Not Just Netflix and Chill: Managing Relationships During Quarantine
For many people, the social distancing and quarantine mandates have altered daily life in many ways. You may be spending way more time with your family than you are accustomed to, or maybe much less time than you are accustomed to depending on your circumstances. As humans, we all need social connection. Having a tribe is what enabled our ancestors to survive. However, everyone also needs a healthy balance of “togetherness” and alone time. The situation we are presented with due to the virus may have shaken up that balance we have created for ourselves. The current state of affairs is especially distressing if your relationship was already in a shaky or toxic place before COVID–19 spread. This blog will give some tips for navigating a new balance in your intimate relationships to hopefully build and maintain a new equilibrium.
Taking Time and Space for Yourself
You and your partner (and kids!!!) are all in the same space for hours on end, maybe you’re even trying to work from home. If you are thinking: “I didn’t sign up for this” or “how long can this possibly go on?” You are not alone. Wanting time away from your partner does not make you a bad person. Healthy relationships are sort of like dances in which partners movement entails both moving away and coming back together again. It may be more difficult in quarantine, but here are some ideas for taking time for yourself.
How to take care of yourself while quarantined with your spouse
- Schedule your alone time and stick to it
- Continue to do things that you love
- Ask for what you need (including space!)
- COMMUNICATE! Your spouse CANNOT read your mind!
- Ask for outside help
- Continue to take care of yourself
Try to allow yourself not to feel guilty about needing alone time. Be honest about what comes up for you when you think about asking for (and getting) what you want. There may be some underlying unhelpful beliefs that keep you from enjoying some much-needed down time. Though at times it might not be possible, try to continue to do the things that you love during quarantine. Make sure you are still keeping up with your hobbies, creative endeavors, exercise routines, etc. Asking for what you need directly may seem like an easy thing to do, but sometimes we expect our partners to just know what we want. Practice clear communication and accepting that it’s ok to say “I need a half hour to myself, could you watch the kids?” Resentment builds when we don’t ask for and don’t get what we need. At times you may even need to ask for help from people outside your partnership. This may look like asking for someone to go grocery shopping for you.
Whatever the case may be, allow yourself to ask for what you need. Remember that asking for that help makes you neither weak nor selfish, just human! Finally, though much of the typical functioning in the world has stopped or altered, life hasn’t. Yours shouldn’t either. When you take space for yourself away from your partner, cultivating other areas of your life (friendship, work, mental health, etc.) are all important things that still need your time and attention. Try not to neglect them in times of stress.
Strengthening Relationships and Maintaining Connection (Coming Together)
Maybe you and your partner are currently in a space where you can make the most of this time together to strengthen or rebuild your relationship. This goes far beyond just “Netflix and chill,” but obviously sex is a great pastime! With some intentional effort you can strengthen the connect with your partner so that you will not only get through quarantine together without fussing so much, but reinforce the foundation of your relationship so that you’ll be more likely to feel fulfilled and deal with hardship in healthy ways in the future. Below are some things to consider.
How to build your relationship while in quarantine
- Process feelings honestly
- Practice your communication skills
- Try the comfort circle
- Share preferred activities together
- Go on a picnic/hike/country drive
- Find out or reinforce what makes you feel loved/connected/safe
- Try something new together
- Be silly
- Play 20 questions
- Play truth or dare
- Bust out the cards and board games
One way to strengthen connection is to process emotions openly and honestly with your partner. This may mean sharing fears and stress surrounding COVID19, or other more specific things unique to your relationship. It can be scary to share openly because you may feel vulnerable, but it creates an opportunity to show up in your relationship as your authentic self and be seen. If you are working through tough issues in your relationship, the comfort circle is a good cycle to practice when it comes to taking turns delivering and receiving messages. Other things to consider when trying to build a connection is trying activities that your partner likes and then also inviting them to try your preferred activities. Try not to be attached to the outcome, it is the effort put forth and openness that counts!
You might also take this time to self-reflect and communicate what makes you feel loved. Taking the Love Language Quiz can get you started and you and your partner can process the results. Remember, that during times of stress our needs change, even if you think you already know your love language it may be worth another run through because you may surprise yourself and your partner with where you are at now.
Trying something new together can be a fun experience. Maybe you can try cooking a new recipe together, attempting a Pinterest activity, or building something. Consider playing games that require you to get out of your element, Just Dance or something similar on a video game counsel but sound strange but really get you moving and laughing. The point is to experience something together—the specific game matters less, so any one will do! Keeping humor part of the relationship isn’t just helpful; its healthy and necessary. We need laughter to lower the negative symptoms that come with stress and help us feel like ourselves again.
Managing relationships and maintaining connection to keep your emotional tank filled can be challenging even when a worldwide pandemic isn’t occurring. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and worry about your significant relationships, especially when you may already be under a great deal of stress. The therapists at Angelus can help both individuals and couples with processing the current status of their relationships as well as making a plan for reconnecting and rebuilding that you can be excited about. If you believe that this is the time for you to invest some extra time and energy in yourself and your relationships, make an appointment with an Angelus therapist today. Enriching your relationships and taking the time to nurture them benefits everyone involved.
Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services