Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. Our actions are influenced by their context. Since health and safety concerns have escalated during the novel coronavirus pandemic, businesses, schools, community gatherings, etc. have been forced to shut down. As a result, individuals, couples, and families have been forced to re-structure their lives and adapt to an entirely different routine almost overnight. Because of this, many people have become stressed and strained, having to redefine the way they live, work, and relate to one another.
So how does a couple navigate the new dynamics in a relationship during a pandemic? Is it possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other and co-exist harmoniously when every waking hour is with this person? Yes. But it requires increasing awareness around some potentially typical pit falls.
Here are my top 5 tips for making your relationship work during a pandemic
1) SET A MORNING RITUAL OF POSITIVE INTENTIONS.
Make it a point to begin your day with a positive intention toward your spouse or partner. For example, I will be patient and loving today. Or, I will view my spouse through a lens of gratitude and appreciation. Or, My partner is my team-mate and I know that they’re doing the best they can do during this time. If we start off our day viewing our significant other in a positive light versus a negative one, our chances of harmonious living will increase.
2) INTENTIONAL RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS.
You’ve heard about “pay-it-forward” but did you know that you could do this at home with your S.O. too? Random acts of kindness will go a long way. Set a goal to do two things a day for your spouse that are selfless. Examples may be, intimate touch, love notes or a handwritten note expressing appreciation, doing the laundry or any other chore that is not normally yours, etc. Get creative! The sky is the limit, and you can find joy in helping to create even a moment of happiness for your partner.
3) DAYDREAM TOGETHER.
In my practice, I’ve found time and time again that couples who experience new things together report feeling more connected. Many couples share with me that they have a stronger bond and union when they daydream together. For example, take an imaginary trip. Look up fun places and travel destinations. Check out interesting places that you would like to visit. Even searching for and thinking about the fun and interesting stuff you could do together releases the feel good chemicals in the brain. We need as many of those chemicals as possible to counteract the negative effects of cortisol producing COVID-19. So take a trip to the beaches or the mountains or where ever brings excitement.
5) PRACTICE LISTENING WITH GENUINE INTEREST WHEN ADDRESSING DIFFERENCES.
If you’re having a disagreement, try to avoid phrases and thoughts such as, “You’re wrong and I’m right” or, “I hope they hurry up and finish talking so I can express my viewpoint” or, “They always do this”. This sets off a defensive and aggravating back and forth where neither party feels heard, understood or appreciated. Instead, try to approach the difference in opinion with a positive perspective. Remember tip #1 about establishing a morning ritual of positive intentions? You can now apply that same principle here! Listen with curiosity. Have the default viewpoint of your partner be one of, “I know they are doing their best and we are in this together.” Try to keep the conversation thoughtful, calm, and collaborative. Accept and respect the differences and highlight the common ground, needs, and wants. With the attitude of ‘same team’ and desire to learn about the others perspective in hopes of improving your own, those differences become MUCH less annoying and hindering.
And, one last bonus #6 to keep in mind.
CONNECT. ADJUST. REPEAT.
Connect with your partner thoughtfully, adjust as needed by taking accountability for your part and contribution, and repeat what works.
As fast as the news changes with COVID-19, so does the emotional environment of the household. Couples likely express stress in different ways and at different times. Hold space for each other and vent as necessary or ask for help with solutions if that’s what you’re looking for. It helps to define your need before you talk. This concentrated time together could potentially make you or break you as a couple. By prioritizing your relationship during this heightened time of anxiety you may come out stronger and actually have your improved relationship be the silver lining of this difficult time. ❤️