A number of friends and I, all in the early-to later-40s, have been chatting about what it really means to go “back to normal.” Among us are people who’ve been vaccinated once, some who’ve been double-vaccinated, and a couple who’ve not accepted the vaccines.
But in every chat, we often veer to a different topic about how the pandemic has affected us and our relationships.
In my case, my husband of 17 years and I have two teenage children (13 and 16). When locked down all together, all four of us experienced some anxiety, anger and moodiness, but managed our common chores, home-schooling and at-home jobs.
Now, going separate ways again feels scary. And so does having “too many bosses” when at home. My eldest, a daughter, insists she and her boyfriend are “safe” from their first vaccination, so can hang out with friends who haven’t had the shot. She says I’m over-worrying.
My son and his friends ride their bikes, so happy to get together that they stop and huddle to chat and laugh, forgetting masks, distancing, etc.
Meanwhile, my husband who’d taken on grocery-shopping and kitchen prep when help was needed, now tells me I paid too much for this item, chopped something the wrong way, etc.
These are small annoyances, I know. But it’s the uncertainty ahead that’s behind my discomfort, and my friends say similar things. I see people jammed into bench-seating on a nearby covered patio, laughing and talking close together. I worry that if my unvaccinated friends are behaving similarly, then I can’t see them in person again until I hear that the danger of the Delta variant has lessened or passed.
If what used to be “normal” isn’t truly safe, how do we re-set our relationships with partners, friends, and even our own children, to carry on without constant worry?
New Normal/Old Fears
If we study history over the past century, we’d find that all the generations between then and now have periodically had to adjust to “new normal:” e.g., those who survived after 50 million people died globally from the Spanish flu (1918-1920), when there were no vaccines.
Both World Wars of the 20th century left populations decimated, parents heartbroken, children orphaned, innocent people massacred. Those remaining have carried on through AIDS, Ebola, SARS (some more prevalent in different locales).
But here and now, through the miracle of science, and determined efforts of political leaders (despite some missteps) we have effective vaccines and enough knowledge about what still warrants using caution.
Yes, our relationships during stress periods affects us deeply. That’s why people with serious pre-pandemic problems, still present or magnified by Covid anxiety, should confront these unhappy situations now, as the outside world eases up on possibilities.
Our collective loss of far too many innocent people to COVID-19, is the reminder that life’s too short to accept a miserable relationship. Individual counselling often helps people regain self-confidence to reach that conclusion.
However, if your relationship was weakened by new pressures and changes from the pandemic, give each other the gift of gratitude for making it through together. Then sit down to talk gently and openly about what feels okay again and what doesn’t.
If more insight and improvement is needed, meet together online with a couples’ therapist and work with him/her till you both see what’s still good and loving between you, along with what needs a fix. Then focus on keeping it that way.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who was abandoned by her “runaway husband” (June 12):
Reader – “I certainly empathize with that woman whose husband surprised her, telling her after coming home late from “work” that he was leaving the marriage, without previous discussion.
“This also happened to me in my mid-forties. Believe me, it’s a terrible blow to your self-esteem. We had four children who’d left home by that time, so for the very first time in my life I felt completely alone.
“Thankfully, I had a decent job to focus on. I hope this woman gets the support she needs, because it's a long, long process to deal with the feeling of rejection.”
Reader #2 – “Regarding a previous request for helpful resources:
“I’m a retired therapist. For 20 years I directed seminars for recently-separated people. We used as our textbook, “Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends” by divorce therapist Bruce Fisher, with Robert Alberti and Virginia Satir.”
Tip of the day:
The “new normal” relies on what each person feels comfortable about doing or avoiding as the pandemic’s effects lessen.