Fri | Aug 14, 2020

‘My space’ critical during COVID isolation, warns psychologist

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2020 | 12:24 AMShanna Kaye Monteith - Sunday Gleaner Writer

Many describe this time of being isolated with family members as a relationship-building period. As schools, churches, and some workplaces remain closed in the country’s fight against the novel coronavirus, spouses and members of the family, on a whole, are forced to spend more time with each other.

And while the grand possibility of compulsory familial bonding cannot be denied, another implication of forced and constant association is the mental-health issues that may arise.

Already, according to news in China, registry offices have reported a significant increase in divorce rates in the country because “couples are spending too much time together at home” during coronavirus isolation.

Sharing on the view, counselling psychologist Andre Allen-Casey noted that relationships, despite the closeness, need some level of space to survive.

“Every relationship is a balancing act with personal space – between personalities, between wants and needs, and between spending time together and giving yourselves time apart. Spending time away from your partner doesn’t mean you are no longer in love.

Instead, it means you’re taking time to put yourself first and do things that are just for you – choices that will make you feel great about yourself, putting you in a better mindset to take care of your relationship.

You and your partner may be a match made in heaven, but you’re not the same person. You are individuals with your own interests, dreams, and goals, and allowing a little personal space into your relationship will allow you each to pursue those, even if they aren’t the same for both of you,” he said.

Allen-Casey, who is part of the Family Life Ministries team, shared with Family & Religion that being together all the time can, indeed, suffocate a relationship.

According to the counsellor, “Everyone needs time to themselves and to be themselves. We usually try harder to be something ‘more’ than we are when our significant other/spouse is present. While this seems like a good thing, spending too much time together without having outside interests and desires can be smothering in the relationship. We are a couple; we are not conjoined twins. Let me hasten to state that if you are comfortable with being conjoined, then stay conjoined.”

The co-host of relationship programme ‘To Have and To Hold’, which airs on LOVE101, and regular guest on KOOL97 FM’s ‘Singles Live’ shared on the importance of personal space.

“Being able to engage in outside interests is a good way to develop a stronger sense of self, which leads to the discovery of one’s desires and dreams. This is important because it fosters trust and communication between partners.

Don’t forget yourself

Too many times, I hear partners complain about their needs and desires being sacrificed for the relationship. I oftentimes remind couples that they should never forget the ‘ME’ in their relationships. Why? It was the two ‘MEs’ that made the ‘WEs’,” he said.

Allen-Casey warned, however, that the ‘my space’ mentality should not put you in ‘outer space’.

According to him, this means that each person in a relationship should be responsible with the space and time they require for self and not use it to the detriment of their relationship.

To further flesh out this point, the family counsellor shared the following points:

1. ‘My space’ cannot mean I will not be forthright with what I am doing and when I am doing it.

2. ‘My space’ cannot mean that you must accept my choices.

3. ‘My space’ cannot mean that I make you afraid to ask of me anything or even share your concerns and or disapprovals.

4. ‘My space’ cannot mean that I do not take into consideration your thoughts and emotions in relation to my personal preferences.

5. ‘My space’ is to respect you without feeling like I need to satisfy you all the time.

6. ‘My space’ is to make choices without the fear of being ridiculed and lambasted.

7. ‘My space’ is never designed to put me away from you but to reinforce that absence will only make the heart grow fonder.