How to navigate relationship issues during quarantine.
by Svetlana Mesa, LMFT
It’s easy to find articles about couples getting sick of each other or how divorce rates are on the go. New research has found that some people feel pressure on relationships while being quarantined. Some people doubt their relationships or find a partner annoying these days. Certainly, the situation is challenging for most of us, but we have no real data to confirm it.
The Kinsey Institute is in the process of conducting a study on how the pandemic is affecting our sex lives and relationships. So far the findings are: 44% said sex life declined and 30% said romantic life declined. However, it’s not all that bad in the bedroom. At the same time 14% said their sex life has actually improved and 23 % said their relationship was in a better place. Given the information, while the situation is certainly difficult, it also creates new opportunities to work on our romantic and intimate lives.
Its normal to feel stressed, anxious, or irritable right now. We are living in a period of extended isolation, worries about financial security, negative news and uncertainty in the world. We also tend to rely on our partners more now when we are not able to spend time with friends or relatives as much. We also are not able to cope with stress the way we used to by going shopping or working out at the gym. If you feel like there are problems in your relationship, there are steps you can take.
1. Making your relationship better starts with taking care of yourself. What are your favorite forms of self-care? There are many different types of self care, mental or physical that include but not limited to journaling, cooking healthy food, getting a good night sleep, meditation, taking a long bath, reading a book, exercising, learning something new, the list is endless. The productive thing is to start with you. You want to change the other? You change yourself first.
2. A good thing to do is to understand what bothers you. Then, you have to communicate to your partner what you are feeling. No one can read your mind. Only by talking about it, you can start to understand what really worries you. Remember that it may not be about your partner but about you and your personal feelings and problems.
3. Its important to talk specifically what you are upset about or what you want to change. Stay focused on the task. If there is a problem, communicate precisely about it. Don’t start bringing up five different things. Work on problem solving for a specific matter. Doing things strategically helps resolve conflicts.
4. Conflict is an inevitable part of any romantic relationship. It is the way you handle conflict what counts. Avoid putting your partner down, don’t curse, yell or call him or her names. Express your feelings with words. Talk turns talking. Try to paraphrase what your partner is communicating so that you are able to understand better. Set aside an hour in the evening to talk about your day and frustrations, current fears and worries, plans for the next day, dreams and aspirations. Consider your partner’s feeling as well. Ask about your partner’s day or anything you can do to make his or her day better.
5. Respect each other’s space and time. Give each other space. It is normal to need alone space. Be creative about it too. If you both work from home, set aside an area where you can work alone. It may be that you have to stay with your partner at home most days. It’s important to create a routine of contact that is consistent but not constant. The element of mystery that provokes excitement may be lost if we continuously talk, text or call each other. Try to share the news or projects at the end of the day instead.
6. Practice appreciation and gratitude. None of us are perfect partners. Do your best and thank each other. Notice little moments to appreciate daily whether it is picking up after a meal, putting kids to sleep or making coffee. It is the little things that partners do for each other and that hold your relationship together. Try to notice them and be grateful.
7. Now more than ever we need a routine that creates structure that brings a certain sense of order to a world that feels so chaotic and so unsure. Show your partner how routine can put everything in place and keep everyone free of stress and boredom. Explain to your partner how scheduling conversations, our time, meals or family activities can benefit your relationship. Resuming or inventing couple rituals is always a good thing to do no matter how long you have been together. Are you eating meals together? Do you have a goodbye and greeting rituals? What about date nights? Sticking to or starting a date night practice can bring excitement and joy to your relationship. There are many things available even during the quarantine: you can visit a museum online, read a book together, learn cooking a new meal, take a bath together, drinks and a movie together or play a board game.
8. In terms of improving sexual connection, consider doing subtle things throughout the day like holding hands or rubbing each other’s backs to create a continued physical connection. Having make-out sessions or teasing each other during the day may get you in the mood and build anticipation for the evening. It may also be a good time to try new bedroom activities or have a discussion on how to spice things up in the bedroom. Finally, don’t forget that the most important unit in the family is the couple unit. Your family can’t continue being strong if the couple unit is weak. Dedicate time and effort to create a united front and the best relationship you can model to your children. Start expecting less and giving more and you will see the results of your efforts in no time.
Lastly, life is not going to be flawless all the time. The importance of a relationship is that you stick by each other for better or for worse. The pandemic is not permanent. Try to focus on good things that are already happening, and develop new connection habits that will strengthen your relationship in the long haul.