Everyone had hoped that 2020 would be the year of ‘double digits’. Everyone had plans. Then Covid–19 came into the scene and life as we knew it dissipated.
The pessimists were in pain, thinking the world was coming to an end. The narcissists started wondering, what is in it for us? The realists asked, just how do we deal with this situation? The conservatives stayed put, stating, until we have evidence, it is not here, it does not affect us and life continues as normal. But the reality is far from our personas and what we perceive or imagine life to be.
In an unprecedented turn of events, Covid-19 has disrupted everything, including family ties. It has brought a new normal to the concept of ‘living together’. Husbands and wives must spend more time together. Children have to spend more time with their parents/guardians than with teachers and friends. Neighbours now know more about each other than the landlord. And so the flaws in each one of us as individuals are more visible now than ever before and especially in our intimate relationships.
We can no longer hide behind work, places of worship, the bar or friends or relatives. The curfew has brought partners together.
Relationships are facing their biggest test during this pandemic. It’s no wonder women rights agencies are reporting an increase in a ‘shadow pandemic’ of domestic violence on a weekly basis. Man and woman are struggling to live peacefully at home.
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Children are no longer safe under the cover of ‘family’. The centre is struggling to hold. Is it possible to eat ‘tongue meat’ and continue to be happy in an intimate relationship? The laissez-faire approach to relationships is slowly weighing on negative emotions.
Covid–19 has no face and neither is it tangible enough to be beaten, insulted, burnt or shamed! It’s a monster that is faceless and without form. The quarrels are increasing, the stress is unimaginable, the abuse is painful and the mental and physical injuries have even caused death. The time to act is now.
But questions abound. Who should tackle the violence being experienced in the homesteads? Government does not live in our households! Civil society cannot save every household. So, only those living in these households can bring change. It’s their duty as partners to ensure they love and respect each other and those in their care. They must take responsibility for the agony in their households.
Human connections must evolve beyond physical touch and contact. Years ago, sitting round a bonfire listening to “grandmother’s” stories was enough for one to learn morals, culture and the dicey consequences of breaking the law. One could pass these teachings from generation to generation and it worked! For now, it remains simply a memory of the “good old days”. Are there lessons from the past that can rescue intimate relations from the current predicament? Or what does the new normal mean?
Intimate partners need to learn a new A, B, C on relationships within the context of the pandemic in order to prosper. People in thriving relationships have discovered how to use board games to manage boredom and hold healthy conversations. Making a duty roster for household chores ensures everyone is active and engaged. For those who are gifted, it is time to discover the talents in the family and purpose to nurture them. If nothing appeals to you, try a new skill, like learning sign language through YouTube.
Only in a safe environment can intimate partners discuss the ‘musts’ that need to be adopted in order to survive with the meagre resources available. Discussions can focus on changing meals, rethinking housing, cutting costs and whatever it takes to manage the hard economic hardships.
It is time to rediscover friendship and improve intimacy. Reading stories and joining your children in doing school assignments is fun and supports bonding. Take time to play games and hold conversations, even allowing children to speak and share their experiences.
Everyone wants a soft landing for their problems but we must arrive there collectively. Everyone needs somebody and so let’s jointly fight the pandemic collectively. The faceless enemy has a name — Covid–19! Our new way of life is not easy. So, stop complicating it by causing pain to loved souls. Rather, adopt a new normal of healthy relationships while washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces!
Ms Cikanda is the Programme Development Manager at the Center for Rights Education and Awareness.