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  • Writer's pictureThrive Inc.

Relationship Rx During COVID-19

We’re all adjusting to this new reality. Whether you’re isolating alone or spending 24/7 with partners, kids and pets, there’s no doubt that it can be really stressful. It’s so important to ensure that we’re caring for ourselves right now so that we’re able to fully support others. We need to be self-responsible.

Stress levels are increasing in the face of such uncertainty, and it’s important that we take the time to adjust, reassess and communicate our needs. By making small changes to our daily routines, we can regain our power and manage stress more efficiently. We don’t always know how we’re really feeling until we reflect, and by processing our emotions, we can look after our own needs as well as those of our loved ones. Compassion is key.

In today’s episode, we’ll discuss how we can take responsibility for ourselves and our relationships, and how to keep our relationships alive when isolating together in adverse circumstances. We’ll provide you with tips and tricks to maintain sanity and resilience while quarantining with loved ones. Tune in to discover how to process your own emotions, communicate your needs and sustain supportive, healthy households. We’re all learning as we go, and together we’re better and stronger!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Learn More:

  • Why communicating your own needs is essential during the quarantine.

  • How to process your own emotions through times of stress.

  • How to work together when isolating at home.

  • How to negotiate relationship boundaries through intense circumstances.

  • How stress shows up for you and what you can do to manage it.

  • Why implementing boundaries for yourself is crucial to wellbeing.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie Campbell: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. Hi, I'm CrisMarie.

Susan Clarke: And I'm Susan. We run a company called Thrive, and we specialize in conflict resolution, communication and building strong, thriving teams and relationships. Conflict shows up in our lives in so many ways. Most people, unfortunately, are not very good at handling conflict. Most people have never been taught the right tools for dealing with conflict, and then it leads to unnecessary friction, arguments, passive aggressive emails, tears, hurtful comments, stuck-ness, all kinds of things we don't want. We're on a mission to change all of that.

CrisMarie Campbell: We've spent the last 20 years teaching our clients how to handle conflict in a whole new way. We're here to show you that conflict doesn't have to be scary and overwhelming. With the right tools, you can turn a moment of conflict into a moment of reinvention. Conflict can pave the way into a beautiful new system at work, a new way of leading your team, a new way of parenting, a new chapter of your marriage where you feel more connected than ever before. Conflict can lead to beautiful things.

Well, here we are in self-quarantine 24/7 in the same house with possibly your partner and more, maybe animals and kids, and we know this can be stressful. We just read the news today that China is coming out of sheltering in place, and both their divorce and their domestic violence rates have skyrocketed.

We do not want that to happen to you, and it doesn't have to happen to you. Susan and I are experts in relationships both at work and at home, and we are even feeling the stress of being trapped together. Would you say so, Susan?

Susan Clarke: Yes. There are definitely moments where this is intense, and it becomes something where you really have to be able to, what I would term, self-responsible and take self-responsibility as well as take responsibility for my relationship. CrisMarie might be the closest person to me, and in all my anxiety intention, I'm going to take it out on her. If I don't recognize that my anxiety is going up and the signs of that, which is things like bickering, quarreling, talking faster, talking louder.

CrisMarie Campbell: Picking fights, blaming your partner for lots of things like the hatch coming down on the Subaru on my head this morning.

Susan Clarke: Or that the dishes aren't getting cleaned up enough.

CrisMarie Campbell: You're too loud, you're too messy, all those things.

Susan Clarke: All those sort of things. Why can't you just leave the house now? Those are all things that I'm sure you have said to me.

CrisMarie Campbell: They are. One, I want to normalize this because your relationship already had some stress, but you could probably ignore it because you kept doing other things. It's harder to ignore. It gets louder when you're in the same space, and also your own stress level, just with the uncertainty that's going on, increases. So, your capacity to be resilient can decrease if you don't take care of yourself during this whole process.

Susan Clarke: What we wanted to talk today to you about was some tools and tips for what we call Relationship RX, a prescription for your relationship.

CrisMarie Campbell: The first thing is if you don't know me, I'm a pretty emotional person. Yesterday I don't even know what happened, but it was like my system was fried. I couldn't really think straight. I was frustrated. I didn't really know what to do. I wasn't motivated. If I don't learn how to process that, that's just my stress level, how I exhibit stress or did yesterday.

First, I get angry at Susan, and it wasn't until I actually picked up the phone, and called my coach, and processed what I was feeling, and settled myself, and wow, had a good cry. That was the way that I released what was happening and could be more grounded. Then what I did is I asked for what I wanted, which was I wanted some alone time. So, I shut off the computer, shut off social media. I took a bath, I rested, and just nurtured myself so that I could have more resources.

