What 2020 has taught us
December 15, 2020 By Ashley Albertson
This year has been a lot: from racial injustice, to global pandemics, to divisive elections and, if I’m being honest, I think we skipped over killer bees too fast.
We have been stuck at home with our spouses, been in too many zoom meetings to count, prayed to God to pull a loaves and fishes miracle out of the one roll of toilet paper we had left, and slowly spiraled into the world of TikTok. Well, maybe that last one is just me…
Let’s go back to the whole being stuck at home with our spouse thing. I have seen quarantine make couples closer than ever and I have seen it tear couples apart. On a global scale, we have seen COVID 19 bring about an alarming rise in domestic violence. Suicide rates are also climbing and an article in Medical News Today said this about a study they did on loneliness, “The study found an “alarming” increase in loneliness since the arrival of COVID-19. In the survey of 1,008 people aged 18–35, 80% of participants reported “significant depressive symptoms” during the pandemic.”
This disease is causing much more harm than just physical ailment. People’s emotional well-being are under attack. We have no more social distractions to keep us occupied when we are triggered. We can’t escape and have a girls night or hang out with the boys when we feel frustrated with our partner. We no longer receive attention from other people that makes us feel good. We have finally come to the realization that our phones really can’t fulfill all of our needs. We are forced to face the reality that is right in front of us: there is dysfunction in our relationship.
So how do we come out of this COVID quarantine conundrum? How do we make it to the other side and stay together? We need to connect. Real, genuine, vulnerable connection.
How can we define connection? In relationships we are looking for emotional connection. The word emotional means to arouse strong feelings. A connection is a bond, a link or tie to something or someone. Emotional connection, a bond that holds partners together in a relationship, is one of the most important strengths for couples to have. Without a strong emotional connection, relationships can easily drift apart. When was the last time you sat down with your spouse and spent hours getting to know them? Put down your phone, your laptop, your TV remote and connect with your spouse.
We need human connection. We need people to interact with. We need eye contact and hugs. And that is ok, because that is how we were created. Yes, we need air, shelter, food and water, but they have actually scientifically proven that we also need to bond and attach to other human beings. It's a biological need! No wonder quarantine is causing massive amounts of anxiety and depression, suicide and loneliness. We need to connect.
Whether you are single, dating, engaged, married, wherever you are in life I am sure that you have experienced some disconnect during COVID. I would encourage you to set aside some time, I know you have some, and get to know the person in your life that means the most to you. Tell them why you love them, ask them what their hopes and dreams are, tell them your goals and ambitions, ask them about how they grew up, etc. Just take some time and connect with them.
According to the Good Therapy Blog here are three steps to get you back on the track to emotional connection:
The first step is to recognize a problem exists. Becoming aware of the signs of emotional disconnect is beneficial. Here are some common ones:
You and your partner are not spending as much time together as you used to.
You are not communicating like you once did.
You are not feeling safe when talking together.
Your needs are not being met.
You feel lonely in your relationship.
These are just some of the telltale signs that emotional disconnect may be an issue.
2. COMMUNICATE THE ISSUE
When you detect a problem exists, make time to have a conversation with your partner. Start by asking if it’s a good time to talk. If not, ask when a good time would be.
Let your partner know that you have recognized you are both emotionally disconnecting. Express that you would like to begin the process of reconnecting on a deeper level. See if your partner feels the same way.
3. BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT EMOTIONALLY CONNECTING
Make a plan for being intentional about talking about your emotions and what you are feeling. Setting a time when you both feel safe to talk about your feelings is vital. Talk honestly about the state of your relationship.
Dr. Sue Johnson, psychologist and primary developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy, describes three components and questions that are helpful in the process of emotionally connecting. She uses the acronym ARE, which stands for accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement.
Accessibility: Can I reach you? This question asks if you are open to your partner, even if you have doubts or insecurities. Are you willing to investigate your own feelings to see how they are influencing your relationship? Are you willing to tune in to your partner to see what their feelings or attachment injuries may be revealing?
Responsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally? This question implores you to make room for your partner’s emotions, attachment needs, and fears. Are you willing to examine how they may be affecting you and your behavior? Are you paying attention to your partner’s needs for comfort, all the while behaving with sensitivity and compassion?
Engagement: Do I know you value me and stay close? This question asks that you be emotionally present for your partner. Are you paying attention to their emotions, thoughts, and needs in a deep and loving way? In like regard, your partner should also be present and engaged.