Isolation is a familiar feeling for expats. A couple will move to a new country where they don’t know a soul, and rely on each other for connection and entertainment while their social circle is under construction.
Then, too much time together leads to irritation, arguments become more frequent, and the bad seems to outshine the good. Nothing that a little breathing room can’t fix. Unless you’re in lockdown together in the middle of a pandemic. In that case, your possibility of dodging marital problems becomes exactly zero percent. You can’t “flight,” so you fight.
Which is why, to no one’s surprise, COVID-19 has caused the divorce rate to balloon.
Even though these are impossibly challenging times, we know that relationships rarely implode so quickly. It’s accumulated erosion from the subtle things over a prolonged period that lead to its demise.
Last week, we discussed the toll indefinite separation is having on romance. For part 2 of this series, I’ve brought in registered psychotherapist Renata Andrade to give us a love intelligence IV shot and help minimize the damage from quarantining together.
Excellent tools for any relationship, Renata shares 5 red flags and 8 strategies to get our marriages through lockdown and beyond.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Explaining the strife to your children
- Pineapples & postponing difficult topics
- Why survival instincts trigger selective listening
- Practicing extreme permission & empathy
- Turning towards rather than away
Listen to the Full Episode:
Isolation, lockdown measures, and the endless parade of collateral stresses from the pandemic have led to a perfect storm for increased domestic violence. If you’re experiencing abuse, treat it with the same urgency as if you’re having a heart attack. Many countries have set-up additional resources to help victims leave and stay safe. Find them and get out today.
Featured on the Show:
- Thinking of joining the Expat Coach Coalition? Last chance to apply here
- Episode 161: Long Distance Survival Guide with Christine Gerber Rutt
- Episode 174: Love on Lockdown – Part 1 with Christine Gerber Rutt
- Renata’s Sanity Camp Program
- Renata Andrade Website: http://www.renata-andrade.com/
- Marie Murphy, PhD, Advice on relationships when you Shelter In Place
- Turn Towards Instead of Away from the Gottman Institute
- Renata’s Facebook group: Expat Career Happiness: tips, support & tools for your success
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 5:30 am in New York, 12:30 pm in Johannesburg and 5:30 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. And I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.Martin Buber is an Austrian Jewish and Israeli philosopher. He says our relationships live in the space between us, which is sacred. Mr. Buber, I would like to ask you what we’re going to do when we don’t have any space and how we keep relationships alive during lockdown?
This is part two of a two-part episode love on lockdown. In part 1 episode 174 with Christine Gerber Rutt. We looked at the four pillar approach that she recommends after over 20 years of a long-distance relationship. To make it work despite the distance. If you haven’t heard that her answers might surprise you. And for extra credit you can go to her first episode, episode 161. Where she gives advice on long-distance survival guide.
This week is part 2. We’re looking at lockdown, when we’re locked down together. And how that can impact your closest relationships.
And today I am joined by someone who can help us understand what to look out for and what to do to avoid the train wreck. By the time we’re done today my hope is that you’ve got some practical strategies in your hands on how to make the most of it.
So it is absolutely my pleasure to welcome Renata Andrade who is originally from Brazil. She says she’s 1/3 Italian by blood and forever a Londoner by heart.
Sundae: Welcome to Expat Happy Hour Renata.
Renata: Thank you. So good to be here.
Sundae: So let me tell you a little bit about Renata for those of you who aren’t familiar with her. She draws on over 15 years of professional experience and her academic background. And today is practicing as a global life coach. Before that she was a psychotherapist and had a private practice. She also holds a master of science in Psychotherapy from Middlesex university, has a clinical psychology degree and so many other qualifications I can barely find time to name them.
So Renata we’re so excited to have you here. Probably the most interesting qualification you have to talk about this. Is that you are personally going into, at the time of this recording, your 12th week of lockdown?
Renata: Yes. Oh my God.
Sundae: And you’re still standing, yeah yeah yeah.
