Recently I published a personal article on Medium entitled, Spiraling: What a Bad Day Looks Like. Over the last year and a half, the bad-day-count has broken records. Let’s face it, as we inch closer to the New Year, many of us are experiencing an emotional flip-flop of hope and doubt; we’re ready to shed 2021 and the chaos it came with but know 2022 won’t be without its constraints.
Since mid-2020 I have been taking stock of the things I am most grateful for. Even beneath this engorging cloud of uncertainty, I remain in touch with the elements of my life that propel me forward. One of those, as most of you know, is my marriage with James. As per my last article, Reintroducing Quean Mo: Ethical Slut and Badly Behaved Sexy Traveler, our pursuit for sexual adventure has been minimal, yet we’ve managed to keep intimacy a priority.
With this ongoing collective trauma, coping as an individual, let alone supporting a partner, has been trying. Mental health has been impacted, and the spike in break-ups and divorce is staggering. Many of us are feeling an unprecedented strain on our relationships, even worse for families working at home with children…
So, how are people doing it? How are couples and relationships managing? What is the difference between deteriorating relationships and those who have, somehow, grown stronger?
Before I take you down that road, let’s discuss…
Not all relationships are meant to last, and not all relationships that end are failures. When we consciously uncouple, we honor our peace, our evolution, and our next chapter. Deciding to leave a relationship can oftentimes be a symbol of our love for the person we are letting go. To hold on beyond the expiry date can cause added difficulty.
Only you know whether the relationship you are in is right for you. Sometimes it takes a pandemic to realize you may not be living your best life, which includes the love you give and receive. Your feelings are valid!
If you have recently uncoupled, or are amid a breakup, take a moment to check out Rebel Love’s Mental Health Tools For Dealing With a Breakup. If the idea of singledom is frightening, check out Singles Day: 3 Reasons to Celebrate Those Who Go Solo for support and inspiration.
Living Apart, Together
Ev’yan Whitney is an author, influencer, and sex educator. They are hugely celebrated in this arena, and speak about sex, trauma, social justice, and personal stories about their marriage. During the pandemic, they and their husband decided to live apart, together. In other words, they decided what was best for their relationship was to remain as a couple but live in separate places.
Why I find this decision so bold, so revolutionary, is because it’s an alternative to breaking up that most people won’t even consider. If our partner turns down our proposal, says they aren’t ready to move in, or that they “need space,” our egos interpret that as doomsday. If our person doesn’t have the same desires as us at any given moment, it must mean they hate us, and the relationship is over! Right?
This reminds me of the scene in Wanderlust where couple, Joy and Alan, find out they’ve cheated on each other, immediately assuming it’s the end of their marriage. As the conversation continues, Joy admits that she is still in love with her husband, but the sex isn’t that great. When he agrees, they both have this epiphanic moment, whereby they recognize their desire to salvage the marriage but may open it to new possibilities – in this case, becoming sexually non-exclusive.
What feels miraculous about this, and the decision made by Ev’yan and their husband, for example, is they understand relationships aren’t black and white; there is no template. Love is individual, and traditional relationship structures are being redefined. The need for space or lack of want one day (or week or month) does not automatically equate to the demise of love. In fact, circumstances are always changing, and if considered carefully and honestly, finding alternative solutions could result in leveling-up your connection and relationship.
The Cliché of Honouring the Self
When I think about the people closest to me, those with the strongest relationships have one thing in common. This one thing is the result of intentional, daily choices, all rooted in honouring the self.
The old cliché, “one cannot pour from an empty cup,” comes to mind here. The strongest relationships I know are made up of individuals who, before anything else, are just that: individuals. And they know that if they can’t take care of themselves, they will be carrying that lack into their relationship. So, remaining pro-active in the awareness and compliance of one’s own feelings and boundaries is paramount to relationship success.
But what does that look like exactly? How can we practice this moving forward?
Let these foundational elements keep your connection active; enjoy this 2022 survival guide – daily intentions to keep the spark alive during a pandemic!
You didn’t think you’d get through this without the “C” word, did you?
I am a champion for anyone who practices communicating, especially when it feels difficult. Clear and healthy communication has been proven to not only increase a relationship’s success, but the perceived closeness of all parties within that relationship.
The practice of intentional, healthy communication looks like this:
- Starting an open conversation about a particular issue or concern without attacking. The best way to approach this is through the use of “I” statements and remembering that the goal is conflict resolution not creation.
- Giving each other the opportunity to speak and be heard, sharing needs, and asking for feedback.
Not all conversations are easy; however, the more we are intentional about our communication practices, the greater our skills will be. In my relationship, I tended to be the one to project my own insecurities and trauma onto James. Luckily, he met those projections with practical responses. In saying that, if both partners are communicating from a place of trauma or ego, it can be hard to make any traction. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional – such as a coach, counsellor, or therapist – to assist in conflict resolution or communication management.
