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Wellness

Dr. Zelana Montminy on Strengthening Relationships and Fostering Positivity

When we last spoke with Dr. Montminy, the world looked admittedly different from the uncertainty we inhabit today. But her expertise? That certainly remains. The leading clinical psychologist and best-selling author of 21 Days to Resilience is our go-to source for overcoming trying times, so when we went in search of relationship advice, we called her straight away. From creating moments of positivity to cultivating conversations rooted in growth and love, Dr. Montminy has a tip or two for navigating the peaks and valleys of quarantine.
Rip & Tan: Spending time at home with loved ones has it perks, but it’s not uncommon to see some cracks starting to form. What communication tactics can we employ with our partners to combat overwhelm in a healthy way?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: It’s inevitable, no matter how great our relationship is. Take some deep breaths before thinking about what is worth talking through versus what are you able to let go of. We have to pick our battles these days. Once you’ve identified what needs must be communicated, set time aside to discuss things that matter to you in a calm, peaceful setting. Not during work hours or when kids are running wild around the house. Start with how you feel versus attacking the person or behavior. Make sure to listen to the other person’s perspective too, and once feelings have been discussed and shared, come up with solutions as to how best to move forward. Or maybe just to vent was enough and both people can move on feeling better.
Rip & Tan: You recently shared a quote around the idea that avoiding confrontation is avoiding intimacy. Whether it’s loving moments or times of friction, how can we embrace the many forms of intimacy?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: We are experiencing our relationship in this particular way for the first time ever. With this time of staying home together comes forced intimacy, even if at first it doesn’t feel “good”. Having the tough conversations, calling each other out on things that matter, figuring out how to exist in the same space…all of it breeds intimacy. Whenever you’re experiencing discomfort, rephrase it in your mind to “growing pains”. As we encounter healthy discomfort in our relationships, we breed resilience and intimacy.
Rip & Tan: They say distance makes the heart grow fonder—that’s not really possible these days. How can we create special moments with our partners while quarantining together?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: Get creative! Wine and cheese tasting, themed dinners, use different parts of your home you don’t generally find yourselves in, dress up, do a photoshoot of each other, movie night…the idea is to create novelty and enjoy each other!
Rip & Tan: Long distance is difficult even when a monthly visit is involved, and now that’s fairly out of the question. Any advice for couples quarantined apart?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: Make sure to keep up the communication and face time. Ideas include: keep a journal for each other that you read out loud to the other person, or that you’ll give to the other person once this is over, write cards or letters and send via regular mail, take each other “for a walk,” have meals together where you set up the camera so you can see one another when eating, send flowers or deliveries to each other.
Rip & Tan: Whether you’re in a newly defined relationship or a long-lasting marriage, what are some tips to maintain a healthy partnership during this time?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: Make sure to get your own personal space so you can come back to your family or your relationship refreshed. It’s important during this time to communicate openly and honestly. Listening is a form of love so make sure to do that too.
Rip & Tan: For couples going through major change (forced moves, job loss or change, homeschooling, canceled or postponed weddings, etc), this time can feel even more overwhelming. What are some concrete tools couples can use to face these extra challenges as a team?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: Approach the change as you would a project at the office: sit down and come up with a plan, who’s taking on what responsibilities, how you’re going to factor in self-care, etc. Make sure you’re both on the same page as to how best to move forward so no one is left in the dark.
Rip & Tan: What are a few simple, healthy choices we can make to boost our daily mood?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: Create limits on device usage, filter media exposure and try to give yourself days off in which you don’t consume any news, stay in close touch with family and friends who are supportive, get physical activity even if it means dancing around the room to your favorite music, and be outside for extended periods if possible, while respecting CDC guidelines. Nature is a surefire way to boost your mood!
Rip & Tan: We can’t help but feel an undercurrent of guilt for not being hyper-productive while at home. How can we ward off these feelings and simply accept what’s right for us in the moment while getting the necessary action items done?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: The mental and emotional energy we are using right now to figure out how to function is hard work. You are being productive even if you feel like you’re going through the motions and barely getting by. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would your best friend in those moments. Unfollow people who make you feel like you’re not doing enough or you feel like you’re always comparing yourself to.
Rip & Tan: Many of us are finding negativity creeping in during this time of uncertainty. How can we cultivate positivity and a healthy mindset?
Dr. Zelana Montminy: Accept the negative feelings. It’s such a natural and healthy response to a time like this. Once we acknowledge what we’re going through, we give those negative emotions less power over us. Then we’re able to reframe our thoughts into a more hopeful, optimistic outlook.
Photos by Nicki Sebastian