Sundae: Oh my gosh. So thank you so much. I can’t think of a better person to help us understand. How do we do love on lockdown when there’s no space?
Renata: Yeah, exactly. I was laughing with myself with your introduction, because that’s it. Like what do you do now? We can’t create that space. But there are lots of things.
Sundae: The thing is, like I say this all the time, but I’m going to keep saying it. Life in general is already challenging enough. Like how do you do, let’s say middle-aged? How do you do relationships? How do you parent your kids? How do you stay healthy? All of that is already a challenge. And then as expats we have the Olympic level challenge of doing all that in different cultures. And now we’re like in this pressure cooker. And our home like, you know, we were talking with Andre Puck inside of Expats on Purpose. I’d expect some purpose about how do we change our home feeling instead of a trap, have it feel like a safe haven. But a lot of people are feeling trapped right now.
Renata: Exactly. Yeah. And as you say that I’m thinking about some statistics here. That as a therapist, what we see in the consulting room is like 40% of the topics are marital problems anyway. So it’s interesting like right now with the, as you say the pressure cooker on us. Like how much more or how much more on our faces there are marital problems may be.
Sundae: Right. Seriously. And I mean if I look at what I’ve seen with my clients. And even with some of my friends. It’s like people are going on, I don’t know, 15 years of marriage, 20 years of marriage. Which is also a time I think that people look at the long-term. Like I can imagine, I don’t know what the statistics are, but I can imagine those are topics that get really important when people have been together for a long time.
Renata: Yeah, definitely. And it’s interesting because the main fight doesn’t change very much over time. It kind of transforms a bit, but it kind of continues to be a major theme of fight as we grow together and as we grow in the marriage and relationship longer term.
Sundae: So what people are feeling, the pressure they’re feeling is actually not new. Do you think, I mean this is what I’ve heard people talk about. I’m curious from a psychology perspective that when we’re under this kind of pressure. We just become more of what we already are?
Renata: Yes, right, we become more of what we already are but I think we become more defensive as well. So we kind of go back to our kind of primitive sense of surviving if we’re more under pressure. And especially right now because what we’re dealing with is fear, very basic fear of survival. Like this is a disease and stuff like that. It’s like surrounding us and uncertainty about the future. And another one is the no escape because the fight and flight reaction. We don’t have the flight one very much right now.
Sundae: Right. Oh wow.
Renata: So it’s really like our primitive defenses get more, they are easily flared up.
Sundae: I never thought about that, so fight, flight or freeze. We can’t even run.
Sundae: And freezing. I mean, that’s not gonna get you very far. So fight kind of feels like the one tool we’ve got on our hands.
Renata: Yeah, I think the freezing in this situation is a bit like the the alienating and distancing other people. Which doesn’t help very much as well but happens as well as much as the fighting. The kind of withdrawal, completely withdrawal
Sundae: Okay. So what I’m hearing is, because we are in this level of global uncertainty. And it literally triggers our survival Instinct when it’s around sickness, maybe even making sure you have access to food. I have clients all over the world so they can’t just walk down the street and grab something at the grocery store. There are real fears around what if the food supply gets sabotaged? Depending on where they are on the planet. Then the actual fear of disease. So we are biophysically under sort of a survival instinct. And what I’m hearing from you is our natural defenses, some of those aren’t possible now, so it’s going to enhance the fight mode.
Renata: Yeah, and we’re also like kind of selectively listening right now. You’re kind of hearing louder. The things that are dangerous, what they kind of also provokes you and triggers your survival instincts. So there’s that in the relationship as well. We’re listening selectively.
Sundae: So what’s popping up for me is, I mean, I want to know a lot of things. I want to know what are some of the red flags that things are going in a bad way? And I’m also curious about some of the strategies, and how we can correct course. I’ve got some ideas from a coaching perspective, but I would love to hear from your perspective. Let’s step back here and think okay, if you’re sheltered down with someone and you don’t literally have that space anymore, what are some red flags, things that you’re kind of to see coming or not going in a good direction?