Now, those are some things to think about. It might be very different for you. I'm just giving you my example, but how does stress show up for you, and how can you intervene on your own behalf to bring yourself back down that parasympathetic curve to rest and digest versus fight or flight, freeze or faint?

Susan Clarke: I think a lot of times what can go on for me is I am doing various things where I'm interacting with business leaders or coaching them, and sometimes I step off of those calls, and I just feel either really angry or upset, but I don't necessarily take care of that upset because I think, “Oh, I got this. I can hold this. I'm just trying to help them through it.”

What I realized is that I end up later being quite angry. What helps me, what I know is true for me when I'm angry, is I need to breathe and I need to feel. So, in different than CrisMarie, I probably don't need to cry, but what works best for me at first is to just put on some loud music, and so I have to put it in my headphones, and dance.

I have particular tunes that help me express all sorts of different emotions, and that really then helps me figure out what emotion it is I'm not feeling. Because usually when I'm angry, it’s something else, but I don't always know what it is. So, that really helps.

CrisMarie Campbell: Whoever is in your space, if you have other people that you're sheltering in place with, you probably have different styles of stress and anxiety that come up. What's powerful is to actually not make the other person wrong, but use it as a starting place to have a conversation.

Research shows, when I talk about what I'm stressed about, it actually moves to a different part of my brain and makes me more resilient. So, having the conversation about what is happening for each of you is a powerful tool. If you've got kids, they may or may not want to talk, but creating the space, a family meeting, where you can each talk about what's working, what's not, what do you want to do differently is probably a safe way to have that conversation, or what's a high, what's a low from the day?

In that, people may start to sink in and share what they're struggling with, and then you can also ask, “Well, how can I help?” Because we all want to be the human spirit. We want to support each other. So, finding ways to support each other in the way you're processing is powerful because don't expect not to feel. You're going to feel.

Susan Clarke: I also was thinking about, this was another recent coaching situation, where for some people, all of a sudden, their kids from college are coming home, and now, you've got two college kids who are in the house who are online in programs or doing their thing. You've got two adults who are businesspeople working in the same house. It can be incredibly stressful. I think for these college students, it's really hard because suddenly, their world has really been interrupted.

This one client was saying that her daughter had just finished her certification and was just getting ready to launch her own career, and this just feels like her legs got cut off from underneath her. This is also an executive of a big company. So, it's a big challenging time sometimes to handle the work you have, what's happening at home, what's happening for other people.

So, having compassion and really being willing to talk about that, and use the creative juices because in this particular case, they came up, they actually got together as a family, and decided to, I don't know, this may be a little crazy, do a little a home renovation project where they created a yoga studio out of one bedroom because this particular person was a yoga certified person.

CrisMarie Campbell: The daughter?

Susan Clarke: The son does streaming videos, so he is actually making her videos really good, so she could still teach her classes, and they have actually come up with a way to do this together. I think they’ll be stronger. It took a while. It was stressful at first, and then that commitment to do something new and different happened, and it's been great.

CrisMarie Campbell: If you're one of those people that's home sheltering home alone, I really encourage you to get support. I'm coaching a woman who's home alone, and there's times where it's easy for her to implode on herself. So, for her to pick up the phone, or write an email, or create a Zoom call, anything to create contact.

Also, be honest about what is happening, which is why she actually reached out to me as a coach because she feels safer doing that, to really drop in and process what you're feeling because if you're pretending this isn't happening, maybe that's a healthy coping mechanism, but you could just be in denial.

So, if you are afraid at times, it's not healthy to stay in that state all the time. Our amygdalas get turned on. That's our fight or flight machine that can start seeing everything as a wild animal attacking us. Bear, bear, bear. You want to learn to interrupt that through breathing, through feeling, through talking, exercising, dancing, any sort of things to help bring you back down that curve.

Susan Clarke: We also believe that it's really powerful right now to take the time to do a check-in in the morning. Do a morning huddle, do an evening huddle, and remember, if you're a parent, you might be doing a lot to take care of your kids. Ask yourself the question, am I giving myself the same self-care? Am I taking the time to make sure I have my needs met? Because you're going to do a much better job for your family and your business if you take care of yourself.

CrisMarie Campbell: One executive I was coaching, she had gotten her kids all organized. They had the system down. She had their meals all squared away, but her workday was extending. Now, she doesn't have to walk down the hall. So, her meetings are back, to back, to back, and her kids actually interrupted her and brought her lunch because she wasn't taking care of her own boundaries.

So, really, if you're working in that sort of environment, really make sure you're scheduling in breaks. If you listened to our last episode with Katie Hendricks and the Unlock the Fear Code, you'll remember it takes at least two minutes for your system to come out of that high drive state.

