The pleas to ‘get back to normal’ are a common refrain these days. But as the beautiful poet Amanda Gorman reminds us, the opportunity to surpass what was previously normal, to grow beyond what we knew before is much more promising. As we move into this new year, how can we take what we experienced last year to create something better than what has been before?
To begin, first reflect on what you came to understand about the needs of your relationship having lived through 2021. Did you learn that you absolutely each need space in order to get along? Many couples were able to shatter the illusion that being in love means enjoying each other’s company ALL-THE-TIME. The pandemic —- with its long stretches of required lockdown and work from home —- has helped couples accept and even embrace the very physical need for space, whether that be simply an hour alone in the apartment, or a weekend alone in the woods. Beyond accepting this need, they have learned the benefit to their relationship of having space from one another and the ways this can rekindle attraction and desire for one another.
Other couples learned that they had to clear the air regularly to allow pent up irritations and frustrations to pass through and be gone. Many couples came into the pandemic avoiding conflict, especially around insignificant upset. Through the pandemic those insignificant irritations became larger as they were in such close quarters and carrying such heavy burdens. Suddenly, the socks on the floor or the tapping pen became monumental, and couples were moving apart as the irritations became antipathy. Once forced to air their grievances in order to survive, they learned in doing so, they reached a new level of honesty and connection.
After becoming clear, what are the new choices and habits you want to take for this coming year? Scheduled time alone, which allows you both to feel more yourselves and feel more natural longing for connection? Open conversations about needs and concerns which allow you to let go of irritations and move back toward each other? How can you take the lessons learned from the challenging realities of this last year to grow stronger and better as we leave 2021 behind?
Returning to “normal” would mean returning to pretending you aren’t irritated about socks on the floor (and likely more socks on the floor), or pretending being together in all your free time was exactly what you wanted. Surely, this is not what you are seeking as you move forward into this new year. Instead of a return to normal, seek out what you want to build from the challenges and what is next for your relationship. Every challenge creates the opportunity to grow stronger and closer if we choose to work toward this, instead of seeking to return to ‘normal’ after a challenge. I encourage you to choose the path with the greatest opportunity to make your relationship stronger and more vital!
Toward this, my couples classes beginning February 9th will focus on creating new connection, love and intimacy from what already is —- even as things feel stuck and boring. I hope you will sign up to join me and build your relationship to greater places together.