Renata: Yeah, course, So I think there are five in my mind that are most relevant right now. One is of course, very obvious, violence, shaming, coercion, threats and stuff like that. We know for a fact that domestic violence is rife. Raising up right now and all of that. So that’s a more obvious one. That is not a red flag, but you need to get help as if you’re having a heart attack at home. You would get help now. So you would get help if that’s the kind of thing that’s happening for sure. But in a lower level of that. If that starts to become a bit in the air, right the safety or some shaming some kind of bullying, something like that. I think it’s a red flat to pay attention to what’s happening in the relationship anyway.
Sundae: Well what can you do if you start to notice those things elevate?
Renata: Well, it always depends on the level of elevation. If it’s too much you need to get distance. Like physical distance because it can get more serious than anything else. And I know we’re in lockdown but that there are emergency escapes in any country right now. There are ways if you really need to leave. But if you need to just distance, create some distance and agree with your partner to have a little bit of distance. Or postpone loaded topics. There are things that you know, you always fight about. Those things are really difficult to talk about. Just postpone them and put a date in the future. I don’t know when and or have a code word that you can use like, pineapple or something that usually I say to people. Like to use a funny word so that it kind of breaks a little bit of the ice of the situation. But have something that will kind of create some space and some distance and agreed distance to be able to breathe and lower the defenses. And then you can talk about it when things are not so high flamed.
Sundae: So when I think about the way I can come into this conversation from my work with couples who are in transitions and usually stress is elevated. I think some of the same strategies apply to now, where I talk about exercising extreme permission. Where you can say, this is not for the highly elevated cases it is more for when things are disruptive, where you say. “Hey, we’ve never been in a global pandemic before. We’ve never been locked down like this before. So can we just give ourselves permission to screw it up for the first time?” And then think once you’re out how to do it better.
Renata: Yeah, exactly. And I think you’re touching on something that is really important as is expat couples. We’ve been under pressure and kind of in isolation from time to time when we move. And then we don’t know anybody else and you’re kind of very intense in that relationship because you can’t count on anyone else. So we have to remember those muscles in a way, you would be in if we’ve been training some of that.
Sundae: Yeah, totally. So in my coaching training with solution-oriented coaching, we talk about looking at the resources that you’ve used to overcome similar changes in the paths. So, oh wait a minute, we made timeouts or we like you said to postpone tough conversations. And then we sat down with a glass of tea and talked after we went running, because then we were calm.
Whatever the things that you did in the past that worked could give you more success now. We talked about some pretty extreme situations. What about just for the more subtle things? Like some of those extreme things like shame or violence. Those capture your attention and there’s a sense of urgency, but there is a danger in the subtle things that don’t capture your attention. That over time has a compounded impact that you don’t see until it’s been happening for weeks or months.
Right like for example the couple that used to cuddle every evening or every morning before they got up for coffee now just lay side by side. That’s like one of those tiny subtle things that happens over time. What do you think about that? What are some of those signs that people should watch out for?
Renata: I think it’s a complicated time isn’t it, because we have to give ourselves permission to be a bit different because we’re living in a different situation and under different pressure. So not be too hard on yourselves to do exactly and be exactly how you used to be. And at the same time notice what are the things that you miss and you need that you’re not getting. Or you may be getting just distracted by a lot of Netflix, which is great, but also can distract you from paying attention to each other.
If there’s a time passing and you’re not really talking to each other too much or not really interacting in the way you used to for a long time and you miss something, you notice that. I think it’s time to talk, to come together and say, “Well, listen, we haven’t been doing this in a while and I used to love it.” Or something like that. Or bring it back.