Whether it's thinking you're just working really hard or you're actually in an anxiety state, it takes two minutes for you to start coming down from that curve. Remember, when you're stressed that way, you're really not doing your business any good because you're not accessing your entire brain. So, take the time to interrupt that.

The other pieces we wanted to encourage you, you may be taking care of the kids, you may be taking care of yourself, but also you're trapped with your partner. What's helpful is to have some daily debrief time about what's happening for each of you. We call it couple of connection.

A simple way to do this is one of the tools we have is a five, five, five where you're just talking about how I'm feeling. It's 15 minutes total, so it's not going to take too much time. Partner A has five minutes just to debrief their day, or how they're dealing with the situation, or the space that you're in. Then B, you’re partner B, just listens, and then you flip flop for the second five minutes, and B talks and A listens.

Then for the third five minutes, you have a dialogue. This is not to solve anything. It's more about processing what is going on so that your system, your brain comes more online, and you have space to actually have these conversations. You're increasing your resiliency in what's happening.

Susan Clarke: A few other things. This is a time where you may be struggling to figure out how are we going to get through. It's also not a bad time to talk about what would be the wildest, craziest vacation you could ever imagine taking when you get out of this? Or what is it that makes your heart sing that you want to do when you have more freedom?

There's a woman who was running her business, and she wrote about how she gets so excited about how she's going to go to every restaurant in her community, support the local businesses. She's going to do this. We talk about this idea that you need a romance. You need something that gives you spark. So, talking about that sometimes can be helpful, and it's not like just pollyanna-ing it. It's sort of like, “Okay. What do I imagine I can do now or that I can do soon?” Let that fuel you.

CrisMarie Campbell: Even in terms of your relationship, your business, this is a time of reinvention and possibility. What would you really like your world to be like? Your work world, your business world. That's that same scheming and dreaming about what can come next, is a way to access your forward romance like we like to call it in the book.

All the things that were happening in your relationship before, they just got louder because you're trapped in one place. So, it's a good time to recognize those patterns that aren't working, but recognize what you can do to shift them. You do not need your partner to change. You can actually identify what is important to you. We talk about this in the Beauty of Conflict for Couples. It's called the Boundary-ing Process.

Really, what is it that's not working? What am I wanting? Then how can I create that? One of the things that comes up with Susan and I is she likes a lot of contact and engagement ,and I like it in small bits, but one of the things I hesitate to do is I think, “Oh, if I ask her I want alone time, she's going to be upset because she's got nobody else to hang out with.” So, I hesitate to do it.

Then until I am about full, and then I’m like, “Get away from me,” which isn't really very productive, and it's better when I can say, and I'm recognizing, “I need at least two half days,” where I'll go up into the bedroom, I'll close the door, and work on my computer, or take a bath, whatever it is, and I don't want to be interrupted.

That's my preference. Unless you absolutely need to interrupt me. It's incumbent upon me to ask for those needs, and when I think, “Oh, I'm going to hurt her feelings,” that's just a part of me that had bad experiences in the past, but it's not necessarily true. Even if she does get upset, I can be okay.

Susan Clarke: When CrisMarie is doing what she needs to do to take care of herself, if I don't make myself the problem, I could be like, “Oh, well, do I want contact? How would I like contact?” A couple things, I've found creative ways. I have friends who would really love to come over, but I know right now it's the social distancing.

So, last week, I put a fire in our fire pit. We have a great fire pit. We have plenty of space. I put chairs spaced out six feet apart, and I put it out to my friends that, “Hey, walk on over and join us if you want.” That was actually a really fun way. Even CrisMarie came out of the inner part of the house for that.

Then the other day, I decided that I could go out and walk with the horses, and I actually went on Facebook live and had some friends join me, and it was a really wonderful experience being out there with the horses and my friends. It reminded me of the work that I'm so passionate and love doing,. Even though it wasn't the same, I sort of felt like it was. So, that was really cool.

So, don't think that just because you say, “Hey, I need this. Right now, I need to do it alone.” You might actually be spurring your partner on to be more honest and look at what do they need. Also, when she wants time out, sometimes I like to go down and read a good book, and I hardly ever do it if we're together. So, I've now got a good collection of books that I can go downstairs and read as well if I can't do some of my other activities.

CrisMarie Campbell: One of the things that we've done differently, we've started puzzling at night, and I have to tell you, I've never done puzzles. So, we spent, I think it was five or six nights. We took like 20 minute breaks right before bed usually to actually do some puzzling. It gets you very present, you're having to focus, find things.

We got into competition, and then we get into collaboration, and it's just interesting to notice those patterns and not make them right or wrong. But it was a joint project that I thought it's one of those things you could play cards, something that's not electronic and you're doing something a little different, is a neat way to infuse some joint play in what you're doing.

