Tag Archives: February

How to Work On Your Relationship During a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has wrought unprecedented levels of distress on an international level. Such global upset can trickle down and translate to a personal level as well, particularly when it comes to relationships. After all, sheltering-in-place with your partner adds extra pressure, while rendering the normal outlets and sources of personal perspective – things like visiting friends, going to school or work, even a trip to the grocery store – altered or entirely moot.

South Asian couples, ranging from those in their teens to right up to the ones hitting their 30’s are suffering a lot. Many South Asians who are in relationships often do so with such secrecy, they themselves forget that they have a significant other. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but still. When your relationship depends on covert dates with backup covers like, “Hey mom, I’m going to stay at Ayesha’s home tonight” and you are struggling to meet even a few times a week, a pandemic situation can be exhausting and difficult.

Whether you are in a long-term relationship, or just getting adjusted to each other, or you are somewhere in-between, here are eight morsels of advice for keeping your relationship healthy during the turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Understand how your partner responds to stress and how you do, too

It is often easy to assume everyone reacts to high-level stress in the same way we do. But you and your partner might actually have different coping mechanisms to mitigate pandemic-related triggers – and if those responses are vastly different, your actions stand to baffle each other unless you openly explain them.

For example, you might prefer to stay on top of breaking news updates, while your partner only weathers the larger updates as they come. Whereas you would prefer to spend 30 minutes of quiet time in the morning drinking your coffee and getting up to speed on the news, your partner starts their day with funny videos or silent meditation. Neither of your responses is the “right” one; they are simply your respective ways of getting through the situation.

Being aware of what you both need to process stress can help you learn to grant each other space and respect to honor those needs, without questioning their validity. Plus, popular relationship therapist Esther Perel points out using these differences to balance your perspectives instead of exacerbating tensions.

Keep communication open and ongoing

As scary as the pandemic situation is, it is important to air your worries and fears. While your partner can’t be your sole source of support, they can provide solace about things that are concerning you.

If you and your partner don’t have the vocabulary for this type of open communication, you can set the stage for mutual support by asking each other open-ended questions, like:

  • What are you feeling today?
  • How has this day been for you? 
  • Is there anything I can do to be a better partner?

One exercise from couples counseling, called uninterrupted listening, can help you deepen this type of communication. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes where you are able to talk freely about absolutely any stressors on your mind. It could be work, your health, your future, etc. Your partner can respond with non-verbal cues, but they can’t chime in until the timer ends. Then switch, and take your turn as the listener.

Working on building this communication may help establish what preeminent relationship psychologist Sue Johnson refers to as a “secure bond”. Such an attachment is formed with someone when we know they are emotionally responsive, and that they feel for and with us. It doesn’t mean that they will protect us, necessarily, or that they will do the labor of problem-solving for us. Rather, it means they will face our problems with us (not for us).

Carve out designated space for different purposes around the home

You might have heard that it is helpful when working from home to designate “work” space from “home” space. The same goes for quarantine life!

Since so much of our lives are happening indoors, it’s all the more important to identify and label different areas for distinct purposes.

That might look like a room (or corner) that is just for your or your partner’s work; a table for sharing phone-free meals; or a nook for doing yoga and meditation together. Adding these defined spaces can provide you both with a sense of autonomy and boundaries you might be craving.

Do your best to keep any major decisions on the backburner

If you and your partner had some big choices on the horizon, to the extent possible consider holding off on reaching a decision. After all, it’s nearly impossible to make sound decisions when there are so many universally unpredictable variables, from job security to the everyday health of ourselves and loved ones.

If there is something that’s pressing, you don’t have to ignore it altogether. Instead, try keeping track of your thoughts about the topic in a shared or individual journal. You can revisit those ideas when things have resumed to normal, or you feel you are both in a calm headspace.