Sundae: I love that reminder that you just gave us about permission to be different. That is such an important reminder. Like for example, your partner, one of the things I’ve learned abroad is I grew up in a very stable environment and then I moved to Switzerland, which was very stable and security-oriented. And then we went to Burkina Faso. And we had three kind of crisis situations that were going on politically. I’ve never been in that level of uncertainty before so I had no tools at my disposal. I had to figure that out as I went along. And then your partner, for example might come from a country where political uprisings are part and parcel to growing up. And you might be from an area that it’s non-existent. So your partner has access to tools that you don’t have access to. So there’s like this permission to say it’s throwing you off and that’s okay. Yeah, so that’s it smart. I think I like that idea of letting people, giving them space to process this level of uncertainty if they don’t have access to a ton of tools at their disposal. At the same time, if it goes on too long speaking up to say “Hey, I really missed this.”
Renata: Yeah, exactly. I think we need that for flexibility now. And as you say that I’m thinking like on a personal level. We also have different, not just countries, but also coming from different families. Where we were used to different levels of conflict and dealing with conflict. In my family we don’t do conflict. So it’s very very hard for me when we get into a fight or to disagree and become more inflamed about it. It feels shameful. It feels like many other things. It’s very hard and my husband comes from a different family, which is more used to being open about what they disagree with. And even that you know, you know looking back at what you have as a resource. And as an example of those things like fighting and being like, kind of a pressure cooker situation right now. You’re going to react differently and it’s going to mean something different for each of you.
Sundae: It’s a lot to process. When I think about it. There’s so many layers. There’s a global thing. And then how is it going to impact my quality of life? My global Life? How does it impact me professionally? How does it impact my kids? And then those are like four, five, six layers in. And the person next to you is the one you should be most certain of, the most stable. And all of a sudden when it gets in that seventh layer in, destabilizing the couple that can feel really really ungrounded.
So what else you think is going on? I know that you’re seeing clients. You actually currently are focused on helping people make a career pivot or put their careers in the foreground, especially during this pandemic. Not putting their careers on pause.
Are you noticing that the relationship aspect is bleeding into your career related sessions?
Renata: Oh my God. Yeah
Sundae: Oh really? What are you hearing from people? What are some themes?
Renata: So I have clients who are quarantining apart. So there’s lots of that. But there’s also the readjustment to a different situation. And it’s really become more personal than professional for now I think. And it slowly is getting back into having more space in their minds to think about profession. But definitely with the personal pressure. And what I’m seeing in those, specifically I work with a lot of people who have kids and families involved in all of this lockdown, not just the partner, and in relation to the couple’s relationship. There’s not a lot of space for the couple. Because we’re all locked down with the kids and with all of the homeschooling and everything that’s happening around it.
But what’s happening is that people are sometimes involving their kids in the fights as well. Not in the fights exactly. But in the mix of the frustration with the partner. Which I think is another red flag. Notice if there are third parties involved. Because then you’re not going to work through with your partner. You’re going to be kind of making this complete system to kind of justify what your side of the fight is.
Sundae: And then you’re also impacting your kids’ experience as they are navigating and processing their own way. So I guess what I’m hearing is for those of you who are feeling the pressure of lockdown. And you’re right now in the lens that you’re looking at it, is through your relationship. To be really careful about how that’s bleeding into your kids and their experience.
Renata: Yeah, and it’s not about like, I don’t think it’s about completely protecting them from knowing that any kind of conflict is happening. But you can talk about it. You can say like well, “We’re disagreeing about something here.” You can explain to them. They have to know that also disagreeing is okay, but not involve them as a part of, or to take parts.
Sundae: And you know, what? We know that.
Renata: Yeah, but it’s easy to get into that.
Sundae: Right. It’s like there’s so much. I always tell people it’s not the knowing that’s a problem it’s the doing. Otherwise all of America would have a six pack and never yelled at their kids. Like we have enough knowledge. It’s about living it. And I love that you just named that because there might be someone who knows better but isn’t doing better. And I say that with empathy. Because when we’re under pressure, it’s so easy to lose sight of the dynamics that are going on.