Susan Clarke: The other thing that we've done or that I really wanted to do was test out what I called The Power of Eight, and that's sort of an intentional group. Lynn Taggart, we’ll mention her book and things like that because she’s the science behind the power of prayer, the power of group intention.

Now, we have a group that meets regularly to do some intention. I can do something to really send out gratitude, and goodwill, and good intentions in some fashion. I actually end up feeling much better myself. She actually proved that in her book, which is nice. I knew it was working for me, but actually does seem to create positive results on both sides. So, find your path, and if you need suggestions, reach out and figure that out.

CrisMarie Campbell: We’re wanting to give you these tools for you to think about how can you negotiate also space and boundaries, like be okay to ask for and, this is kind of doing the morning huddle, coordinate who's doing what in what spaces during the day so that you feel like you've got what you need.

Be aware if you think, “Well, my job is the most important job,” because we tend to do that, or, “If I'm the breadwinner, my job definitely is the most important.” One woman, we were actually filming a podcast, she was interviewing us, and her kids came in. She's got four kids. One passed a note to her, another one walked behind, and she's like, “Why isn't my husband taking care of these kids?”

Of course, they hadn't coordinated it, and maybe the husband didn't even think about the kids. She obviously didn't, but just because she's doing a podcast for free, and maybe he's doing billable work, it's still negotiating all those boundaries are important, so that everybody feels like they matter.

I just have to tell you one thing, to be aware of when you're on video conferences. A friend of mine was taking a class from a famous guy, and he had about 100 people on the class. We're all in our living rooms, of course, doing these video things.

Well, his wife walks behind him in her bra and her underwear because she had just gotten out of the shower, and he's like, “Honey, I'm doing a class,” and he had to move the video. But be aware if you are doing a video with other people, that your spouse knows or your kids know to keep those boundaries clear.

Susan Clarke: I know that there are going to be some funny stories that come out of all this, there already are, about the things we do in quarantine, and it's not like Vegas. So, whatever. So, these days, what's happening inside that quarantine goes on the video. Just remember that. Be aware of it.

CrisMarie Campbell: Because this is such a crucial time, and we don't want people to be experiencing spikes in domestic violence or divorce, we have decided to offer our Rx course, Relationship Rx course, meaning it's going to be four weeks long towards the end of April, and we're going to give you tools, one, to help you manage your stress.

Also, access your resources and your connection to yourself, and even things that help you feel more inspired and expanded, and also tools to help your relationship. So, if you're having a hard time speaking up and asking for what you want, we're going to go through the Boundary-ing Process. We're going to go through how to have a tough conversation, how to talk about hot topics.

So, you're going to get tools that way. It's really designed to give you the support you need to, gosh, I hope it ends soon, but survive these few months where you’re sheltering in place with your honey, and come out the other side even better off than you were before.

Susan Clarke: You could go to our website to get more, and we'll post some information in the show notes about this.

CrisMarie Campbell: Well, the other piece is how can you actually give some loving and care to your partner? Maybe it's a back rub, maybe it's a foot massage or a hand massage. You can certainly do more sensual things. This is a great opportunity to make that sort of contact, and it is a great stress reliever if you do have sex. So, we want to give you a plug for that.

But just even gentle ways to actually remember you love this person, and so finding ways to have fun for yourself, and be open to different ways to have fun if your partner suggests something, and recognize we're all doing the best we can, and we've never gone through this before, so we're learning as we go. I like to say progress, not perfection.

Do reach out if you need support. We also do couples counseling over Zoom. We do it anyway that way. We do think this is more important than ever to keep your relationship alive and to keep your own sanity because we do individual and joint sessions when we do the couples counseling. So, anything else you want to say, Ms. Susan?

Susan Clarke: I think that's all for now.

CrisMarie Campbell: Okay. Take care, and remember you can get through this together, better, and stronger.

Susan Clarke: Yes.

CrisMarie: If you want to learn more about what we discussed today or how to deal with conflict more effectively, Susan and myself, CrisMarie, are both available for individual one-on-one coaching. We also offer couples coaching, which now, as we live and work 24/7 together, may be more important than ever.

Susan: We continue to do our team facilitation, both live and now virtually. Let's get real, until you've had a tough conversation over Zoom, you may not be building the trust you need on your team.

For the next couple of months, we are offering free virtual trainings to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team, and your business, both at work and at home during this pandemic.

CrisMarie: Right now, you can find short videos on my, CrisMarie's, LinkedIn and Facebook with tips, tools, and inspiration. To contact us, email that's T-H-R-I-V-E @ T-H-R-I- V-E-I-N-C dot com.

Susan: Okay, stay safe, stay healthy, and remember together we are better and stronger.

CrisMarie: Take care.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

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