Updated: Oct 5, 2022
Sonika and I went to a show for Sonika’s birthday a few weeks ago. We saw The Empire Strips back at the Great Star Theater in San Francisco (they were serious about the “strips” part, oh my:)
It was the first time since Covid we’d gone to a live, in-person performance. The theater was full, the crowd was cheering, it was like the “normal” days before Covid.
What happened to us?
But it didn’t feel normal. It felt weird! Sitting shoulder to shoulder with other folks felt foreign and uncomfortable, and I was squirming in my seat.
And it was weird that it felt weird! Something as mundane as joining a group of people for a show or a movie, something we’ve done a thousand times in our lives without ever thinking twice about it, now felt unsettling. It’s crazy; like imagining that tying my shoes would feel unsettling. It made me exclaim to Sonika, “What the heck has happened to us!?”
A friend of mine called it the “digital-virtual haze”. The Covid years of social isolation and everything-from-home has put us in a haze, made us forget that we’re social beings who need physical, human input to grow and thrive. It’s like we all need to be re-trained to do the most normal of human activities: getting together, leaning on each other, learning from each other, having fun together.
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It’s not that surprising, I suppose. For more than 2 years, we have been conditioned (for good reasons) to avoid in-person gatherings, to protect ourselves from other folks, and to keep our distance as much as possible.
Anything we do for that amount of time becomes the new normal. You might have heard habit-changing experts say it takes 3 weeks or 3 months to replace a habit. I don’t know the exact time it takes, but it’s definitely less than 2.5 years! Heck, it only took me a month to get used to wearing sweat pants all day, and now I can hardly stand wearing jeans.
As humans, our survival instincts tell us that changing “the normal” is dangerous. Whenever you try to change what’s normal, your survival brain screams, “DANGER! STRANGER! NOT SAFE! AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!”
Sonika & I recognize this in ourselves. We think more about it when we get invited to a gathering instead of automatically saying yes. We felt a bit nervous when we scheduled our first in-person workshop. Even though we’ve planned and led hundreds of workshops before. Even though we love it. Even though we know it’s the best, most fun vehicle for transformation. Even though it’s deeply nourishing and uplifting. It’s just that our minds and nervous systems have gotten completely used to another normal.
Couples wait six years
We see it in our clients’ relationships, too. A couple argues way too much and they know they should do something about it. But somehow, they keep arguing without taking action, hoping something will change on its own. A single person knows they need to reach out for more social connections, but somehow keeps staying at home feeling lonely.
As a prime illustration of our reluctance to initiate change in our relationships, the famous relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman found in one study that the average couple waits six years before seeking support for an issue. Six years! That study was made well before Covid happened.
Our experience as relationship coaches matches what Dr. Gottman’s study showed. Couples often come to us only after having suffered and argued for years. Individuals too. (In fairness, there are also many exceptions). It seems we are wiling to tolerate sky high levels of stress and agony before reaching out for support.
On a personal note, here’s a funny story about Sonika and I. I’m someone who’s just like I described above. I tend to put my head down and march on, even when what I’m doing is clearly not working. Sonika, on the other hand, is often really good at learning quickly. How do we know? When Sonika got drunk for the first time as a youngster, she got sick and made a mess. She decided on the spot alcohol was not for her. I had the same experience, got sick and made a mess. But I made the opposite conclusion and thought to myself, “This is not so bad, I can do this!”
We need re-training
My resistance to change was very prominent in my relationship history, too. It wasn’t until I had felt lonely and disillusioned for years about my (lack of) intimate relationships that I finally made a decision to change my ways, get support, and start learning better tools and attitudes. Come to think of it, just like Dr. Gottman's couples, it probably took me 6-10 years of agony before I decided to get support and learn new ways. In retrospect, it seems so dumb. But at the time, I let my resistance win the day.
Does this apply to you?
Do you know there are areas of your relationship that need improvement or re-training?
Are you hesitant to engage support and start learning new tools even though you know it’s needed?
Have you already tried your own methods but not getting the results you want?
If you’re saying yes to any of those, here’s a heartfelt encouragement to initiate change right now. Whether you do it with us or find other mentors or coaches; as long as you do something, you’re on your way. Take it from someone who’s learned the hard way that there’s no prize for stubbornness, and there’s no relationship that gets better simply by waiting.
For us, at this time, that means re-conditioning ourselves to be in groups of people, getting back out there, letting our "social guards" down, and having fun in groups.
What does it mean in your world?
If it means boosting your relationship, check out our Nov 5 one-day workshop here …
LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit www.loveworkssolution.com.