Renata: Yeah. And I’ll give you an example. The other day we were discussing about me and my husband, he’s bothered about the mess in the house. And because he doesn’t have to deal with the mess in the house normally. So now it’s like “Oh my God, what is going on it’s messy in here?” And I’m listening to it like a criticism of my management of the house or something like that. And it’s just like this is kind of getting inflated. And we have a puppy and the puppy was messing something around and it was like, “Oh my God what’s going on?” And then my husband lost it in terms of the mess and he was super upset and then I got upset. And it was interesting to see, I have a 14-year-old daughter and she came and she looked at me and she saw that I was super upset. And I close down when I’m upset. And then she looked at me and said “Mom, he’s also really having a hard time right now.” And I was like, God it just completely kind of.
Sundae: Oh my God. I have tears in my eyes and my arm hair is standing up. Our kids are so smart.
Renata: Right and she was like, “Mommy you’re right, but he’s also under pressure.” So it’s interesting how it wasn’t a situation where I was like kind of putting her on one side or another but I think she was feeling pulled.
Sundae: To mediate that. Right. Yeah, so that goes back to one of the strategies that I always recommend. We talk about extreme permission, like we’ve never done this before so if we mess it up, let’s step back and rewind it and make it clean, make it better.
The other one I talked about is extreme empathy. How do we give ourselves empathy for how we’re struggling? And how do we extend that empathy to your partner? That is I personally feel. And this is just my own view. I find I can do that retroactively. I have a harder time doing it in the moment. I’ll be hard on myself or I’ll be hard on my partner. And then afterwards I’ll be able to go, “Wait a minute, you’re doing the best you can or he’s doing the best he can.” That sort of thing. So for me I’m just not that evolved yet.
Renata: It’s hard when we’re in the middle of it.
Sundae: Yeah. So for me my step 1 is to just try to practice extreme empathy. I personally noticed I’ll do better retroactively than in the moment. And the other thing that ties back with the way I look at it is I say extreme self-care. So that’s the third element. Where I can do that much better when I’m taking care of myself. When I’m well-fed, caffeinated. I’m like a dog or a horse and that needs to be run once a day. Then I can show up better.
You and I were talking about an article from Marie Murphy. And she says during this time your focus is on your relationship with yourself, not on your relationship with your person. Which I thought was a really interesting approach.
What do you think about that? Should we be focusing on the relationship with ourselves before we focus on the relationship with our significant other?
Renata: It is like the basic one. Because if we’re not being okay with ourselves. Like reasonably taking care of. All of our needs are going to bleed into other relationships and we’re going to want other people to satisfy our needs. And I think it’s a basic one. And it’s not just about a bubble bath. It’s just like, “What do I really need?” Sometimes it’s not the bubble bath. Sometimes it’s anything else.
Sundae: Well, you even said, when you’re in conflict you close up. So that shows that you have a high level of self-awareness in the relationship with yourself. And I guess I would expect that from a psychologist. Well, you know, but we all were also human. So that’s what I find really interesting. This could be an opportunity for people to start to notice patterns at not your partner, but you and how you show up. I was reading something. I think it was from Esther Perel. I’m a big fan of her work right now. We mentioned it on episode 161. The book is called “Mating in Captivity.” And she’s written a lot of other interesting things. But she talks about how it takes two to create a pattern and one to break it. So it’s like, “Who do I have control over?” “I have control over myself”
So if you’re not a know hungry growth-oriented psychologist or coach like we are. How do regular folks start to see themselves in these patterns? How do we begin?
Renata: Yeah, I really like the model that I think people are going to find useful about our needs in relationships so we can look at how we’re doing in terms of ourselves and also how we can look at our partners and see like, “How am I helping them?” Or “How am I giving them some of some of this?” Because if we fulfill those needs we feel loved and we feel in love in general. So I think they are really really important. And it gives you kind of a structure to think about how to look at your self-care.
Sundae: Everybody get your pen and paper open because I think this is going to be important.
Renata: There are eight.
One is security. How safe do you feel in this relationship? How safe do you feel that you’re not going to be shamed or you are not going to have to hide parts of yourself? And also, how are you doing that to your partner? How are you creating a safe space? How are you not changing and not judging the other?
