Relationship Maintenance in Lockdown

Scrolling past numerous ads for cutesy couple subscription boxes, sexy noir ‘buy this perfume and your partner will find you irresistible’ ads, it kind of makes me want to throw up in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I love love and romantic relationships are great. After not having seen my family friends and close in over a year however, it got me thinking about the other relationships in my life and feeling as if I’ve let them go by the wayside. Those once bonds that were once iron clad started to strain under the weight of distance and video calls.

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A few weeks into lock down, annoyed at the amount of fake news, scare mongering and lies flooding my feed, I deleted the Facebook app. Not Facebook, just the app. I kept Messenger though, I feel it’s different, more like WhatsApp or Telegram. This led to me to not only miss out on my friends news that they were expecting a second child (I found out a month or so before the baby was born) but also to forgetting my own mothers birthday. The shame. The worst daughter in the world award goes to me. Hooray. I know my mothers birthday, I was actually looking for gifts for her a few weeks prior, but it’s that little notification that jogs your memory into the action of calling or sending a message. Something had to change. It wasn’t good enough to rely on notifications and a company that was selling my data to ad companies to continue to grow the friendships and relationships that were dear to me so I set out to change that. Here are five things I have done to help me feel closer to those I love while apart.

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1. Arrange Time to Talk

Every now and then a thought crosses my mind ‘I wonder how x is doing’. It’s lovely that I am thinking of them but they don’t know that and in a blink of an eye a year, two, five, ten years have gone by. So now, when I think of someone I send them a message saying ‘Thinking of you, give me a time and date when we can chat and catch up.’ I know it seems a hassle but the only way you get things done or meet up is if you schedule it, just like you would a cinema trip or a catch up over a coffee, just safer in the midst of Covid-19. This is the most fundamental way I have found to reconnect with loved ones.

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2. Ongoing Projects

Having a project or a goal in common with a friend or partner over video chat is a great way to build your relationship. It could be anything from a book club, movie nights, game afternoons or crafting sessions. Ideally they would be weekly or monthly but do schedule the next session before you hang up or life gets in the way. For example, on a random call with a friend, they told me they had started following a programme with Yoga with Adrien on YouTube and I asked if they wanted to do it together. We had so much fun we now have a fixed yoga morning on Wednesday and we get to do something together and talk about our progress. If you would like a blog post about project ideas or what I use, let me know in the comments or DM me at @tea_tales_travels.

3. Real Person Time

I know with different rules in different cities and people who have to quarantine at home etc it’s difficult to imagine meeting people in real life, but it is essential to have human contact. It’s human nature. Create a support bubble or meet a friend outside for a walk and keep your distance. Where I am, things have slowly started to open up and for a while I was apprehensive about meeting friends or going to restaurants. I decided to bite the bullet and met one friend in their home and we had brunch together. It was such a liberating and freeing experience that I didn’t realise five hours had passed. We might not have been able to hug or sit close together but we were in each others presence, we could read our body language and move around freely. It felt very healing for the soul. I want to make a disclaimer here, do not break any laws. If you have been told to stay at home and it’s not possible to mix with others, don’t do it.

4. Know your Neighbours.

Sometimes catching up with a friend or family member is just not possible but we all need to talk to a real person (see number 3) and usually, the people who are going to have the same restrictions as you will be your neighbours so get to know them. If you enjoy cooking, make double and put it on their door step in a recyclable one use container with heating instructions. Offer to walk their dog or babysit in the garden while they do something for them, even just an hour. Offer to cut their grass or have a lawn party where everyone stays in their own space but together.

Check in with older neighbours or single parents (offer to help with homework over a video chat if you can). At the end of the day, if there is an emergency that needs to be dealt with straight away, in these times it might not be possible to rely on your usual support network and your neighbours will be invaluable. If you’re unsure or a little shy, start with a little note through their door telling them you’re there and leave your contact details.

5. Tell the whole story

In the days of 140 characters and the fast pace of daily life, it’s easy to send off a quick ‘all is good, hope you’re well too’ message to our friends and family. Instead describe your day or a funny story or how you’re actually feeling in a long message. You could write a letter the snail mail way or you could write an extra long email with pictures or send a voice note that’s a good few minutes long. The extra detail and thought will allow others to feel part of your life and encourage them to share their ideas, thoughts and feelings and make each other even more part of each others lives. It’ll be strange at first but the more we do it, the more we get used to sharing in ways that’s not only a catch up in a bar or coffee shop.

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In all, the key to maintaining and improving your relationships long distance is effort and it has to begin somewhere. Let it be with you. Once you open up lines of communication and connections, they will just continue to grow and strengthen. Everyone will appreciate the time and care you have shown. Just remember to make sure your time and love is being poured into people who also pour into you too.

Over and Out,

TTT x

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