If you feel an argument coming on, pause – and plan to revisit it when you have both cooled down

Just as it is hard to reach logical conclusions on any major decisions during times of extreme flux, it can also be hard to fully stay grounded during an argument. Ironically, of course, the upheaval in routine and living conditions can leave us feeling unsettled and may trigger more arguments than we would normally have.

If you feel a spat or full-blown argument coming on, plan to touch base again in at least half an hour and no longer than 24 hours later.

Go for a walk alone in the meantime, or engage in self-soothing practices like a breathing exercise, practicing self-compassion, or calling a friend to check-in. Revisit the argument when you have both had the time and (mental) space to cool down.

Avoid criticism of your partner; along with contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, such behavior is considered one of the “four horsemen” of the apocalypse for romantic relationships by esteemed relationship psychologists John and Julie Gottman.

Go overboard with compliments and appreciation

In these times of absolute tumult, many of us are craving kindness and comfort. Your small notes of appreciation will go extra far in keeping your relationship strong.

Be sure to thank your partner for the little things, like boiling water for your tea, making the bed, giving your partner an extended hug, or putting away the dishes.

Resume your regular romance to the extent possible

You have likely heard it before: Keeping some semblance of structure is helpful for staying balanced when everything seems topsy-turvy. If you had a regularly-scheduled date night, for example, make time to incorporate that into your quarantined life, too.

Here are some at-home date night ideas to try out:

  • Take a virtual tour at one of the many museums making exhibits accessible online
  • Try your hand at creating art together! If you are not crafty, this can be as simple as drawing your houseplants with a pencil and paper
  • Learn a new dance routine together. Getting silly and laughing together can be a great distraction from global and personal stress  

Try to eliminate outside distractions, just as you would if you were on a normal date! Put your cell phone on airplane mode, and focus on creating these new memories together.

You might just discover a new ritual of connection, a term that the Gottmans refer to for small but meaningful habits that you and your partner regularly incorporate into your daily routine, which can help you grow closer over time.


Vindhya PV is a passion-driven journalist who hails from Calicut, Kerala.

Cinequest Represents the Culture and Community of Silicon Valley with Selection of Indian Films

Taking place in Silicon Valley, the country’s hub of innovation and technology, the Cinequest Film & VR Festival 2018 (CQ2018) returns for its 28th season, February 27th – March 11th, 2018. Representing the vibrant culture of the Valley as well as India’s outstanding cinematic stature and tradition, CQ2018 presents an incredible selection of work from the Indian community.

Renowned for the exceptional quality and diversity of its program, CQ2018 will screen 258 film and virtual reality works from 45 countries, and invite attendees to immerse themselves in a new storytelling medium at its curated VR Cinema and VR Experience Lounge.  52 celebrations and special events round out the offerings amounting to 510 screenings, events, parties and experiences. Over the 13-day program, Silicon Valley becomes the epicenter of tech and entertainment as filmmakers, futurists, writers, technologists, actors and artists from around the world converge to celebrate their work in one of the most diverse metros in the world.

To learn more about the full festival lineup, and to purchase festival passes, tickets to screenings and special events, visit www.cinequest.org.

Highlights of Indian Cinema at CQ2018:

FEATURE FILMS

Love and Shukla (Directed by Siddartha Jatla; Bay Area Premiere)

Shukla, a rickshaw driver, deals with a multitude of passengers on the roads of Mumbai. Some of them take advantage of him, but they can’t rob him of his prized possession – his decency. A new marriage and a pretty bride bring up many unanticipated challenges. Before Shukla can get lucky, he has to grab life by the horns.

From Baghdad to the Bay (Directed by Erin Palmquist; World Premiere)

Ghazwan Alshari had his dream job – translating for the U.S. forces in Iraq.  But when he was accused of being a double agent by the same people he was aiding, with his life and the safety of his family in jeopardy, Ghazwan fled Iraq and settled in San Francisco to begin anew. Struggling and alone, Ghazwan reveals another secret in his life– he is gay.  Ghawan’s turbulent and ultimately joyous journey is nothing less than a testament to the human spirit.