The second is validation of your emotions. Can you feel sad? Can you feel everything that you need to feel with this person? And can you do that for the person too or do you need that person to be happy all the time for you? Or do you need that person to be whatever for you?
Sundae: A big one. I think.
Renata: Yep. It really is. The third one is active acceptance of another person who is better than you at something. So if thinking in a couple, like one is better, if cooking or with the kids or whatever. Yeah, that one is better, you’re the one who doesn’t feel so good to be accepted. So if you point each of those positions, how are you accepting? Are you criticizing the other because he doesn’t know how to do this or that?
Sundae: I love that. That’s an easy one that could slide under the radar.
Renata: So the fourth one is confirming the experience you have of the other. Do you know what it’s like to be the person who’s financially responsible right now and is locked down and not sure what’s going to happen with their jobs. Do you put yourself in the other shoes? Do you know what it’s like to be the person who has to give up everything and do the cooking, the cleaning, the homeschooling, this and that and not think about herself or himself right now? Not to be stereotypical about it. Like sharing the experience. Like feeling really understood. Do you know what’s like to be me right now?
Sundae: And I feel like we’re constantly so motivated to be understood we forget that we may be starting to understand the other person is a great start. Because if I do that for you, maybe naturally do I do that for me? There’s so many, and I’m just being really frank here. I’ve been married for 20 years. I had my 20th anniversary on Saturday legally or civil. We called it our civil marriage. Everybody’s like “So it wasn’t civil after that?” So we had our civil ceremony and then later we got the wedding later in another country. But there are so many times in my relationship that I’ve wanted something for my partner and I’m not even giving it to myself. I’m like “Oops.”
Renata: Yeah, but you’re so super self-aware. But usually that happens a lot in relationships. Yeah, if we look at them, we really look at what we’re asking the other.
Sundae: It just feel so much easier to point your finger at the other person. Like, “You don’t and you should.” It feels so much easier, but it’s not really the right way.
Renata: Yeah, and then when you do that too for the other person you lower the pressure and the defense and their relationship. And then there’s much more availability to get what you need and to kind of breathe again and be together again.
Sundae: So we’ve done four so far. Security, validation, acceptance and confirming the experience. Those are really important. Even if we did one of those things more I think we would have huge results. But there’s four more which gives us even more tools to reach for. What’s number five?
Renata: Five is self-definition. We need to define ourselves even in a relationship, to feel separate somehow. So we all have that need and it’s when we say no, when we don’t want something, when we need some space. Those kinds of things are just a need to feel like an individual even when you are in a relationship. Especially like 20-year relationships. Where you are so enmeshed in the relationship. But there is that need as well to feel different and to disagree and to be okay and still feel safe in the relationship even disagreeing.
So make space for that and make sure you also feel like you can do it. And you have to say no. Put down some boundaries so that you feel that you can self-define in the relationship.
Number six is to make an impact. And we need to see that the other person is moved or shifts because of us. Or does something for you. And we cause something in the other. We caused some kind of emotion.
Sundae: Can you give me an example?
Renata: Yes. When you tell a story. Basic one, when you tell a story to your partner and the partner gets moved or cries, or is there with you and gets some kind of emotion. Even if they get angry for you. You feel like you’re alive and you’re impacting someone who’s alive and responding to you. And sometimes we forget to give that to our partners if we’re a longtime couple. Because it’s like, yeah, we’re going to talk about this and we have two kids and that we forget to really get impacted. Or stop what you’re doing right now because and go do something with the other person and make them feel priority at that point.
Sundae: It makes me think of an article I recently read. I think it’s a Gottman Institute. They talk about these strategies of whether you’re turning toward or turning away. You have a bid for attention. It’s like. “Hey, what do you think of this new shirt?” And that’s actually a bid for attention. And your choice is, it looks fine or whatever choices you have. But dismissing that, it’s not really about the new shirt. It’s “Hey, I want your attention.”
