Last Week I Had A Fight With My Brother: A Lockdown Story
Last week I had a fight with my brother. We haven’t fought in years and generally get along well enough considering we live in close quarters at home anyway, so it came as kind of a surprise. I say ‘kind of’ as two and a half months of being in lockdown in a very small house I knew could start to take a toll – and sure enough it came to a head last week. It was completely ridiculous, he was cleaning up the kitchen, I was trying to watch a film, and for some reason the sound of him putting the plates away was especially jarring that day. In my head I was sure he was banging them just a bit too hard either deliberately or just inconsiderately (I mean I was doing something extremely important; the film wouldn’t watch itself!). So in my astute wisdom I decided it would be a good idea to say, “Do you want to make a bit more noise there mate?!” At which point he flipped, came marching into the living room and we almost came to blows. Luckily, both of us had capacity to go into separate rooms to cool off and apologising after we had calmed down.
When I was thinking about what to write about in this week’s blog post I thought that this experience is one that many of us have probably shared; falling out with those we are living with and care about, having shorter fuses than usual and dealing with situations in unhelpful ways. Amid a global pandemic, lockdown, uncertainty about the future and worries about infection, many of us will be stressed. From my own personal experience, being stressed and stuck in the house for far longer and in closer proximity to those that I live with than I am used to, plus a dash of miscommunication led to acting in not the most adult way. I am thankful however that my brother and myself have a good enough relationship to be able to apologise to each other and make up afterwards. I found that both of us sharing and acknowledging how we were feeling was very useful. We were able to understand how the other felt and that actually; it was more to do with everything going on right now than noisy plates.
As I said this was uncharacteristic for us and it got me thinking, how have we managed to live together peacefully and enjoying each other’s company (for the most part) for so long? Here are the four main things that I think are important in any relationship when you are living in close quarters:
Specifically giving each other space. This is a hard one, especially if you are stuck in a tiny flat, but it is more than just a physical thing. You could be sitting on the same couch just doing your own thing like reading a book or checking your phone and letting those you live with do the same. As with all things there is a balance to this, I am not advising ignoring those you live with, but checking in to see how they are doing and knowing when they would like to be left alone for a bit is important. What is equally important though is sharing with those you live with how you are doing, and when you need space – and this can often make us feel better in itself.
2. Communication and respect
This should probably be number one to be honest but here we are. Lack of communication and miscommunication are probably the biggest reasons for arguments. Lets look at my fight with my brother; I was feeling stressed and irritable because of lockdown, I had just put on a movie to try and relax, at that moment he starts making a load of noise, I get angry and make a sarcastic comment, meanwhile he is feeling the same way and that comment was just too much to deal with, especially coming from a sibling. At no point did we communicate how we were feeling, what we were trying to do or how we were affecting each other, if we had (as we have been able to do in the past) we would not have blown up as we did. Following from this is where respect is so important. If you communicate how you are feeling to those you live with, you hope that they will acknowledge that and respect how you are feeling and not dismiss you. Letting them know that and having the same respect for them is the first step.
Someone (I forget who) said that the British are optimistic pessimists and you can tell by their humour and I think they might have had something there. Making jokes and making each other laugh in less than ideal situations is a way we can cope. It can distract us from everything that might be going on, bring us closer to one and other and give us some perspective. It can also be a way for us to acknowledge how strange the situation is now and laugh at it – a helpful respite from just all doom and gloom.
Probably the second most important of these four and a way we can communicate without words. This could be giving your time, giving someone help with something, giving something nice (food, cups of tea and biscuits are usually a winner in my house), giving your attention. It is a way we can show that we care for another, value them and want to do something nice for them. Giving has also been proven to be beneficial for our own wellbeing and mental health, so it’s a win-win!
Thanks for reading if you have made it this far and I hope that some of the things I have noticed and found useful could be useful for you too! It is mental health week this week and the theme is kindness so please be kind to yourself and the ones around you. Go well!
By Blake Fontaine.
Posted on: 22nd May 2020