With higher levels of individual stress and anxiety combined with increased time at home, it’s no wonder many couples are finding their relationship under strain. Navigating a global pandemic is uncharted territory for all of us. You might find that you and your partner are having the same argument repeatedly, or snapping at each other over seemingly menial things. You may feel distant, impatient, or underappreciated. Here are some tips to help navigate this unusual time as a team.
- Start Small. It can feel overwhelming to focus on another person right now. Remember, romantic gestures don’t have to be big or elaborate. They can be as small as saying “thank you” when your partner cleans up after a meal, squeezing their knee as you watch a show together, or making them laugh as they leave for work. During a time when the world can feel isolating and cold, small gestures that show gratitude and support go a long way.
- Take Space. With more time spent indoors and social distancing guidelines in place, couples may be spending more time together than they are used to. Give yourself (and your partner) permission to be alone while together. Read a book in the other room while your partner watches a movie. Take a walk alone and give your partner some solo time in the house. Try to be physically separate in different rooms for parts of each day. Missing each other is an important element of a relationship, and having separate experiences gives you an opportunity to share with each other when you come back together again.
- Intentionally Connect. While finding moments of separation is important, it is also important to find intentional moments to connect. Some examples:
- Schedule a “date night” and get dressed up to have takeout in your dining room.
- Remain curious about your partner, no matter how well you know them. Perhaps ask them a question over coffee (36 Questions To Fall in Love is a fun tool to use).
- Establish a monthly ritual to check in on a deeper emotional level about your relationship.
- Take a moment to hug your partner. Let it be a full moment–plant your feet, hold each other, and breathe.
- Date Yourself. Often partners blame each other when their needs aren’t being met. If you find yourself wishing your partner would do more for you, you may be in need of self care. Everyone’s reserves are depleted, so it’s more important than ever to practice self care and try to meet some needs for yourself. Wishing your partner would compliment you more? Practice complimenting yourself daily. Missing massages? Grab some essential oils and give yourself a foot rub. Remember, one person cannot be expected to fill all of our needs, especially when external factors are as stressful as they are today.
- Go Easy. This is a hard time for all couples (and all humans!). Be compassionate to yourself and your partner. If your partner seems judgemental, distracted, or less motivated, realize their actions may come from a self-protective place as we are all in “survival mode” right now. Trust you are each doing your best and celebrate the small moments when you both feel connected and supported.
- Get Support. Couples therapy doesn’t have to be reserved for a last resort. Many couples find it helpful to have the support of a neutral third party and a scheduled time to focus on their relationship.
–Zoë Rudman is an Individual and Relationship Counselor at Family Roots Therapy