Renata: And we do that for our kids. We usually recognize that on kids and we kind of give them the attention. They just want attention and we are going to give them the attention. Because it’s like growing up and recognizing importance. But we continue to need that as adults.
Sundae: I’m going to put the link in the show notes. It’s from The Gottman Institute and it says “Turn towards instead of away.” It’s a small small small gesture and people can miss the signs if they’re not aware of it. So I think impact is really connected to that.
Renata: Yeah, I agree
Sundae: That’s wonderful. What is number seven?
Renata: Number seven is to have the other person initiate something. And here I want to touch the like a hot topics including sex. So are you just like waiting for the other? Do you initiate? Do you initiate talking? Do you need to initiate any kind of contact or is the other one? What is the pattern between the two of you that you can slightly change and initiate yourself or let the other initiate?
Sundae: Right because initiating is a sign that it matters to you and you want to do it. Not just, “Okay fine I’ll go along if you start.” But you also want that. But here’s the problem. There was this movie. This is the ongoing joke that I have with my husband. There’s this movie, Jennifer Aniston and this other guy, I can’t remember his name. But in the movie they have this fight in the kitchen and it’s about the dishes. And she’s like “You never do the dishes.” He’s like “Well, if you want me to do the dishes, you should ask.” And she says “I want you to want to.” And my husband just died. He was like, “What is that about women? Like I want you to want to. Like I can’t just ask.” And he has a point. Like how frustrating is that? So where is the boundary between initiating and truly want something? I just think it’s a messy one.
Renata: I think it is a messy one. It’s just like I think having that on your mind from time to time, that the other person may need you to just show that interest.
Sundae: It’s a form of appreciation. So it’s saying, “I appreciate you so much. I know that you would appreciate this. So I’m going to initiate it. Because I care about what’s important to you.” Did you see that Meme Series where it’s almost like a calendar, like a sexy calendar for women of men. I know it’s heterosexist. There are also other ways of being in a relationship. But this calendar was for women of men and it was actually not like firefighters without their t-shirt. It was like men vacuuming. Have you seen this? Have you seen these memes online?
Renata: No, I haven’t.
Sundae: Because it was like men doing housework. And I think that what that idea of this series was actually “What would really turn me on is you participating more with sharing the workload.” I think that’s what it was saying.
Renata: Without me asking right?
Sundae: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. That’s an interesting one.
Renata: Yeah, and I don’t think it kind of diminishes the importance of us communicating and asking what we need and what we want. But just remembering to do something before people ask is also nice and helps a lot.
And the last one, the eighth one, is another interesting one I think. Our need to express love, gratitude and appreciation. But I’m talking about expressing it, not getting it. I wanted to point the attention here too. Are you really listening when people express their love? Like your partner expressed love, gratitude and appreciation. Or are we just like selectively listening when they don’t. And because it’s so shaming when you’re trying to say, “I think you’re great. I think you did it really well. I love this. I love you.” Or “I love whatever you did.” And you don’t listen to it and dismiss it.
Sundae: That’s like this idea I was saying before from The Gottman Institute. It’s turning away. And it’s so painful. It makes me think of “The Five Love Languages” from Gary Chapman. Now, of course, you know in my relationship we have opposite love languages. And they say, actually, you need to speak your partner’s love language rather than your own default. And I know and if I look at my husband and his family they’re just amazing with acts of service. Like that is their love language and they just are overwhelming with it. And my family’s love language isn’t acts of service. So it was a process of seeing that as an expression of appreciation and gratitude and love when it was not the love language I grew up with. It’s like learning Italian as a child and then all of a sudden Japanese. You don’t understand Japanese.
Renata: Willingness to learn it,
Sundae: Yeah totally. And then to give it. I think it’s a “give it” in their language. To express it in their language. I mean I had this situation where, this is probably really way too much right now, My husband would be like, “Oh God.” But there was a situation where we were in Pretoria and something was on our radar about the school. And he said “Sundae, did you sign up for that?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s already done.” He’s like, “Oh we’re gonna get dirty taking care of that.” It was like the sexiest thing. Because I had taken care of it on the acts of service and my default isn’t acts of service. So that’s one small gesture of appreciation.
