What I learned about my relationship during lockdown

People often assume that my relationship must be perfect because I’m a couples therapist. Let’s be honest, no matter how many letters you have after your name, nobody’s relationship is perfect. This couldn’t be more true during one of the most unprecedented times of this generation. The Coronavirus outbreak put its mark on many people's lives, some more tragic than others but overall it could be described as a global trauma. Lockdown also put considerable strain on couple relationships all over the world, and mine was no exception.

I’ve always known that my partner and I have a ‘yin/yang’ quality to our relationship. When things are good our differences are experienced as complementary, but keeping the proverbial relationship scales balanced is not always easy and so when things are not so good, it can feel like we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum. Being from California, I have always viewed myself as liberal with an open attitude, which makes me pretty unabashed (a good trait to have as a therapist!). However, I am very big on boundaries, especially in a professional setting. This less visible part of my self is reflected by my partner choice, who is British, more reserved (but by no means conservative) with a tendency to be a bit of a worrier. This can make him quite risk averse. For example, when we were able to eat out in days gone by, I was always the culinary adventurer, whereas my partner would tend to stick to the usual tried and tested favourites. 

During the early stages of lockdown, it seemed people were divided into two camps, those who were compliant and those that were ‘breaking the rules’. My partner was always going to be compelled to play the dutiful citizen role. My own attitude was markedly more laissez faire. My inner rebel has never really taken kindly to being told what to do. In the end, I learnt to pick my battles wisely, finding compromise and communication was key. I acquiesced to the rules to protect the precious NHS and for the greater good of our relationship. 

It was during the early weeks of lockdown that our shared walks in the park became one of the first sources of conflict. During our daily stroll my partner metamorphosed into a lockdown vigilante, pointing out all the people who were ‘breaking the rules’. Meanwhile, I preferred to give people the benefit of the doubt and found myself making excuses for why people were sunbathing when they shouldn’t be (maybe they had seasonal affective disorder?). We started to bicker and at one point we decided it was best to take our walks separately and give each other some space.

As lockdown started to ease, so did our arguments. This opened some space for a few discussions where we reflected on our differences and cultural narratives. Generally speaking, Americans seem to have a more individualistic mentality and a strong sense of ‘my rights’, for better or for worse (U.S. gun laws come to mind). By contrast, the British have more of a ‘we’re all in it together’ mentality that echoes the solidarity of wartime Britain. We reflected on how this ‘narrative’ may have influenced our behaviours in the face of adversity.

On a more psychological level, we also realised that my partner had been holding my anxiety as well as his own throughout the early stages of lockdown. This explained his agitated mood and I was able to emphasise with him. It seems, I dealt with my own anxiety by disowning it so that I could maintain the 'easy going Californian’ attitude that sits more comfortably with my narrative. Interestingly, on my solo walks I found myself upset at ‘rule breakers’, which demonstrates that underneath this ‘rebel facade’ I am much more like my partner than I chose to admit at the time. 

After our long chats, I once again grew to appreciate our relationship as a safe haven and my partner as someone who helps anchor me. After all, deep in my unconscious mind, this is one of the reasons I chose him. So perhaps I didn’t learn anything new about our relationship but rather I was reminded of how we work together as a couple and that relationships are indeed a continuous negotiation of the tensions between similarities and differences. 

Returning to the restaurant example, occasionally my partner can be coaxed into trying something new that he finds he really likes, and this will duly be added to his list of favourites. Likewise, if my deconstructed chimichanga turns out the be a complete disaster, my partner will always offer to share his dish with me. I can be adventurous because I know he’s there to catch me. Isn’t that one of the most important things in a relationship, knowing that your partners got your back? And this couldn’t be more important at a time when the world feels so unstable.  


Relationships therapy east london

Relationship and Couple Therapy

Sometimes relationships may undergo periods of stress and it may feel as if they are a source of unhappiness or confusion. Relationship counselling helps couples and individuals explore problematic patterns that may be affecting their quality of life. The problem may be recurring or after an event or series of events.

We work with a wide range of couples from different cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations

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Psychosexual Therapy

Psychosexual therapy is an integrative approach which combines talking therapy with behavioural therapy. It can take place on an individual basis or with a partner. It will involve an assessment of the sexual issue (including any associated medical factors) whilst exploring further how the relationship, sexual development and personal history may be affecting the sexual issue. Behavioural exercises may be discussed in the sessions, which will then be carried out at home to help the individual or couple address their sexual difficulties.

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Psychosexual Therapists East London

East London Individual Counselling

Individual Counselling

Individual counselling is a joint process between a therapist and client. Common goals of therapy may be to motivate change or improve quality of life. Therapy can help people overcome obstacles to emotional and mental well-being.

It can also increase positive feelings, such as compassion and self-esteem. People in therapy can learn healthy skills for managing difficult situations, making positive decisions, and reaching goals.

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