Let's all take a moment to process just how long 2020 has been. Kobe died in 2020. Breonna Taylor was murdered in 2020. This pandemic put us in lockdown in 2020. Those three things alone feel like they happened at least five years ago. And shoot, that's not even touching on all of the personal challenges that I'm pretty sure all of us have experienced as well. Yeah, if ever a year tried it—and I do mean, tried it—2020 was the one. And yet, as we're just weeks away from 2021—which includes giving the crazy racist tyrant known as Donald John Trump the boot—I feel like we all can reference, what I still consider to be an Oscar-worthy performance by Derek Luke, when he played Antwone Fisher. Remember when he looked that no-good Mrs. Tate in the eyes and said, "I'm still standing. I'm still strong"? Take a bow, sis. You can concur. Hopefully, your relationship has been able to too.
If you're like "Yes, yet it feels like my relationship is hanging on by a thread", you're the one I had in mind when I decided to write this. Anyone who has been in something real, they know that even when life is good, keeping their relationship healthy and thriving can sometimes be a challenge. Oh, but when a colossal s—tshow like this year rolls around, it can really be hard to not want to just throw your hands up, say "I quit" and call it a wrap. Not so much because the feelings for your partner have changed or even that you are unhappy with your relationship; at least for the most part. It's just that, when stress and pressure are at their peak, it can be difficult to find the effort and energy to keep it all going.
King Solomon once said, "There is a time and season for everything." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) An ancient Jewish folktale is credited for the popular saying, "this too shall pass". And you know what? Both statements are absolutely true. 2020 is on its way out (hallelujah!) and if you value your romantic situation, I want to provide you with just a few hacks that can help the two of you to make it to the other side—relationship fully intact.
Separate Your Stressors
Wanna know a clear sign that you're rocking big girl panties on the regular? It's when you know how to compartmentalize your stress. What I mean by that is you learn to separate, say, work stress from home stress, so that you don't walk into the house, screaming at your partner, not because they did anything wrong but because you've been suppressing how much your coworker pisses you off.
2020 was full of bad news, financial challenges, disappointments, messy people and negativity. I don't know about you, but there were actually some days when I thought I was gonna lose my mind because the hits just kept on coming. Sometimes, in order to regroup, I had to get really quiet and recenter myself, so that I didn't take my had-it-up-to-here-energy out on someone who truly didn't deserve it; not only didn't deserve it but someone who I needed to learn on for encouragement and support.
It's hard to make any kind of wise or emotionally mature decisions when you're under stress. So, in order to preserve your relationship—pray, meditate, journal, take a walk around the block…process what is stressing you out and why. If it has nothing to do with your relationship, don't punish your partner. If it does, share with them your feelings with the mindset of wanting to find a solution to the issue.
I'm telling you—being intentional about removing stress out of your way helps you to have a totally different perspective on things. This includes your relationship. It really does.
Stop Doom Scrolling (and Doom Talking)
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21—NKJV) What it basically means is the words that you speak can produce life—or death. And y'all, whenever I do tiptoe into social media to see what folks are talking about, 6 out of every 10 posts seem to be about drama, death and/or doom. I can't tell you how many times I've read something along the lines of, "This year is gonna be the death of us and 2021 is going to be even worse."
Listen, it's one thing to be realistic; it's another thing to constantly dwell on negativity. And if you do that too much, it very easily can spill over into your relationship. For instance, if all you do is sit on Twitter and read about people complaining about how worthless men are (I really wish more Black women would remove themselves from that rhetoric; at the end of the day, it profits us and our community nothing), it can be very easy to nitpick at your own partner, even when he hasn't really done anything wrong.
In fact, there are plenty of studies to support the fact that surrounding yourself with constant negativity can affect/infect your thoughts and even your ability to reason well. Not only that but negativity can do a real number on your immune system too. So, for the sake of your relationship and your overall health and well-being, set social media engagement hours, watch how much news you check out and set boundaries with the negative people in your world. 2020 is challenging enough without dwelling on things that will make your life worse, not better.