Wow, these are so good. I honestly think you just saved a couple marriages with these eight strategies. You’ve got eight strategies. It’s a lot. There’s so much there especially for people who’ve been in the relationship for a long time. Where should we start?
Renata: You know, I think a very practical thing to do is to, and this is Bruno Brown’s. I think it’s to move to the same side of the table instead of opposite sides and look at the problem together. Look at the fight together and then see what is needed here. What is that security validation as an impact? What are we missing? Then you can go through and see where you’re going to start. Because I think it is going to be very different for each of us. What we need and what’s happening. But we need to look at things together from the same side. And the problem is the adversary to defeat not your partner.
Sundae: Wow, that’s wonderful. I know we could talk forever about this. But this is already so much rich Insight. That I think let’s leave our listeners with that so they can take action on it.
Tell us more about you. I know that you’re working with people to help them focus back on their career or even if it’s in this uncertainty. Can you tell us more about this recent thing that you’re doing called Sanity Camp?
Renata: Yes, I have called it Sanity Camp because it’s a mix. Part of it is working on keeping sane and organizing or doing what you need to do what’s bothering and challenging right now. That could be your relationship as a couple, it could be the home schooling, it could be organizing the household or whatever is going on in this pandemic time. And opening some space on the other hand to do what you like or to advance your career or your plans to feel proud of what you do again. And to really have your own project not just the project of the family. So to have those two things going on. It’s kind of a more emergency one. And at the same time a more future-oriented one so that you you keep excited about your life,
Sundae: Because eventually we’ll get on the other side of this. Yeah, and I think you and I share that. You know, my motto is how can we make this the best worst thing that ever happened to us? Like imagine if you partner with individuals and they keep their urgencies under control and they make progress on their career. Or their careers pivot. Like that’s amazing. I’m so grateful that you’re doing that.
Renata: I’m really having fun with it.
Sundae: I’m going to put that in the show notes. I’ll make sure that they have access to how they can get a hold of you more on Sanity Camp. So if they want to know more where can we find you if they’re interested in learning more?
Renata: So I’m gonna leave my website as well http://www.renata-andrade.com/and I have a Facebook group too and I’ll leave you that on the for your comments so that they can click and get in there. And yeah, it’s called Expat Career Happiness: tips, support & tools for your success.
Sundae: Wonderful. So this is just a taste of all of Renata’s brilliance and how she can serve people. I’m so grateful we did this today. This is relevant. Not just during the pandemic. For any time that we are feeling pressure of a transition or just regular life. So thank you so much for what you’ve offered to our listeners today and Expat Happy Hour.
Renata: You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure.
So there you have it. What a treat to have a psychologist on Expat Happy Hour to share the depth of what we can be looking at when it comes to our relationship. I don’t know about you, but when I was listening to those eight things it kind of gives you a sense of control in this out-of-control energy. Of, “Wait a minute. Here are 8 things we could look at. We don’t have to look at all of them. What if we just looked at one and nurtured that.” That’s a wonderful outcome that I wasn’t even anticipating from today’s session.
So there you have it, our second part of this two-part series on love on lockdown. We started part 1 with looking at people, who are actively leading long distance relationships or banking on a much longer separation than they planned. So if you miss that go back to our episode 174 to get that as well as episode 161 which focuses on long-distance survival strategies.
This episode looked at what happens when we put our relationships in a pressure cooker with no space.
If you have applied to the Expat Coalition. This is the week it’s starting. So if you haven’t heard back from me or you need to get back to me now is the time because we are going to dive into a four-month program on how you can help expats during their own transitions.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean. Thank you for listening.
I will leave you with this anonymous quote. “The best relationship is when you can act like lovers and best friends at the same time.”
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