Maintaining relationships in a pandemic
And why it might be normal for things to seem a bit different.
Over the past 13 months I, like many Brits, have sat through more lockdowns than I care to count. Prior to the first lockdown, I had just had a terrible break up with a serious partner, and was beginning to find my feet in the social sense. This included making new connections, and rekindling old ones once more. This period of my life was strange, and I found myself starting to recognise the value in what my friends and family brought into my life. We all know to appreciate people for these sorts of things, however it was particularly profound when I actually began to do it. And for the first time, I felt like I was truly beginning to form an understanding of some of the special things in life.
We all know what happened next…
The pandemic took hold, and many of the relationships I had just rekindled started to feel like they might slip away. As a social psychologist of sorts, I started to realise; both through my work and through speaking with people online, that this anxiety around relationships fading away was incredibly common.
And with intermittent lockdowns here and there over the last year, this type of anxiety is often expressed in our Wangie chat rooms. We hear of people who essentially disappear, relationships that flourish or struggle as people become locked in together, and people who actually begin to take more care of their friendships, where beforehand, they may have been overly focused on their work or the stresses of the 9-5 life we know so well. Most importantly, it became apparent that most of us are just trying to figure it out. To figure out what works for us, and our friendly counterparts. And I realise I might be the first person telling you this, but its okay for things to take a while to function in a way that seems natural to you!
Psychological research done over the pandemic has shown that a wide variety of digital interactions have been experimented with by people experiencing lockdowns, wanting to reach out to their friends and family. This really does prove the point that we are still in the process of figuring it out, and that different people have different ways of compensating for that lack of intimacy that we all crave as social beings.
So what can we learn from all of this? We can teach ourselves to be a bit more patient with ourselves and others over lockdown periods. All of us have experienced anxiety or irritability because of our situations, and that can affect somebody’s capacity to talk, or their motivations. I would also recommend keeping things simple if things are difficult to keep up, make sure your friend/partner/family member is doing okay, and remind them that you really care for their wellbeing. Once you feel like you’re starting to get into a rhythm, get creative! Ive personally found that taking the time away to prepare for a social FaceTime or Zoom call by curating a quiz or tidying up my apartment helps fill the day and give me a sense of purpose, but video games or coffee calls might be the thing for you. My Mum even does video dog walks with her friends!
And most importantly, for those of us who are coming out of lockdown, remember that as much as some of us want life to resume as before, and pretend 2020 never happened, people have changed. We are once more going through a really significant change in how we socially interact, and people may have just got used to a new routine, so don’t put pressure on yourself or your relationship partners to immediately feel a sense of normality. Our relationships are only as strong as our commitment to them in adversity, and are worth keeping around. After all, even Aristotle once said:
“In poverty as well as in other misfortunes, people suppose that friends are their only refuge”
Ryan(W) | Wangie Mentor
Nguyen, M., Gruber, J., Fuchs, J., Marler, W., Hunsaker, A. and Hargittai, E., 2020. Changes in Digital Communication During the COVID-19 Global Pandemic: Implications for Digital Inequality and Future Research. Social Media + Society, 6(3), p.205630512094825.
Sampson, D., 2013. Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle (Friendship). [online] The Bank of Notes. Available at: <https://bankofnotes.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/nicomachean-ethics-aristotle-friendship/> [Accessed 28 April 2021].
Wen, T., 2021. How coronavirus has transformed the way we communicate. [online] BBC.com. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200408-coronavirus-how-lockdown-helps-those-who-fear-the-phone> [Accessed 28 April 2021].