When China reopened after months of lockdown, the media reported a monumental spike in divorce cases, fuelled by endless bickering at home. Such reports have also come from other parts of the world, including India. As people continue to work from home, it is becoming increasingly clear that fighting during lockdown is not limited to married couples. It affects most people living together, including members of joint families, flat-mates and co-workers, siblings, and unwed partners.
Any student of human psychology is aware that forced sharing of space inevitably leads to disagreements and fights. There are many reasons for discord, such as a mismatch in priorities, the stress of dwindling financial and other resources, lack of experience in dealing with these situations, problems of anger management, among others. This negativity can be avoided by adopting five simple methods to maintain peace at home, during this unprecedented crisis:
TAKE FIVE DEEP BREATHS BEFORE REACTING
Staying calm in a pressure situation is easier said than done, but it is essential to stop fights from escalating. A sound policy is to count to five before reacting aggressively, which allows time for the anger to dissipate, leaving the mind clear to take note of the other person’s perspective. Calmly putting forward one’s view, while respecting that of others’, allows a mutually favourable solution to emerge, without resorting to emotional brickbats and bruises.
KEEP THE CONVERSATION OPEN
The biggest fallout of frequent friction at home is the closure of communication lines between cohabitants. It is crucial to express one’s feelings and to hear the other person’s point of view, if fights are to be avoided. Every party involved should be allowed to have their say and express their feelings. Things that are out in the open are far easier to resolve than when they are constantly bottled up.
ENFORCE A TIME-OUT
At times, it may seem impossible to meet someone half-way in their demands. Even if things seem to be out of hand, the situation can be salvaged by enforcing a time-out. Instead of yelling and making things worse, take a break by engaging in another activity. Time apart from each other puts things in correct perspective, so the problem can be addressed in a calm and practical manner.
FIND SPACE FOR YOURSELF
Spaces seem smaller when shared with others. In many cases, people are used to sharing spaces only for specific hours in the morning and night, as they work during the day. Lockdown has changed this scenario; so, one must create or claim individual space. It could be physical space, such as a corner of the house overlooking a window, or one side of the bed. Ideally, however, it should be space found within oneself. Meditate, follow therapeutic podcasts, read or listen to music — each of these will enable the creation of personal space without actively seeking it.
WRITE IT DOWN
If these tips do not work, turn to the age-old practice of writing one’s feelings down and letting go of them. Pen down each grievance, and encourage the other person to do the same. This will allow a glimpse into their mind, without dealing with the raised voices, ego battles and negative atmosphere that fighting often entails. Writing enables one to assess the situation more clearly, and more willing to compromise.
Do not be afraid to compromise, as it is an essential ingredient for overall happiness in life. Conflicts in relationships are inevitable, but one can control the way one responds to them. Timely intervention, patience and open-mindedness will certainly minimise the effects of conflicts at home. If none of the above measures seem to work, be open to seeking professional help online, or appoint another family member or cohabitant to mediate the conversations.
It is important to mitigate the damage now, in order for relationships to have a fighting chance when things go back to normal. The coronavirus has brought many hardships on everyone, but the breakdown of close and personal relations does not have to be one of them. The writer is a lawyer who pens lifestyle articles on her successful blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram @nooranandchawla.