When social distancing began, you knew you’d be spending more time with your partner at home, but perhaps you didn’t realize it would be for this long or feel this intense. Over two months into social distancing, couples are struggling to get along. You might have heard stories or seen memes on social media about couples during quarantine. Partners are talking about driving each other up a wall, picking fights out of boredom, and finding new things about each other that they can’t stand.
Despite the challenges this pandemic has brought to your relationship(s), it is possible to survive social distancing together. Perhaps you can come out of this with more effective communication and mutual understanding. Here are 5 strategies to help.
Create physical space
Whether you’re in a one bedroom apartment or a house full of kids, toys, pets, and in-laws, get creative with a space that is only yours. This could be as simple as a section of the bedroom that you “block off” and use when you’re needing some alone time. If the weather is cooperating, one partner can go outside for a walk while the other enjoys alone time in the shared space. However you can make it happen, create some physical distance in the home.
Take a few slow deep breaths
When we feel “closed in” as we do in social distancing, feelings of frustration and irritability are easily activated. Taking a few slow deep breaths can minimize the intensity of those easily-activated feelings. Deep breathing helps us slow down and think before we speak. When you find yourself frustrated with your partner, take three slow breaths before reacting or responding. When you’re not in conflict, practice relaxation exercises. If you’re looking for something to try, I recommend Julie Marshall, LCSW’s Chair Grounding Exercise video.
Talk Openly about Your Experiences
Now is the time more than ever to share what’s happening in your world with your partner. Put aside time to talk about your challenges, successes, and worries. Seek to understand what’s happening in your partner’s world. Talk about what’s happening for you on a daily or weekly basis. Try to practice compassion with one another and remember that this is not a competition of who is doing more or who has it harder. A better understanding breeds empathy and patience, which we could all use right now.
Learn (and use) your Love Languages
Showing and receiving love can keep you and your partner connected, even in times of conflict. Here are some social-distancing-friendly ideas for each Love Language:
–Buying an item from the grocery store that your partner will love, like their favorite snack
-Something handmade, no matter how small
-Picking your partner’s favorite restaurant to order take-out
Words of affirmation:
–A handwritten card
-Expressing appreciation for something your partner did
-Saying “I love you” or “thank you” more often
-Cuddling on the couch
-Reaching out to hold your partner’s hand, no matter where you are
-Offering to give each other massages
-Spending 5-10 minutes every night to talk about your day (no cell phones allowed!)
-Watching a new or favorite movie, just the two of you
-Taking a break in the middle of the day to have lunch or a snack together
Acts of service:
-Take over that chore that your partner normally does (without them asking)
-Offer to clean/tidy up a space in the house
-If you have children at home, offer to watch the kids while your partner takes a break
Try to Remember the Good
In times of turbulence, it can be hard to remember the “good stuff”. Stop for a moment and think about the good that still exists in your relationship. You might be having some difficulties with your partner right now, but ask yourself:
What do I still love about my partner?
What first attracted me to them?
What do I appreciate about them, especially now?
What makes us a good team?
Remember that every relationship has its ups and downs. During these difficult times, be compassionate with yourself and with your partner.
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Lauren is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist who is passionate about creating a safe space for families, couples, and individuals. Lauren provides her clients with skills and tools to change dysfunctional patterns in their lives. Lauren specializes in treatment for anxiety, food allergies, divorce/remarriage, and grief and loss.