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My Relationship Changed During Quarantine. What Now?

Many couples will emerge from Covid-19 quarantine with a slightly different dynamic than they had prior. There will be new questions and challenges resulting from the prolonged experience of forced intimacy, which will require an adjustment to the relationship. One of the most difficult challenges couples will face as a result of the time spent social distancing and in quarantine protocols, is the illumination of bothersome things about each other that they were previously unaware of or were able to ignore. During normal circumstances couples can enjoy varying levels of decompressing time away from each other engaged in activities that bring individual pleasure, social connectedness, and promote personal growth. The forced intimacy of quarantining has removed this previously available escape as an option, forcing couples to remain in proximity even during times of conflict or interpersonal stress. In this environment romantic, occupational, social, and other interests become intertwined, exacerbating existing issues, and placing additional pressures on the relationship. The good news is that research indicates that working through difficulties can strengthen relationships. These pressures can be overcome if the foundational values of the relationship remain constant and strong. To do so you will need to make some adjustments to incorporate the new realities of your relationship. Here are five things that you can do to effectively deal with the new reality of your partnership:

1.       Address any new problems or issues honestly and with a solution-focused approach.
Pretending that problems that the quarantine exposed do not exists or chucking them off to the time spent together is not an option. You will have to face the problems in a healthy way that focuses not on assigning blame but on identifying and selecting solutions.
2.       Incorporate any new activities that were useful during quarantine into your relationship moving forward. 
Continue those evening walks, family game nights, or weekend bike rides. Make those activities a regular part of your routine as a couple. It will improve your individual health as well as the health of your relationship.
3.       Schedule me-time wherein you can create moments to be yourself.
The time in quarantine has reinforced the importance of individual time away from your partner. Set aside specific time for you as an individual to engage in activities that promote individual growth. Individual growth will in-turn have a residual positive impact on your relationship.
4.       Keep a positive attitude. Use positive affirmations and reinforce positive behaviors.
Your positive attitude and energy will positively impact those around you including your partner and family.
5.       Examine the strategies that you employed during quarantine that allowed you and your partner to work through issues and arguments in a positive and healthy way.
Include those strategies in your toolbox and utilize them as a regular part of a solution-focused approach to resolving disputes and solving problems that arise in your relationship.

Taking these five steps will help you to construct new individual and relationship goals aimed at creating a deeper and more satisfying connection between you and your partner. Make it fun and enjoy the ride.


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It’s Okay to Be Rational

It is crazy that this even needs to be said, but it is okay to be rational. It is not only okay, but it is preferable. When did the application of reason and logic become a bad thing? We have a country full of people that have been convinced by their parents, their teachers, the media, and society that their subjective opinion is equally as valid as an objective fact. They have been led to believe that they can change what is and is not a fact simply by choosing whether to accept or reject it and that individual truth is a valid concept. I am sorry but objective facts do not change based on what you choose to accept or reject and there is no such thing as “my truth,” there is just the truth. All things are not and cannot be simultaneously true, every proposition does not deserve equal consideration, and a fact cannot be negated by simply stating: “I don’t believe that.”

It is okay to admit when you are wrong and change your position when presented with new information. One of the key indicators of intelligence is the ability to alter positions as evidence or information dictates. In other words, recognizing when evidence contradicts something that you believe and changing in accordance. The idea that an informed change of position is a sign of weakness is not only absurd but perverse. Yet increasingly people seem unwilling to do so. The current strategy is to double down on your incorrect position and loudly insist that you are in fact correct. I will let you in on a little secret…doubling down on an incorrect position only makes you doubly incorrect. How about taking the time to assess and process the new information and then adjust your position accordingly? It is okay…

It is okay to absorb criticism of a belief, ideology, or position and evaluate the merits without personalizing it as an attack on you the individual. Pointing out something that is inherently flawed with the religion or political ideology you adhere to is not an attack on your character. It is merely an observation of some fact about that belief or ideology. I know that you have been conditioned to think otherwise but, you can be a part of, support, or believe something while at the same time recognizing that it is less than perfect. It is okay…