Stay Financial Healthy
We are living through a time of economical strain. As someone who removed herself from, what seemed to be, a promising career path, I understand the weight of financial instability. My resignation, although a choice, felt like the only option. In short, the choice went like this: a great salary or my mental health. It was a no-brainer.
I know many people have lost their jobs over the span of this pandemic – many of whom didn’t have a choice! Financial instability, regardless of the cause, can shake even the strongest of foundations. According to Dr. Leon F. Seltzer from Psychology Today, more marriages break up over money conflicts than anything else – and that’s without a pandemic stealing jobs away. Dr. Seltzer states that “explicitly – and empathetically – discussing money differences” is critical in alleviating financial tension. Using healthy communication, couples (and families) can begin to manage financial stress by:
- Being realistic and aware of the resources available to you
- Reviewing your expenses and reducing where possible
- Analyzing priorities and goals
- Building and adjusting budgets based on those priorities and goals
- Researching possible relief funds or financial assistance through the government or other trustworthy financial institutions
Plan Time Together and Apart
If you aren’t leaning towards an Ev’yan Whitney solution, consider this:
Designate time for yourself, away from your home, without your partner. Secondly, designate time for activities you enjoy with your partner. For example, James loves watching football and playing poker online, during which you will find me collaging or reading. Thursday nights, however, are unnegotiable date nights. We take time to get dressed up in the same way we would if we were going out. Then we light some candles, put on some music, and lock the door.
I’ve also discovered some unique ideas from couples who were living together during lockdown. These couples resorted to creative measures as they were legally bound to the same space. One couple, for instance, made a “sweater rule.” In short, each person selected a specific sweater that, when worn, meant they were invisible to their partner. Their partner had to respect their space until the sweater came off.
Another family threw themed dinner parties with their children, adding some excitement and diversity to their quarantine lives. For added fun, the older children were assigned a night of the week whereby they were in control of the theme and cooking for the family!
Lastly, one couple designated a specific place in the house for conflict resolution. Every Sunday at six o’clock they would meet in this part of the house and spend time speaking about issues that arose that week. They then worked through solutions to make the following week easier.
When we put things in place – even things that seem silly at first – to honour our needs, we are ultimately doing our partners a favour. These are not the easiest of times, so creating unique rules that work for you and yours, is a wonderful alternative to separating…and a pro-active way of keeping the spark alive!
Many of us try hard to stay strong for our partners. Although this seems noble, it can often backfire. What I suggest as an alternative is acknowledging your losses together and brainstorm collaborative ways to navigate this new situation. Remember, this pandemic is a collective trauma – even if you feel alone at times, you are not. The entire world is facing the impact of this virus and pretending otherwise within the walls of your own home may not be the answer.
What does this look like?
Create a “Worry Hour” with your partner. In other words, choose an hour per week where you both set a timer, sit, and discuss your fears and your losses. This is the moment to access your sadness, your anger, your grief, together. This is not the time to seek solutions for yourself or your partner, but rather, accept what’s happening.
When the timer goes off, take a couple of minutes to embrace and pull strength from the space you each held for each other and your relationship. If you are concerned about the aftermath of this worry hour, follow it up by revisiting some wonderful past times. This may include going through old albums of your honeymoon or reminiscing about your first date. An alternative to that could be making future plans. Even if you can’t set them in stone, allowing yourself to dream together can be quite elating. James and I often write lists, such as:
- The top five cities we want to visit in Europe
- The top three hottest destinations on our bucket list
- The top five activities we want to do together before the end of next year
It is important to release the negative, but also to remember the things worth living for.
Intimacy comes in many forms – intellectual, mental, emotional, and, of course, physical. As we navigate this pandemic, and the potential of another lockdown, it’s important we don’t put added pressure on one another.
Like anything else, intimacy takes planning. You must be intentional with yourselves and each other. Take time to focus on your commitment and pleasure. How?
First, I recommend having a conversation about needs and steps you can take to get on the same page. It’s also important to understand that each of you has a right to your own body and pursuing self-pleasure during this time is a wonderful alternative to partnered sex.
For example, if you experience different levels of desire, masturbation can be a great tool! For the higher-desire partner, self-pleasure can reduce frustration and relieve any resentment or pressure you may unintentionally project onto your partner. As the lower-desire partner, self-pleasure can reconnect you to your body and sexuality. You may even find that masturbation brings you closer, as it gives you something to speak about – should you wish to.
For more on this, check out the 4 Self-Pleasure Practices to Boost Confidence for some ideas. Take it to the next level by reading it together!
The Greatest Love
We are all navigating this new world the best we can, with little guidance. This can take a toll on our closest relationships. I do believe, however, that with some self-awareness and daily intentions, we can experience some of the greatest love yet. Open the line of communication with your partner and make the commitment today – choose your daily intention to keep your spark alive during this pandemic.
Until next time,
Fuck well, friends!
Quean Mo xx
P.S. So, tell me, what daily intention resonated most with you? Will you make the commitment today? Comment Below or Contact Me Here!