‘Intentional connections’: How our relationships can survive the pandemic

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The months-long lockdown may place some relationships under strain, but a veteran life coach reminds that on the other side of a coin is an opportunity for more meaningful connections.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — The months-long lockdown has placed some relationships under strain. Both the inability to see some people in flesh and the extended period of time stuck in the same space with others have proved overwhelming for a number of people, more so at a time when the whole world fears contracting a deadly disease.

The work-from-home setup, necessitated by strict quarantine rules, adds to these sources of stress, veteran life coach Eric Cruz told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon on Friday.

With not much physical distinction now, one’s professional life tends to encroach on the personal one, possibly bringing negative energy to what should’ve been a space for breathing and recovery. And it only follows that heightened stress levels affect how we relate with others, according to Cruz.

To help our relationships — whether they be with family, friends, or a partner — he said it is important to remember that everyone is likely still trying to navigate the new normal, and that patience would go a long way.

Striking a balance

Shared healthy experiences is an important factor in developing relationships, Cruz said, but equally crucial is honoring one another’s personal space.

“Establish routines that will provide space for everyone to be mindful, to take a pause, and to just breathe,” advised Cruz. He explained that setting aside time to respect personal space, especially of those whom we live with, may help in bringing back a sense of normalcy.

Once that is settled, even those far apart should not neglect quality time with each other, he added. The social distancing norm is no excuse, with technology making it easier to go to concerts, visit museums, and enroll in classes together, albeit virtually.

“Ang sa tingin ko pinaka challenge lang dyan ‘yung mga may edad na ‘di masyadong familiar with technology,” Cruz said. “Kaya rin mas importante that we spend time with them kahit na malayo, to give them a call, kasi mas mahirap sa kanila to navigate this new reality.”

[Translation: I think the main challenge here is for older people who aren’t much familiar with technology. That’s why it’s important that we spend time with them although physically apart, to give them a call, since it’s harder for them to navigate this new reality.]

Conscious actions, reframing the mindset

Besides simply spending time together, people should also work towards forming “intentional connections.”

Cruz said, “We have to take a look at how we are in our relationships, and have an intention. What kind of relationship do I want to have with my family?”

With this comes the need to recalibrate the way we think from time to time, according to Cruz, and consider that it may be things outside of our control that make us view things in a less than ideal light.

“For others, they think [the problem's] not gonna be solved easily or it’s a compounding of previous problems in the relationship na ngayon 'di mo na matakasan, but as a matter of fact....we are just in a pandemic,” he said. He stressed however that abuse, in any form, is a different issue altogether, and that when such enters the picture, immediate action to stop it must be done, as much as possible.

After over six months at home under varying levels of quarantine status, it is easy to think of our situation and the lack of face-to-face interaction with friends as dull, but Cruz pointed out that every shared experience can still be a discovery.

"Initiate that stage again of discovering something new about the other person,” he said. “Kahit na family ito, may mga bagay parin na pwede natin matuklasan tungkol sa isa’t isa (Even if this is within the family, there are still things we may discover about each other.)"