Updated: Apr 3, 2020
People have discussed how this pandemic is showing all the holes and weak spots in our systems: in our medical, our political and economic systems, but Shelter in Place with your spouse can quickly unearth the weak spots in your relationship! Just like we are optimistic that this current crisis might strengthen our systems, I hope too that this forced-togetherness might improve our relationships, even if that means nurturing those that are solid and ending those that need ending.
A NYTimes article today stated that divorce rates are up in China after the two month lock down. They are callings them "Covidivorces". Does being stuck in a house with someone make you face problems you've been ignoring? Perhaps. Amongst all the insanity, how can healthy couples survive?
A Washington Post article today outlines ways in which couples are navigating COVID together, with some best practices on how to Shelter in harmony
1. Say thank you for even the smallest gesture: many of us went from being acknowledged on a daily basis in our work lives for our productivity and output, to now facing days full of "home-duties" which could be seen as "meaningless tasks" such as taking out the garbage and folding the laundry. Thanking your partner for the smallest kindness or gesture lets them know they are appreciated. We're all trying to adapt to our new environments, letting your partner know you see what they do, and are thankful for it, is important.
2. Ban criticism and name-calling: along the lines of tip #1, healthy couples don't criticize each other, especially in this Coronavirus landscape. Recognize that your partner is dealing with their own amount of stress, and doing the best they can right now. We all handle stress differently, and no one has ever experienced what we're going through now. Healthy couples acknowledge that their partner is going through their own fears and worries on their own, in addition to what you discuss together as a unit.
3. Compromise: There will be multiple times a day for compromise, learn how to do it well. That doesn't mean keeping score or living "tit-for-tat", but really hearing what the other person needs at that moment, and helping by giving what you can. If you have kids at home, recognize when one of you might need to take a break and be "off duty" for a bit. If one of you is working and the other isn't, don't just assume that they now have to shoulder all the household chores; figure out a way to balance so you both feel heard and seen...and respected. Once again...this "new normal" is just that...new; everyone is trying to learn and adapt quickly
4. Sex: it's a great way to pass the time! But also understand if your partner isn't in the mood. With everything going on, stress is at an all time high. Getting some of that stress out through sex is a very healthy way to deal with it, but it could also be the last thing on your mind. Don't hold it against your partner if they don't want to engage at the moment, but do have an honest conversation about your needs and wants and see if you can come to an understanding in which you both feel respected and loved.
5. Give each other space: just because you're Sheltered together doesn't mean you have to spend all your time together. Make sure to separate and do your own thing for a while, whether that means watching your own show in another room or going for a run alone or catching up on a project by yourself. Not only will you appreciate some solo time, but when you come back together you might have something new to talk about!
6. Communicate: This is the biggie, talking to your partner, with open and honest communication. is the number one way you'll stay healthy. There is so much going on right now, and no one is a mind reader, do yourself a favor and share what's on your mind. By talking through your fears, worries, doubts, etc, you partner gets to be on the same team with you, and you can tackle things together.
7. Healthy Habits and Routines: Not feeling sexy around your spouse? Maybe get out of your PJ's, you've been in them for a week! Keeping simple healthy routines such as making the bed, getting dressed in the morning, eating a good meal, these small things create guidelines for normalcy and help with stress management and help keep a sane environment. Feeling good with routines and habits will help you put your best foot forward each day, which will help any stress that could come your way.
8. Watch the booze. Drinking and drugs are easy to slip into when you're in this perpetual groundhogs day. Make sure you're staying healthy, mentally, emotionally and physically. We all love our virtual happy hours and "quarantini's" but when you start cracking a beer at 11am, you know it's time for a break. Waking up hung over every morning can also put a wrench in your "healthy habits and routines", and a pounding headache often makes compassion and stress management tools go right out the window. It can be helpful to set some guidelines for you and your spouse around consumption.
9. Remember to have fun together: Being at home doesn't mean you're trapped, enjoy this time! Many healthy couples schedule a time to play a game or watch a movie together or learn something new. Cooking is on the rise as something couples are doing together. Another trend is online trivia and other fun interactive games in which couples can engage with other couples virtually. Schedule a date night! Have a double date on zoom, get creative.
10. Know that this too shall pass: Healthy couples tend to see their relationship outlasting the current crisis. Many couples are feeling the strain on their relationship, and know it might not whether the storm, but those that will, have the viewpoint that this is a season in their relationship, one that will pass, and hopefully will make them stronger for it. Being resilient in your relationship means committing to making it work, even amongst a world wide pandemic. Love in the time of Coronavirus.