On the first page of author David Nicholls’ Us, which recently concluded its successful four-part TV adaptation, the main characters are awake in the middle of the night. Douglas thinks Connie, his wife, has heard burglars and gets up to investigate. In truth, when he returns, she has something else on her mind: “I didn’t say anything about burglars. I said I think our marriage has run its course. Douglas, I think I want to leave you.”

So begins a poignant story that does indeed end in separation. And Douglas did not see it coming, despite his long, close, formalised relationship with Connie.

As we all face a time of renewed difficulty in managing our business relationships, on the back of an already stressful six months, we must also be alive to the risk of gradual deterioration. Like a guitar going out of tune, imperceptible at first until suddenly it is obvious. 

With reduced access to our natural mode of face-to-face communication, it has become much harder to build rapport, cement trust and maintain confidence in each other.

For Douglas and Connie, the burglars were not the problem but, in times of enforced distancing, a neglected relationship can be exposed to what will feel like burglary, whether other parties are involved or not.

Re-double your efforts to keep in touch. And, especially, don’t let the rhythm of the work dictate the rhythm of the relationship.