Ah, 2020 — a year that will be long remembered for its losses, challenges, disappointments, and surprises.
I am particularly interested in how the year impacted relationships, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic and politics.
When I asked my readers to share how their specific relationships, or their relationships in general, have been affected in 2020, their responses typically fell into one of five categories.
- Existing relationships were maintained/strengthened.
- Relationships were damaged/terminated.
- Certain topics were declared off limits to preserve relationships.
- Reconnections and new friendships developed.
- Self-reflection and new insights informed relationships.
Below is an example response for each category. (You can read all comments in their entirety here.)
1. Existing relationships were maintained/strengthened.
“Covid-19 has indeed produced some positive benefits from both a personal and familial perspective.
My adult daughter has been living at home with my wife and me. She realizes now that she can work from home (and tolerate her parents!) while not paying rent and saving a ton. No need to run to New York City and rent on a shoestring budget. So, this little financial acumen will hopefully go a long way.
With my wife, my daughter, and me all working from home brings back the old days of eating at home, conversing with each other in person, preparing dinners and cleaning up together, eating some ice cream and watching TV and laughing together – it used to be “All in The Family” or “The Jeffersons” with tin foil and rabbit ears. Now, for my wife and daughter it’s “Impractical Jokers” and “Bachelor” on Netflix. They’re having lots of fun together.
Also, we have been skiing a bit out West as a family: renting places in Utah and Colorado and working from there and social distancing on the ski slopes. We never would have been able to do that with my two grown kids were it not for this coronavirus.”
2. Relationships were damaged/terminated.
“I had this client. I hated going to his house because he had a big Trump 2020 flag at his front door, and he was always criticizing liberal thinking and ethnic groups. I finally decided to ‘fire’ him as a client and quit. I simply had enough.
I did the right thing and do not regret it. I am polite to my friends who are politically different from me, but there is a divide, and it is not a subject I care to debate with them.”
3. Certain topics were declared off limits to preserve relationships.
“My brother and I have always disagreed about a lot of things, mostly politics. We are known for going at it, and until recently other family members would just ignore us. However, over the past four years our exchanges have become even louder and longer and meaner.
My wife and 10-year-old daughter told me that I was changing into a scary person during these arguments with my brother. They sent an email to me and my brother asking us to stop. Knowing that we were scaring my daughter with these conversations convinced my brother and me to call a truce on any discussion about politics, which we’ve done.
Since then, I’ve noticed that we are arguing less about other things as well. I don’t need to win arguments with my brother (which I never really won anyway) if I am scaring my daughter in the process.”
4. Reconnections and new friendships developed.
“Before COVID-19, my wife and I were talking about separating. We were always angry with each other, always arguing. We knew this wasn’t healthy for our two young daughters.
Being isolated as a family because of the pandemic was eye opening for both of us. Because I was working from home, my wife gained an appreciation for the pressures I was dealing with on a daily basis in my work. (I manage a group of 25 in a customer call center.) My phone never stopped ringing, and our fax machine was printing non-stop with things I had to deal with. I was so busy that my wife started helping me when the girls were napping or were in bed at night.
I gained an appreciation for what her days were like taking care of two toddlers. She rarely had any time to herself. Even when the girls were napping, she was doing laundry, cleaning, cooking. She was like my fax machine – going non-stop! No wonder she wanted me to relieve her a bit when I got home from work. No wonder she resented that I would come home from work and want to unwind by taking a run or a bike ride.
I feel like we’re renewing a friendship; we’re getting closer all the time and becoming helpmates. We both think we’re going to be okay as a couple.
By the way, it was my mother-in-law who suggested I write this to you. She reads your column, and she said my wife and I had a nice story to share.”
5. Self-reflection and new insights informed relationships.
“While my 2020 was blessed with health and consistency in many ways, it was also a journey through anger and betrayal, confusion and sadness, grief and loss. And then, yes — a reassessment of what’s happened, what my role was in ending relationships, what there is to learn as a result.
And now, after months of ‘processing’ and journaling and a new round of talk therapy … I’m starting to see how 2020 has also been about the sloughing off. Clearing out some dead wood to make way for whatever comes next. For me personally, but I think the same is true for us collectively.”
Closing comment from Dr. Gramma Karen: You will note that some people’s stories about what happened to their relationships are sad; others are full of joy, promise, and hope.
I invite you to read all the readers’ comments here. Reading them may provide comfort, inspiration, and encouragement.
My wish for you going forward is that the relationships in your life nurture and enrich you beyond your highest hopes.
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
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