The narrative we each carry, the story we each tell ourselves, is critical to explore in order to change our quality of lives for the better. Right now, in the era of COVID-19, most of us are carrying a narrative around the pandemic including fear for one’s safety. This is not neurotic anxiety but realistic worry, fear, and anxiety.
As a therapist, a narrative I have found helpful is to acknowledge that we are not forced, but rather choose to shelter in place for our own good, the good of our loved ones as well as the greater good. Adopting this narrative can help one to feel empowered, not victimized, and help shift the thinking around what’s currently happening around us.
Beyond my social work graduate education, training as a sex therapist has greatly helped my understanding of human development as a whole including sexual development which is critical to the human experience and procreation of the species. Studying sexuality has helped me to understand significant aspects of the human experience.. Neglecting conversations around ways to grow and develop including sexuality is, in my opinion, a great disservice to clients.
During times of normalcy, couples fight. They fight about sex, money, communication, division of labor, in-laws, family, parenting, whatever problem they may be facing. The current pandemic has impacted relationships by intensifying already-existing problems or resolving them to varying degrees. For some couples, the togetherness they have longed for has been helped by sheltering in place. For some outside of partnered relationships, I have noticed an increased sense of isolation and loneliness. For couples experiencing hardship, whether it be due to illness, finances due to job loss or new dynamics due to working from home while parenting, suddenly the division of labor in the home can shift. We are, indeed, facing a new frontier and upon acknowledging functional difficulties and accompanying emotions, improvement and greater happiness is possible. We may tolerate our anxiety more effectively, increasing access to joy and pleasure and I want to help clients explore and develop what I call relationship-actualization, which is partnership-centric, and especially important as we face this pandemic.
Couples can and do achieve success in therapy. They can reduce relational anxiety and also manage it with greater skill, in part, by shifting expectations. They learn to implement, practice and develop vulnerability, authenticity, risk-taking, strong interpersonal communication and comfort in managing conflict. This is not an easy process but a straight-forward one, much like flowers beginning to bloom in the spring.
Springtime is a perfect opportunity to create our own rites of passage into our brave new world, becoming more present and, therefore, more mindful. We can go out in nature, smell the flowers, hear the birds, notice the colors and be mindfully aware in the moment, using our imaginations to be present, possibly even creative.
So I say that now is the time to explore, experience and plan for pleasure, play and passion. How? Start here :
- Plan dates with your partner
- Act spontaneously
- Enjoy sensual and consensual intimacy and sex with your partner or yourself
- Visit online Virtual museums
- Take online partner-yoga classes
- Watch re-broadcasts of old, great sporting events from years gone by
- Plan online double dates over videoconferencing
- Listen and enjoy online FB or YouTube music performances
- Plant a garden
- Walk in nature
- Read, read to each other and exchange ideas about what you’re reading
- Listen to Podcasts and have a conversation about what you hear or learn
- Appreciate and embrace each other’s perspectives
- Binge-watch shows and movies
- Visit Brooklyn’s House of Yes Zoom dance parties
- Do crossword puzzles
- Dream together about your future post-pandemic travel plans
- Express appreciation and gratefulness to your partner at least one time a day
In addition, practice self-care and take quality time apart to come back together revitalized. Esther Perel wisely advises us to do so because like fire needing air, that is how we fan the flames of desire. Go for a drive on your own, to the mountains, to the seaside, somewhere that brings you peace. Return home with a new and pleasurable memory and experience to share with your partner. Then, go for that drive together and focus on how lovely it is and how lucky we are to be alive.