VOICES: Dr. Dara Bushman // Relationships in a pandemic


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Dr. Dara Bushman is a psychologist and author who appears on numerous media outlets sharing expertise on COVID counseling, trauma, and wellness. She lives in Asheville, NC. This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. Want to join the conversation? We invite you to write for us. Learn how to share your voice here.

Are your relationships feeling stressed? Are you feeling disconnected? Are you comparing your relationships to how they used to be?

Dear Dr. Dara,

So much has changed since the pandemic. Worse than feeling isolated, it feels like my relationships have changed and I feel alone. How can I get my relationships back the way they were? What do I do?
Relationship Stressed

Dear Relationship Stressed,

Everyone can relate to relationships being different during the pandemic. People we are used to seeing regularly have become distant. Simple connections have become virtual. No more passing by people’s desks and making small talk. Not much travel to distant friends and family. No congregating in coffee shops. Hugging is a no-no! You don’t need me to describe the changes of how COVID-19 and the pandemic is showing up for each of us. But you know, eye contact is back in style due to wearing a mask. Connection with people is intentional and deliberate. People are washing their hands now! Some even respect personal space. Intimate relationships have had to re-adjust due to many pressures (no time alone without kids), partners have become your only bestie by default (they are the only one you see!). But again, it has forced people to be under one roof. It has cultivated different opportunities if we look at it from another perspective.
Below are my 4 cents (2 cent suggestions) to spice up and bring your magnified pandemic relationships to a new level. As you read this, think to yourself, WHAT DO I WANT MY RELATIONSHIPS TO IDEALLY LOOK LIKE?

1) Don’t have expectations! Expectations are constricting, confining and limiting. Expectations leave disappointment when they don’t go exactly as you think they should. No two relationships are the same. Thinking all your relationships should look identical and/or perfect is a disservice to each relationship. And for God’s sake stop comparing your relationships to others! Their social media, happy, superficial posts are not real! Dah, people only post when things look good. It is an injustice to you to compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.

2. Set how you want to be treated from the beginning. If the relationship is already established, this commercial pandemic break is the optimal time to re-adjust your relationship criteria and “rules.” Remember water seeks its own level. If you are in a funk, you will attract other funked up people as misery loves company. If you want strong, empowering, connected relationships, then your love cup has to be full. Having a full love cup is being fulfilled physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Your fullness contributes energy to the relationship and you are not relying on others to complete you. It takes two whole people to have a whole relationship. No one else is going to fix you!

3. Relationships are an ‘as is’ sale. How you show up is what other people can expect from you for the rest of the relationship.. And how they show up is what you get. Do not plan or expect anyone to change! Like my Grandma said, “A zebra does not change their stripes.” Let me add, don’t paint them either – leave their stripes alone!!

4. Be flexible, be fluid. They are who they are and you are who you are. But things change, things happen, rules can change. You will go through different phases. You will feel more and less connected. Relationships change and evolve. Now is a rapidly changing phase and is an opportune time to be creative and think out of the box to connect. If you can’t see people in person, schedule Zoom calls whether one-on-one or in small groups. You can"see” and talk with friends that you haven’t been in touch with in a while. It is a good time to reconnect with people while we are quarantining. Take advantage of nature and meet people in open spaces with outdoor chairs to enjoy each other’s company.

Relationships are like wrinkles, they change, they metamorphose. They are a sign of wisdom. Let them grow, appreciate them for what they are!

Your no bull-shiFt, COVID SURVIVOR, advice giving, Covid-19 RANTING, Mom, Psychologist, friend and wife, Dr. Dara

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