter.
Ultimately, your ability to empathize — to guess what your partner is feeling and needing, and to hear your partner — is a crucial skill.
When you're willing to do so until peace returns and intimacy is recreated, then you've taken a huge step towards lifelong love!
The alternatives — Cold War or divorce — are just too costly and worse during COVID-19 than at any other time.
Susan Allan is a certified mediator and communication expert who created The Marriage Forum, Inc. For a complimentary telephone or Zoom session, visit Heartspace or contact Susan at [email protected].