It is okay to be the voice of rational dissent. The truth of a proposition is not determined by how many people believe or reject it. A minority, fringe, or counterintuitive position that is informed by reason, logic, and supporting evidence is preferable and superior to one that lacks or is contradicted by the same, regardless of how popular that position may be. It is okay…

It is okay to admit that you do not know. Being aware of the limitations of your knowledge and competence is another of those import indicators of intelligence that has unfortunately been viewed as a negative. In fact, it is an advantage to identify those areas where you are strong and those where you are weak, and to take steps to fill in the gaps in knowledge.  This places you at an advantage over those who overestimate their knowledge and underestimate their ignorance. It is okay…

It is okay to choose a side if that choice is sufficiently informed by rationality. The idea that every proposition has two equally valid “sides” is ridiculous. Context is important however, some things are cut and dry, and the facts remain constant irrespective of what side of the facts you choose to occupy. It is okay…

It is okay if some of the aforementioned applies to you. We all have areas of life where we can stand to improve. It is nice to have a reminder that whatever our shortcomings, it is okay. It is okay to be flawed, confused, and unreasonable if we recognize this about ourselves and work towards remediating it. Our deficiencies provide us with goals for self-improvement. Those goals should include steps to be more consistent in our application of reason and logic over time. It is okay!


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How to Deal with Ideological Internalization

As society has become increasingly polarized left versus right, liberal versus conservative, religious versus irreligious, and as technological advances have allowed individuals to exert unprecedented control over the information they consume, ideological internalization has become progressively prevalent. Ideological internalization is the integration of an ideology as an identifying component of the individual, resulting in binding rigidity of thought, personalization of critique, and hyper-affective response.

Perceived criticism often puts us into an emotional state, bypassing the centers of logic and reason, and tapping directly into our emotional centers. The emotional center of the brain or limbic system stores previous emotional memories both negative and positive. When we receive criticism, it can trigger a negative response based on previous or similar situations in which negative criticism was received. The resulting reactions make it virtually impossible to receive the ideological critique as something other than a personal attack. The instinct to defend oneself against a perceived attack of character prevents the consideration or acceptance of new information that contradicts the held ideology from occurring. For example, when relaying to a supporter of a political candidate what you perceive as objective flaws in the candidate as an individual and/or as an executive, that supporter may instead hear and perceive those critiques as you critiquing them. Ideological internalization leads to the conclusion that if they support that candidate, and you believe that candidate to be flawed and incompetent, then you must believe them to be flawed and incompetent as well. And, how dare you imply that they are flawed and incompetent. Mentioning the child rape scandal in the Catholic church to someone who has experienced an ideological internalization of their Catholicism may result in a defensive response like: “are you accusing me of supporting child rape?”

It can be quite frustrating engaging in a political, religious, or moral dialogue that has been retarded by this phenomenon. Facts are brushed off as opinion and opinions asserted as facts. Debate seems to occur in two contradictory and parallel versions of reality. Ideological internalization prevents any critique, irrespective of validity, from being, considered or accepted.

How then do you successfully engage with an individual who has experienced ideological internalization? Overcoming ideological internalization is especially difficult in areas heavily dominated by opinions and in which there are no real consequences for holding incorrect positions. For example, in politics, philosophy, or religion, an individual can appeal to any authority to justify their position. Can there be a successful exchange of ideas within this context? It is possible if pursued with caution, care, and consideration. Here are some suggestions for overcoming ideological internalization:

  1. Utilize open-ended questions to build trust, allow the individual to express themselves, and demonstrate your willingness to listen to their perspective.
  2. Solicit their point of view. This should improve their willingness to receive and consider your point of view or critique.
  3. Since internalized ideology has created a scenario in which a criticism of the ideology is received as a criticism of the individual, it may be helpful to approach the discussion as if you were offering a critique of the individual. Utilize the precautions you would if delivering a personal critique.
  4. Offer your critique with as much detail as possible.
  5. Allow for silence as a space for them to consider your position.
  6. Pay attention to emotional reactions and adjust your tone accordingly.


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