With the new corona virus restrictions of social distancing and quarantine, many couples are having some challenges with togetherness while both partners are home 24/7. As you may be aware, there was a spike in the divorce rate filings in China as couples came out of quarantine. One reason was the inability to navigate isolated togetherness well.
Here are a few tips to make the next few weeks of togetherness manageable.
You are not alone. It can help to know that many couples are experiencing challenges since they are now together at all times.
Create a schedule of time together and time apart. You do not have to do everything together. As a matter of fact, it may be damaging if you do. That said, schedule and communicate “screen time” and “cave time” and “Netflix binge time” so that no one feels cheated. Set clear working hours (do not interrupt) if you are working from home.
Work. If possible, it is advisable to occupy different parts of the house to get work done in order to limit distraction. Let each other know what you need. Try to keep a common negative free zone. Create joint and separate breaks. Use headphones to not disturb each other. Communicate about special projects if they will require more time. Stop at the end of the workday for together time and do something you both enjoy. Aim to create balance.
Team mindset. Scoring toilet paper and sanitizer now can be a win for both of you. Other team wins are refinancing the house, taking on a project, and collecting your tax refund. This also applies to division of labor – you are both using the house now, so a team approach to tidying up, cooking, and laundry makes it better for all.
Invest time individually on your hobbies. This can include reading, gardening, painting, whatever makes your heart sing! Share your creation when you are spending time together.
Get creative with “dates”. It might mean a walk outside, a Netflix movie, cooking something new together, or going online and doing a museum or national park tour.
Create a nice space together. Light some candles, put on background music, dance.
Support each other’s health. Remember good health for each of you is good health for both of you. Aim for good nutrition and rest habits. If one of you becomes symptomatic, practice loving care with necessary physical boundaries and precautions.
Speak kindly. Because of other stresses, it will take longer to put out flare ups. Be mindful of your words. Step away if you are about to speak unkindly. If you notice your partner stepping away for this reason, let them. Resist mindreading.
Emotions are contagious. If you are putting out cynical and irritable vibes, consider stepping away and telling your partner you care for them too much to take out your negative feelings on the relationship. This is caring, not withdrawing. Be aware that stress may cause you to project and displace negative feelings on neutral partners. Try not to do this. When you do, acknowledge it.
Flare ups. If a flare up does start, acknowledge you are in a stressful situation and agree on a time to discuss later when neither of you are hungry, angry/annoyed, lonely, or tired. Then, talk about what is bothering you using your therapeutic tools. Remember “I” statements make everything sound less like an attack.
Sense of humor. Laughter lowers stress and increases wellbeing – try to see the humor in even some of the most shocking developments (toilet paper shortage, staying in pajamas, spacing out personal grooming appointments.)
Find support sooner than later. If, despite the above, issues get too big, enlist the help of a couple’s therapist. Therapists are well equipped right now to handle couple’s angst and issues through telehealth. Telehealth uses online, phone, or email communication to provide counseling and therapy to those who are quarantined or unable to travel to the therapist’s office. Sessions are delivered over HIPAA compliant technology so that your sessions are private and confidential. While not the same as face to face counseling, telehealth can go a long way to diffuse future resentments and conflicts before the quarantine is lifted so that relationships may emerge relatively unscathed.
This current quarantine is urgent, but temporary. Take the steps to protect your relationship now. I am dedicated to helping couples emerge from the quarantine happy, healthy, and together.