A healthy partnership in a COVID-19 world presents real challenges that can disrupt even the most stable relationship. But adversity of this scale and even catastrophe can present meaningful opportunities for connection.
Here are tips to take care of yourself, your partner, make the most of your time together and even have a little fun in the process.
Look Out for Number 1. Should you be selfish? No. Should you prioritize your self-care? Absolutely. A healthy partnership is only as strong as its partners as individuals. Self-care is an essential component of well-being, and this is especially true in quarantine when access to activities and a social circle are restricted. Can he walk the dog a little longer so you can read your favorite magazine? Can she prep dinner so you can catch up with your favorite show? Efforts you make during the day to prioritize your mental, physical, and spiritual wellness ensure you can be your best self for your partner, even in the worst of circumstances.
Wrangle Elephants. The “elephant in the room” might be that pile of bills you’re both avoiding, or maybe quarantining with your in-laws brings a new significance to the idea of “social distancing.” You can’t fix something no one wants to talk about. The scale and scope of an unanticipated pandemic has sent shockwaves across the world. It is reasonable and expected that shockwaves equal stress, and stress equals strife. Wrangle those elephants. Lead that elephant out of the room and into your conversation… today.
Rule the Conversation. No, you don’t need to rule over the conversation, but you do need to rule your ability to have the conversation. Quarantine is for safety, not for feelings -- If you don’t rule the conversation by speaking up and encouraging your partner to speak up, wrangling those elephants in the room gets much, much harder (see Tip No. 2). Wouldn’t you rather deal with a baby elephant in the room than a mammoth with sharp tusks? There is no better way to keep issues at bay then clear, honest, tactful communication.
Make a Mess. Life has been shaken up -- why not shake it up more? If you’re at home together more than usual, you have an opportunity to make some messes, mistakes, and memories. Worry about the vacuum later and focus on fun today. Why not attempt that chocolate cake recipe, and make peace with some flour on the counter. Why not finally take that old bike apart together and care a little less about the screws rolling down the driveway, and more about smiling instead of sighing. Roll with the punches without rolling your eyes -- you can make a mess without making a fuss.
Get Some Class. Learning, that is. While your new normal is likely less than ideal, when was the last time you learned from your partner (or you taught them something?)? If you both have an open mind, the sky’s the limit for what skills, hacks, and pastimes to shoot for. Show him some yoga moves he’s asked about, teach her a better way to play Texas Hold’em, or take them on a tour through your beloved retro video game console collection. Sure, you’re not going to France anytime soon, but even a lighthearted attempt at learning a language could add that je ne sais quois to your day together.
Do Your Part. While no one is going to take away dessert if you don’t make your bed, it’s a good time to assess expectations when it comes to household labor. Maybe it might make sense to shuffle laundry day or opt for cereal instead of cuisine on an especially trying day. If you are (or your partner is) especially concerned about infection right now, wearing shoes in the house or not wiping down surfaces might be hot button issues, when before they were minor inconveniences. Know your partner’s definition of good housekeeping now since it is likely it has changed. When in doubt, ask!
But Not Too Much. You do need to help, but you don’t need to be a hero. Wearing yourself (and your patience) thin by taking on too much -- whether that’s housework, homeschooling, home improvement between Zoom meetings -- is not going to help you or your partner in the long run. Is it really worth running yourself ragged to get “everything” done on your to-do list today? Are the consequences of not getting to the store and eating spaghetti two nights in a row really that bad? Prioritize and let go. Let tomorrow’s to-do list live in tomorrow.
Ignore them. Your screens: your phone, your computer, your TV. There is a certain level of connection we all need to stay up on the news, continue our work lives, and reach friends and relatives through email and social networking. What are you missing while you’re on your phone? You’re online, but are you on the same wavelength of your partner? When you’re looking at websites, you’re not looking at other things -- your partner struggling a room away after a bad meeting with her colleague, the silly faces they make while they’re playing with the cat, or an opportunity for a quick check-in between changing schedules. Close your laptop and open your eyes.
Show Gratitude. Since you’re hunkered down nearly 24/7, weak spots and new challenges in your relationship may appear that weren’t there before. This is normal, especially during an abnormal time like this one in the COVID-19 climate. The antidote for shorter tempers, chaotic days, and harmony interrupted is gratitude. A simple and sincere “thank you” goes a long way; what goes even further are the small things. Whether you give them a random hug, put air in their car tires, whatever that thing is you know your partner will appreciate, now is the time to remind them why they wouldn’t want to be quarantined with anyone else but you.
Bring In the Professional. If you couldn’t stop your ceiling from leaking, would you let it drip until your home was flooded? Of course not. You’d call a trained professional to help fit it. They’d give their expert opinion and make suggestions for repairs. Relationships are no different. Call a trained professional. With teletherapy, a neutral third party trained to be a supportive sounding board can help address issues and impasses. Now that marriage counseling and/or couples therapy is just a few clicks away, one conversation might change your relationship for the better, all from the comfort of your living room.