The decision to publish “How to NOT Kill Each Other During Lockdown” this past year had everything to do with the unusually challenging events of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though I was very proud of the research and analysis, and found the discussions with many of the subjects (many simply filled out the form and requested that they not be contacted for follow-up) incredibly rewarding. My partner and I had discussed how the particular challenges of being cooped up with limited external conversation and changes of scenery had only amplified the stress of the time.
There were few people in the world not experiencing at least some additional stress, between challenges with working from home (or not working at all), children home from school, shortages at grocery stores, worry about money, the economy overall, the uncertainty surrounding the future, and many more. Originally, I had planned to present the book in a more “serious” (beware the man who attempts to be “serious”…), perhaps even scholarly manner. Though two of my workshop attendees (mentioned in the book) said that the titles I had in mind were too stuffy and didn’t accurately represent what a romantic relationship. The study itself was called “The Strategies of Intimacy,” and though I liked that name for the book, my students fortunately convinced me how silly that would be.
I had a couple of other titles that met with their approval, however, last year, the evening news, with its stories of couples “losing it” and becoming violent with one another, suggested the one I ultimately chose. However when we choose a title for anything, our attempt at making it relevant to that time or situation runs the risk of dating it.
For insance, I’m writing this in April, 2021 and most parts of the country are no longer in formal “lockdown”. Some businesses have opened, albeit in a limited capacity. What this translates into is no curfew, there are places you and your partner can go to get out of the house, or even away from one another for a bit. What then of my title?
I mentioned in the book that, since the research wasn’t specific to any sort of life challenge or set of conditions, the data is universal for people in relationships. I had a few readers contact me, telling me about how some of the Rules applied even in their professional relationships. As an NLP Trainer, where I’m interested in logical levels, “chunking” up or down as the situation dictates, this of course made sense to me. I was impressed by how effectively these people applied strategies and the wisdom shared by the gracious and wonderful participants in the Strategies of Intimacy study to entirely different circumstances. That made it clear that the information was always useful.
The context of the pandemic made it obvious how necessary such skills are. Sure, they always matter. Having a great relationship is better than having an unfulfilling, disappointing one. (Unless you’re one of those people–in which case, you shouldn’t be reading this. It might give you ideas about having more fun, excitement and fulfillment in your life. You wouldn’t want that, would you NOW?
Though I also mention in the book how our world occasionally presents us with “once-in-a-lifetime” events…with regularity. Part of my youth was spent in Chicago and Wisconsin, and in the latter, tornadoes were a regular concern. Later, we moved to the Gulf Coast in Texas, where hurricanes seemed to historically lumber through every five to eight years–sometimes doing massive damage. I grew up knowing that nature alone could provide routine challenges that we had to meet. During and after one hurricane, my wife and I at that time were homebound by flood waters and no electricity for a week. It doesn’t sound bad until you realize how much of your life depends on movement outside your house and simple electric power. If you don’t like the person with whom you’re stranded…
Despite the fact that the validity and universality of the information as well as, I’m told, the fun read, it seems that not long after publication, we encountered another situation in which it was relevant. This month, due to a freak winter storm, a phrase you normally wouldn’t associate with “Texas”. Through a series of unfortunate choices, Texas’ power grid wasn’t ready for it. Equipment froze, lines stopped, and much of the state went dark for a week. I read that the cost of damages from the disaster was l95 billion dollars, though more tragic, over 30 people died. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Texas_power_crisis) The “worst crisis in Texas history” sounds a little like a once-in-a-lifetime” event, wouldn’t you say? And as we’re not out of the pandemic, yet, that makes two such events occurring simultaneously. So though the pandemic-related lockdown had ended, now you and your partner were once again “stuck at hom” together. Without power, very little was open. Streets were empty, once more there was a grocery shortage, news reports of food production massively impacted.
Just when you thought the worst of it had passed…
The point of course is that once again, your relationship skills were survival skills. Once that situation passed, and we returned to our previously scheduled crisis, we were reminded that having a partner is not the only way to live, but it can make life better. So the skills involved are universal, relevant at any time. No crisis was even needed.
My primary work is in Cybersecurity, so my conversations during business hours are almost without exception about hackers, protecting intellectual property, and protecting the availability of my customers. Yet I was asked at one point about the book by a customer who recognized the name. I know, “How many Gingolphs are actually out there?” Fewer then five, so you can count us on one hand. He had bought the book as he had been struggling in his marriage, working remotely, as the fortunate among us were, as was his partner. They were finding their relationship to be much more stressful than before. I was humbled as he said he “cribbed a few strategies and ideas” from the research in the book. (The product of many interviews and survey responses, so the people answering had a lot of wisdom to offer.)
He said that he was grateful as the book gave him insight into things he could do differently to make his partner feel more appreciated. When you disrupt any system, all other parts have to adjust, so she too began to behave differently. She asked why he was different, and he shared the book on his Kindle. He said that he began reading it a second time, with her, aloud. They took turns reading passages. “We kinda realized that Chapter 10 was our favorite, so we kept going over it, practicing it…”
A quick note: Sex is not the answer to relationship problems. It’s an expression of what you feel, so an excellent barometer for gauging the health of your relationship. Therefore what he was talking about was getting in touch with one another, learning what makes one another happy, and sharing that.
I mention this to say that while a lockdown or other crisis may be the catalyst, the reason you and your partner decide that it’s “crunch time” to fix things, it’s easier if you just use strategies like those in the book to build your relationship and make it ready for such a “crunch time.” Crisis-ready, if you will.
Accordingly, though the title implies a time-frame, the time is now. It’s like learning to swim right before the ship begins sinking and you have to swim for shore. Like learning to run only when a bear begins chasing you. Or learning to make your relationship exceptional and satisfying only once you’re stuck in a house during a crisis.
Consider the challenges life is likely to throw you. Loss of the job. A threat to your marriage. A sinking ship or a bear? Seriously, some of those may not fit, but surely you can imagine some threat to your happiness. Trust me, I’m not being negative here. Merely suggesting that, as one famous “little pig” learned, it’s better to build your house out of bricks. Prepare yourself to be resilient, though flexible, in a word, ready. Then when life throws you a curve (or a bear decides you’re too close to its cubs (don’t ask me why they live in the conference room–it’s your company), you are ready to face it.