Whether you’ve spent the last six months cooped up inside with your partner or dealing with the challenges of long-distance, it’s safe to say the coronavirus pandemic has placed a lot of pressure on our relationships.
Not only have our stress and anxiety levels been through the roof (a situation which inevitably leads to more arguments) but dealing with the realities of the pandemic has left many people struggling to make time for their relationship and, as a result, feeling increasingly disconnected.
However, just because the pandemic has placed an unexpected amount of strain on our relationships, according to a new study, there are things we can do to overcome any feelings of disconnect we might be experiencing at the moment.
The study, led by a team of scientists from the University of Quebec at Montreal, revealed that “couple-related memories” – aka, memories about moments shared by yourself and your partner – can be used as “cognitive resources” to help us feel more ‘adjusted’ in our relationships.
Although the research looked specifically at how those with an “insecure” attachment style – people whose bond with their partner is dominated by fear of rejection or abandonment – can use memories to feel more satisfied in their relationships when times are tough, it’s clear that thinking back to positive moments in our relationships can have positive implications for the present moment.
To identify how effective this method of memory recollection was for people struggling to feel ‘adjusted’ in their relationship, the researchers asked participants to invoke a memory when they felt their needs had been met – defined as moments when they felt in control of their actions, were competent, and had the opportunity to be close to another person. They also looked at the relationship between attachment security and how well ‘adjusted’ – or satisfied – that person was in their partnership.
While, as they expected, those with an insecure attachment style – aka, individuals who tend to feel quite stressed in their relationship – tended to be less well-adjusted in their relationship, the study found that recollecting ‘needs-focused’ memories from their past mitigated the detrimental impact of their attachment style. What this means is that, when we’re feeling stressed out or unsure about our relationship, thinking back to a positive moment with our partner can help us to feel more connected.
So, how can this study help us during the current coronavirus pandemic? According to psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, engaging in this kind of memory recollection with our partners could be a great way to rekindle romance.
As she writes in Psychology Today: “Although the study was conducted on individual participants and not couples, the potential to bring this method ‘home’ to your relationship with your partner now seems even clearer.
“Sit down for a few minutes with your partner while each of you conjures up a ‘defining’ moment in your relationship. Was it the first time you met, or was it some other experience later down the road, such as the time your first child was born?”
According to Whitbourne, recalling these memories together – and identifying the needs that were met in those moments – can help you to gain a better understanding of your partner’s feelings towards the relationship and feel more confident in the relationship you’ve built.
Whitbourne concludes: “Fulfilment in long-term close relationships can come from many sources. The everyday stresses can sometimes make that fulfilment difficult to experience. However, a brief glimpse into the memories you and your partner have of yourselves and your times together can help you regain your faith in your relationship and your partner.”
At a time when the pandemic has made connection such a struggle for many of us, it’s nice to know there are ways to reconnect when we’re feeling distant from the ones we love.
2020 hasn’t been easy, but thinking back to happier times is a great way to remind ourselves of the incredible moments that could be coming our way in 2021.