While we all know that this coronavirus crisis will come to an end, a lot of the work we do during this unique time will last for years — even decades — to come. This is especially true for couples who, more than ever, are finding themselves at home together. With few places to go and, in some cases, a direct order not to leave your home, couples are finding themselves in close quarters — and with plenty of time on their hands, too.
Recognizing this new reality, some couples are concerned, if not downright scared. For so many, this “quarantine” time is the most time they have ever spent together. And this “newness” is causing fear and trepidation.
Thankfully, there’s a lot of good that can come out of this situation. Not only can couples rediscover their romance (there’s plenty of time for that!), but there are several positive ways that relationships can actually improve during this time together.
The key to using this time together wisely is to make sure that both partners are communicating openly and honestly. Unlike other times when couples find themselves together, this current global situation is incredibly unique, bringing plenty of fear and uncertainty with it. Because of this, couples need to make sure that they openly address these feelings. If they don’t, even “good” work can lead to ongoing underlying problems.
Managing stress is another critical component of ensuring your relationship continues to flourish. Whether you recognize it or not, your relationship is under an increased amount of stress right now, not only because of the global situation but also because all of the changes and disruptions taking place in your day-to-day life. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is the only way to keep your relationship moving forward in a positive direction. And, it’s the only way that the tips below will have a chance to do their job.
5 Ways to Thrive in Your Relationship During Quarantine — And Beyond
1. Address conflicts before and after they happen. With everything going on in the world right now, it can literally feel like your entire life has changed — and, in reality, it has. This has left your schedule, among other things, completely altered, and with no promise of when it will return to normal. Because of this, your entire routine has shifted, which leaves your relationship vulnerable. In order to create space for yourself and your partner, it’s crucial that you establish a new routine and daily schedule in order to help prevent conflicts. Of course, conflict will still happen as you both try to navigate this new lifestyle. Asking questions and regularly checking in with each other can help keep you both on the same page and moving in a positive direction. Remember, the more you plan out your day-to-day routine, the more structure and predictability you can create. And, us “unromantic” as those things might seem, when spending more time together, they’re a critical part of avoiding and resolving conflicts. Let your partner, and yourself, know what to expect each day and you’ll find your relationship much stronger because of it.
2. Experiment with different communication styles, especially when fighting. As much as you’d like to pretend that fights won’t happen, realistically you know that they will. (And, for some of you, they’ve already happened.) Rather than desperately trying to avoid a fight, which can lead to you and your partner repressing how they really feel, use conflict as an opportunity to develop better communication skills. Or, in other words, create rules for fighting. Things like allowing each other to pause or walk away from a disagreement can help deescalate a fight, making sure that what you’re saying to each other won’t be something you’ll regret later. Practicing communicating only what the other person needs to hear is another way to help avoid the trauma that lasts long after a fight is over. For example, rather than criticizing your partner, be specific about the behavior that’s causing the issue. Doing your best to validate how your partner is feeling, even when you’re fighting, is the best way to help a fight resolve — rather than escalate. And, always practice active listening, even in the heat of an argument.
3. Try swapping chores for a week — or more. One of the most creative things you can do during this extra “quarantine” time together is to swap your typical chores with each other. If one of you always cooks and takes out the trash, take over their duties, letting them experience things like tidying the house and doing dishes and laundry. Mixing things up not only can help keep things fresh while at home, but it also allows both of you a glimpse into “life in their shoes”. Chore swapping is actually a great way for each of you to develop gratitude and appreciation for each other, recognizing everything that the other person does and that you might not have even noticed before.
4. Redefine what it means to go on a date. With restaurants closed and babysitters scarce, couples all around the country are having to change the way they date each other. This current situation, although different, definitely shouldn’t mean that dates are officially off the table. Instead, couples can reexamine what it means to actually have a date, looking at past habits and finding creative ways to enjoy time together. Things like cooking a meal together, taking an online class, or playing a card game together can be a lot of fun — and things you wouldn’t have done or even considered just a month ago. One of the biggest things couples should avoid, however, during this time is the temptation to consume more alcohol together. Instead of trying to detach from the current situation, use at-home dates as an opportunity to be playful with each other, finding ways to have fun even in the midst of a crisis.
5. Create designated time to be alone. Maintaining your individuality is important for any healthy relationship, but being at home together for an extended period of time can make this difficult, especially if it’s brand new for couples. To help create your own space, try setting up individual work areas or enjoy exercising by yourself. Holding space for each other to call a friend or family member is another way to help your relationship thrive.
The habits you create during this unique time together can set your relationship up for long term success. Rather than trying to avoid problems (or each other) while at home, use this time as an opportunity to address them. The more you can healthily work through this uncharted territory together, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the months and years to come.