Remember Why You’re with Him
A wise person once said, "Before you quit, remember why you started." Something that truly self-aware and emotionally mature individuals can vouch for is the fact that, if you're actually paying attention, relationships tend to teach you more about yourself than anything—your strengths, weaknesses, areas where you could stand to grow and what you truly need and want (yes, in that order) in life. Sometimes, the life lessons can be so challenging that you can be tempted to dip out of your relationship; not because you no longer care about the person or even because the relationship doesn't have far more good times than not-so-good ones. It's just that, in the midst of the day-to-day that requires to keep a relationship afloat, you can start to feel like it might be better if you were alone; especially when there are so many other things to "try you"…like this year did.
If this is what you can personally relate to, my two cents are to pull out your journal and write down all of the reasons why you got involved with your partner in the first place. What do you love about him? What do you like about him? What do you respect and admire about him? In what ways does he make you better? What do you adore that he brings out of you?
If you let 2020 be too much of your focus, all of the financial stress, work demands, family pressures and whatever else was thrown at you can make you basically downplay the fact that you've got some awesome things that are happening in your world too. Once you finish that list, you might realize that your man and your relationship are easily in the top three.
Reflect on How the Support Actually Helped You Out
I once read an article that said an epidemic that has been happening in the midst of this pandemic is loneliness. A study that NPR conducted said that three out of five people in January of this year felt lonely—and y'all, that was before quarantining hit! One of my favorite Scriptures is found in Ephesians 4:9-11(NKJV). It says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?"
No relationship is perfect. That's because no two individuals are. Yet when you know that you know that you know that you've got someone who has your back, no matter what, it can make going through life so much easier. So, take a moment to really ponder the times when your partner has been a safe place to share secrets or even vent to. Reflect on the moments when you needed a kiss, hug or pep talk and they provided it. When did you need help or a favor and they came through for you?
Support is something that, unfortunately, a lot of people didn't have much of this year. If out of all that you had to endure, that is one thing that you can't relate to, count yourself mighty blessed. A healthy relationship in the midst of trials and tribulations is a true gift indeed.
Put More of a Spiritual Focus on Your Relationship
This past spring, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "7 Signs You're Spiritually Compatible With Someone". In many ways, it's a complement to the piece, "Here's Exactly How To Start Protecting Your Spirit" because, while a lot of folks automatically associate "spirit" with "religion", spirit is actually about maintaining the quality of your life overall.
If you get nothing else out of this piece, please hold onto the fact that, when it comes to a lot of the married couples that I work with, a core reason why they struggle is because, not only do they not strive to uplift each other's spirit, they actually play a direct role in breaking it. Nagging. Berating. Always looking at the relationship from a "glass half empty" perspective. Never really having an affirming word to say. Or, they're out here making time for any and everything but one another which conveys to their partner that they're actually not a top priority (when they absolutely should be).
Even if money is super tight, putting forth the effort to breathe new life into your relationship—spending time with your partner, encouraging them, finding new ways to connect, admitting when you're wrong while striving to make things right, remembering to bring the Most High into the equation—is free of charge. And a relationship that has a strong spiritual foundation is one that can withstand, just about anything.
Make Plans for the Future
Just a few days away. Y'all, we are literally only a few days out of 2020 and into a whole new year—and decade. Instead of focusing so much on how much this year has (possibly) been pure trash, set aside a day where you and yours can turn on some of your favorite music, sip on a bottle of wine and discuss what you want your next few months (or couple of years) to look like. Planning for the future is a great form of positive thinking because it helps you to remember that putting good thoughts and intentions into what lies ahead can be super empowering—very comforting too. If you'd like to put a couple's vision board together, there are several 2021 vision board apps for you to choose from here.
I'm pretty sure you're aware of what self-sabotage is. Well, one way that many people do it is by allowing negativity to cause them to make in-the-moment decisions that are based on emotion more than reason and logic. Please don't let 2020 cause you to do that to your relationship. Again, we're just steps away from all of what this year brought our way. When it comes to your partner, as I once heard a character from one of my favorite television shows once say, "Lean. Don't push." When it comes to maintaining your relationship, those are awesome words to live by.
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