N of 1 (Directed by Bernard Friedman; World Premiere)

An appliance repairman from Canada, an immunologist from Israel, and a transplant surgeon from England meet in a hospital in India. This might sound like the start of an elaborate joke, but it is actually a remarkable collaboration established in an effort to save the life of a young woman dying of liver cancer. As they invent and then carry out an experimental procedure through a journey that spans five countries, this unconventional team recognizes that what they are attempting could have broad implications for currently untreatable cancers.

Purdah (Directed by Jeremy Guy; World Premiere)

Being in a Muslim family in modern day India can sometimes be a struggle for 20-year-old Kaikasha and her two sisters. Their father wants them to wear burkas and to have arranged marriages, but these determined young women have dreams of their own. This beautiful and rousing story follows Kaikasha in her quest to be the first Muslim on the Mumbai women’s cricket team and then follows her into a corridor of uncertainty after a shocking turn of events changes the fate of her family.

The Ashram (Directed by Ben Rekhi; World Premiere)

Shot on location in India, Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) stars in the story of a Jamie, an American skeptic, following the trail of his lost girlfriend to a mystical Himalayan community. His quest to find Sophie leads him to an ashram where an evocative cast of characters, including Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar), awaits. He has reason to suspect everyone but needs to trust each to help him. Will their universal consciousness bind them in nurturing relationships, or will the evil, lurking beneath the calm, destroy them all?

Venus (Directed by Eisha Marjara; US Premiere)

When Ralph skates into Sid’s life claiming to be his biological son, life has already thrown a curve ball at Sid, a woman trapped inside a man’s body. As the woman inside bursts forth brandishing a red stiletto, Sid is wise enough to let her dance. But to navigate the labyrinth of relationships with her traditional Indian parents, a closeted gay boyfriend unsure of himself, and the son who she didn’t even know existed, she will need more than a stiletto. The film takes you up close to the journey of a transgender person and is guaranteed to keep you transfixed.

SHORT FILMS

Paggi (Directed by Nardeep Khurmi; World Premiere)

When a hate crime clouds the 4th of July, Mandeep, a Sikh-American, must grapple with his anxieties and fears as he attempts to celebrate the holiday with his wife and infant son. Feeling lost, alone, and fearful for his wife and child’s safety, Mandeep makes a tragic decision and irreversibly changes his identity.

Fanny Pack (an official selection of the LUNAFEST program)

From director Uttera Singh, also co-director of CQ2018 feature film selection, The Mad Whale, this relatable comedy follows a young Indian-American woman who wants to follow her dreams, and her fanny pack-clad Indian father who chases her through an airport, hoping that she will follow his.

More than 105,000 attendees will experience the work of internationally renowned and emerging artists and technologists, representing a spectrum of genres, genders, ethnicities, orientations, and viewpoints. Honoring the careers of icons, legends and risk takers in film, Cinequest will present its coveted Maverick Spirit Award to Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona), Andie MacDowell (Sex, Lies & Videotape, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Stronger) and Tom Cullen (Downtown Abbey, Black Mirror). Director, producer, tech entrepreneur Travis Cloyd will be honored with this year’s VR Visionary Award, recognizing his work in immersive entertainment. Additionally, this year’s Media Legacy Award will be presented to Ben Mankiewicz, Primetime Host Turner Classic Movies (TCM) celebrating his incredible life and impact on the industry, as a writer, journalist and co-founder of The Young Turks.

This year’s program includes 75 World and 55 U.S. premiering films, starring award winning actors including past Maverick Spirit Award winners William H. Macy, Rosario Dawson and Peter Fonda, as well as Kal Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, James McAvoy, Hilary Swank and Stanley Tucci.

Visit www.cinequest.org for the full program of Cinequest Film & VR Festival 2018, and to purchase passes and tickets to screenings and events.