MARCH 24, 2020
We are all in this together… life as we know it has come to a halt. This means a complete shift in the amount of time spent at home, in the same space with your partner. Because of the incredibly wide spread impact of this virus we are all being affected in many ways; financial, emotional, professional, separation from friends and family, loss of hobbies and stress relievers like working-out.
This new reality has already put a strain on many relationships, while others are wondering how it will unfold and what their relationship will look like after weeks and possibly months at home together. Spending all your time working in the same space as you eat, exercise, and have your leisure time is a challenge for even the strongest relationships. Ordinary activities now pose a risk and couples have to weigh each situation often with different perspectives. One wants to heed all the warnings and restrict activities as completely as possible, while the other is maintaining it’s not that bad and trying to proceed with as much “normal life” as possible.
As restrictions have grown day by day, I’ve been doing my sessions remotely instead of in my office. I’ve seen into people’s homes and heard about the challenges of being in a small space together all day every day. The home is now an office, gym, dining room, date night locale, entertainment space, you name it. The first thing that stands out is that each individual has his/her own reaction to the impact of the pandemic and how we are best to respond. Typically, one person is more fearful and cautious and the other is downplaying the risks. It’s the classic minimizer, maximizer syndrome. While it’s always important to honor and understand each other’s differences, this is a time it’s really critical to do so. Hear each other and try to understand where your partner is coming from – we are all getting new information daily, even hourly, and we process and integrate that information at different rates. A minimizer may be much slower to translate the news into behavior in their own life, while a maximizer may over anticipate and make changes immediately.
Instead of arguing, use this opportunity to let each other know you are listening and understanding where the other is coming from even if you disagree. There may not be a compromise, the more severe interpretation may prevail but if you hear what your partner is saying you will build emotional currency and connection.
The new reality of Covid-19 is a major challenge to relationships but it’s also an opportunity. It’s a time to strengthen your connection, explore the benefits of an intense amount of couple time, and lean in to your relationship. What are the potential benefits?
First, there is gratitude — the realization that you have each other, are not alone and are in this together. Human beings are not wired to go it alone so having someone is a reason to be thankful.
Couples can use this as an opportunity to re-connect and remind themselves why they chose each other. I often hear from couples that they just don’t have enough time together. Now you do and how you use this time to nurture your relationship is a real and perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity.
Following are some tips on how couples can flourish rather than fail during these trying circumstances:
Honor each other’s differences, if you are having different reactions to this crisis do not pass judgment or be impatient with one another, pause and try to hear & understand what your partner is feeling.
Preserve as much structure as you can in your day. Designate some time for each other and during that time disengage from all distractions.
Have a creative date night – go back to basics, make a meal together, play a game, do a creative project just for fun.
Pay attention to each other’s needs and desires for intimacy and affection-it’s more important now than ever.
Allow each other time to vent or complain – but not indefinitely, there’s a fine line between getting it out and relieving stress and getting stuck in the negative which will raise anxiety.
Remember how much you enjoyed spending time together at the beginning of your relationship and wherever possible try to recreate some of those activities, it may be tough at home but be creative.
Give each other personal space even if you live in a small apartment, honor the need to not interact at times and be in your own world.
Disengage from work when the work day is over, living at work is not good for any relationship.
Work out together, and try workouts that are outside your normal routine.
Allow yourselves to be creative or corny – do the things you never have time for.