To find solutions to complex problems, it is wise to consult widely. In academia, in particular, the idea of ââinviting transdisciplinary ideas is seen as essential, as diversity of thought is recognized as the only sane way to proceed. As the debate rages on how to deal with the socio-economic fallout from Covid-19, the time may have come to add the experience of relationship therapy.
Covid-19 entered what we safely assumed to be our protected space, a pact that involved âtogether foreverâ and quickly exposed our fault lines. It’s not that different from the pact in committed relationships, or the process that unfolds following a significant relationship breakdown. Now, although many relationships cannot be saved, the burgeoning field of relationship therapy can attest that many other relationships benefit from the professional knowledge and interventions of a guided process. The process is, of course, relationship specific, but all share the common experience of redefining relationship norms. The concept of a “new normal” is a common language in the therapeutic space.
Therapy in general and relationship therapy in particular remain very stigmatized. The unfortunate consequence for all forms of therapy is that the majority of those who take the risk of entering therapy do so when they recognize that they have reached what is commonly described as “bottoming out.”
Overall, a significant number do not benefit from the assistance available. For couples who do, they have the opportunity to have their pain acknowledged while deconstructing emerging fault lines. Trained professionals will discover patterns of behavior, largely involuntary, that have cumulatively resulted in the erosion of a romantic relationship.
In most cases, the couple will recognize that they were aware of trends early in the relationship, but did not have the tools to address them. This doesn’t mean that the process is quick and painless. Rather, everyone must have the courage to accept their contribution to the current state.
This is a huge step as most enter the process awaiting confirmation that they have been wronged. In some cases, individual therapy is recommended, because without it, healthy relationships remain difficult.
So it was with the Covid-19 pandemic – we had a sudden break in our relationship with the world as we knew it. Most seem to express surprise at the suddenness of the situation, going to bed and waking up in a fractured world. No sooner had the news made the headlines than the parties blamed âthe otherâ. Then came the shrill voices that reminded us that they had prophetically declared that disaster, specifically a virus outbreak, was coming, strangely stipulating deadlines. Bill Gates, among other prominent leaders, suggested we were warned. Then came the autopsy, with some clarification of the plight of the poor, mostly blacks disproportionately affected by inequalities, poverty and the resulting co-morbidities that fuel susceptibility to a virulent virus, the bias of our economy. free, arbitrary value assigned to professional status and the misuse of limited natural resources.
You could argue that we’ve hit rock bottom – a space of opportunity, because the only reasonable move is to go up. Relationship therapy teaches that in order to heal, the following are necessary:
- Recognize that there is a problem;
- Accept a culture of understanding;
- Understand the futility of blame;
- Commitment of all parties concerned to invest in the recovery;
- Look courageously at the various flaws;
- Understand that the well-being of the whole depends on the well-being of the sum of its parts;
- That there is no shame in receiving help from professionals;
- That a new standard is simply an informed standard; and
- That although new standards are the desired outcome, they inherently involve loss, and loss invokes necessary grief.
Crises, those that threaten our physical and psychological well-being, force us to stop. This unsolicited detour allows a moment to take a break. Psychologists speak of this time as reflection. This is when we have to choose. Yes, even though we feel out of control as crises unfold, we still have to choose, we remain agents. We are free to choose to do nothing, which is commonly referred to in social discourse as âletting a good crisis go wrongâ.
Or we can choose the road less traveled, to consciously engage in facing hard and awkward truths.
A most feared embarrassing truth is that sometimes separation or loss and the grieving process required is the healthier option for both, and both parties can come out of it more integrated and able to have some kind of relationship. different and healthier.
In the case of our relationship to the world, reflection will ask us to consider whether our usual way of relating to the world is what is good for all parties and if not, to deal with the loss of these valued ideals and move towards a healthier relationship that doesn’t need to compromise ourselves or the world we live in (including those who share it with us).
For this we need political will, committed and engaged citizenship, and an understanding that, as the late Nelson Mandela warned, our well-being depends on the well-being of all. others.