For those of us who live with our partners, our relationships have quickly turned into coworking, Coronavirus fear sharing, constantly interacting partnerships. Here are some things to consider as you adjust to these new normals. Have tips to share? Please comment below!
We are more likely to remember when things have failed than when they went right. Small pet peeves can easily be noticed more than positive interactions and hours that passed when things went smoothly. Search for opportunities to express gratitude for your partner, whether that be for a small thing they did or appreciation for a personality trait of theirs. Relationship satisfaction is increased on both sides when our partners express gratitude.
If you find each other having a short fuse and getting snarky when you normally wouldn’t – come up with some sort of code term for one or both of you to say, for example, “Coronavirus 2020”. It can serve as a reminder that these are stressful, unusual times and give each other that extra second to ease tension and reunite around your shared cause of coping together.
Now when we experience stress our partners may be right across the table or the next room over and easily accessible for us to vent to. In the past, when we spent time apart, we were more likely to have to deal with stress in the moment on our own, drawing on our own coping skills. We may still have shared stresses at the end of the day, but not in the real-time, constant way that we do now. If you find yourself feeling stress, ask yourself what you might do if you were alone. Our initial inclination may be to go right to our partner (a valid way to cope) but we want to make sure we are not projecting each stress on to them to solve. We also want to avoid taking on our partner's daily stress as our own. We may need to remind ourselves to take deep breaths, write down stresses, go for a walk, or give it a time test - wait 10 minutes to see if we still feel like we need to seek emotional support.
In a recent post I wrote about supporting partners during times of adversity. However this is a situation where you both are experiencing adversity at the same time. Thus presents the challenge of supporting each other while also tending to your own needs. As I wrote in that post, "Just as your partner’s interests, quirks, cleaning habits etc. are different than yours, so too will be how you each cope with adversity." We are tasked with allowing our partner to cope in the way they know how, even if it is different than our own style. We are tasked with remembering that we will feel the impacts differently whether it’s job related, social support related (example: one may be more impacted by not being able to engage), and differences in stress support needs (example: one may be more prone towards anxiety). Communication, empathy, and cutting each other some slack will be key. Continuing to check in about each other's needs will also be important.
Below are some ideas of activities to do with your partner during this increased time spent together at home.
Three caveats to this list:
- It is important to know that just because you are both at home doesn’t mean you have to spend more time together than you normally would. It is important to maintain your own interests and experiences separate from your partner, even if they occur in the next room. Reconvening after these experiences gives you new things to share and discuss.
- It is equally as important to recognize that you are doing just fine. With countless internet posts on ideas for crafts, games, shows to watch and more – we can start to feel pressure to be more creative or do more than we normally would in our downtime. It is also okay to do nothing. It is also okay to just relax. There is no pressure to try all or even one of the items on the list below.
- Lastly, for parents who have quickly taken on role of child care provider/teacher while maintaining jobs and sanity - these ideas may not seem in any shape or form possible (revisit above - you're doing okay, it's okay to do nothing). So here's one idea: If you have children, schedule and take turns engaging them for an equal amount of time so that your partner can have uninterrupted alone time to do whatever it is they want. Not only does this give each of you a break (with no justification needed) it also gives your children a new experience to then tell you about later on.
Staying at Home Relationship Ideas
- Put on music and invite your partner to dance with you. Or, search for YouTube instructions for a new type of dance and learn together.
- Get to know your partner better through music. Alternate days where each is in charge of making a Spotify or Amazon playlist of the day of just a few of their favorite songs. The other has to listen to what they choose! Songs from your childhoods/college years is a fun theme.
- Schedule and host a date night dinner – complete with candle light and music. And get dressed up for it as if you were going out.
- Hold a happy hour after work. Plan for snacks and beverages and sit somewhere new in the house or outside.
- Play two-player video games. Games like Unravel require partners to work together to problem solve.
- Search for a partners yoga video to do together.
- Each make a list of 3-4 activities you would enjoy doing together at home. Switch lists and each partner picks one thing from the other's list that they agree to do and then do those activities together.
- Bring a picnic to the park, so long as you are able to practice distancing away from others.
- Use these questions to spark new conversations and get to know your partner.
Please share your ideas below. Wishing you wellness.
As I write about relationships, I want to close with a note from the National Domestic Violence Hotline: Avoiding public spaces and working remotely can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but for many survivors, staying home may not be the safest option. We know that any external factors that add stress and financial strain can negatively impact survivors and create circumstances where their safety is further compromised.
For more information and resources please see the National Domestic Violence Hotline: Staying Safe During COVID-19. There is an "X" icon at the top right of the page you can click to leave quickly or you can press the Escape key twice. The Microsoft Edge web browser will not re-enter the website once clicking "x" or the Escape key twice.