One irony during this pandemic is that single people wish they were partnered and partnered people wish they were single. Today’s blog post is for the partnered people out there who are struggling with the increased stress and togetherness during this pandemic. I don’t need to tell you what the issues are: increased time together without other social contact, the lines between work and home blurring for those lucky enough to be in the “work from home” world, increased stress on parents as they try to balance it all, hobbies sidelined, families unreachable because of safety or travel… I am sure that doesn’t even begin to include all the issues you are facing right now.
How can you make it better? I hope one of these strategies might resonate with you.
- Take responsibility for yourself, including regulating your emotions
How balanced are you right now? Are you getting enough sleep, exercise, sunlight (see #5)? Do you have strategies to regulate your emotions without exploding or imploding at home? If not, reach out for some help. You can talk to a friend, a trusted adviser or a counselor to help you.
- Broaden your support system
No matter how wonderful your partner is, they are just one person and can’t meet all your emotional needs right now. Be mindful of how much support you are asking from them. Can you call a co-worker to discuss work frustrations or a family member to discuss the latest about your sister? As my grandmother used to say, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.
- Embrace boundaries
Decide on how much closeness and separation you want as a couple. It is ok to ask for some alone time. Talk about the line between work and home and where you draw it. Consider physical space, time, and conversation.
- Work on your communication skills
Now is a great time to practice clear, non-judgmental communication. Can you communicate your needs in a calm, direct, and clear manner without assuming the other person should know what you need or can read your mind? Want some help? Google “The Gottman Institute” for an easy to understand and incorporate, research-based approach to improving your relationships.
- Go outside
My grandmother also used to say there isn’t much in the world that can’t be made better by sunlight and fresh air. If you don’t usually spend time outside together, you have the bonus of it being a relationship-enhancing new activity. Go ahead and take a brisk walk while you are out there for another bonus- exercise.
- Plan something fun now and something to look forward to
Maybe the activity you used to do for fun isn’t available now, but that shouldn’t stop you from planning a date and trying something different. My partner and I have taken up hiking and have afternoon hiking dates. It is also important to have something to look forward to that won’t get cancelled if the pandemic doesn’t improve. We have a short weekend trip planned in May when the rhododendrons bloom in the NC mountains to hike and take pictures. Turns out, we really prefer ordering take-out and picnicking rather than eating inside restaurants.
What ideas do you have to help make your relationship a source of comfort and fun rather than stress? I would love to hear them.