The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping many couples stuck at home, which is a good thing: Social-distancing will help minimize its spread and contain the disease. But this sudden surge in social isolation means many couples are now suddenly spending an awful lot of time together—like, 24×7—and that can be stressful for even the most solid partnership. Because we do have the drive to share life with a partner—just not all day long.
The self-isolation period can test your relationship for better or for worse. It is up to you, how you can put to use crucial relationship skills to transform your relationship. All it needs is an awareness that this is a difficult time but is also the time to really get to know your partner on a deeper level and strengthen the shriveled roots of your relationship.
Appreciate more, admire more and say it aloud
This is something we often do upfront at the beginning of our relationship. We compliment our partners on their good qualities, their looks, their mundane acts, and let negatives slide. We do a lot of please and thank you but that declines over time as we progress in our relationships.
In this quarantine, a couple retreat of sorts, recommit to voice out positive things about one another to foster the friendship in your romantic relationship. You don’t need to wait for the right time or the big act! But rather you can catch your partner doing something good and say, ‘hey, thanks for doing the dishes,’ or, ‘it really means a lot to me that even in this adverse situation, you’re making sure we have our favorite snacks in the rack.
These small moments of fondness fill up the “emotional bank account” of your relationship and make it easier for both of you to deal with day-to-day frustrations and conflicts. If you feel seen and appreciated, you’ll be less stressed—and less likely to take out your stressors on your partner.
Turn towards your partner’s bid of connection
When your partner starts a conversation, don’t ignore them. This might sound obvious but when you’re stuck together all day with no other friends to hang out with, you might find these conversations pretty banal.
Your partner might say something very minor, like that you’re out of veggies or they did not get good sleep,”. And while you don’t have to be verbose on which veggies to buy, it’s important to acknowledge your partner’s attempt at socialization during these critical times. It’s all about being mindful. ‘I’m sorry to hear you didn’t sleep well, is there anything I can do to help?’
Know that if you ignore these small attempts at connection, your partner (as well as you if you are on the receiving side) can feel isolated and lonely. It is even more important not to turn against your partner by responding in a crabby fashion (that they are becoming hyper about veggies, or that their tossing and turning has put you awake, too).
Your own space matters as well as of your partner
It is quite obvious if you are spending all of the day with your partner to have your own time. But this own time and space has to be consciously chosen and should not be incidental —when one of you makes an emergency grocery trip or shower time— this kind of time will not be adequate to meet your self-care needs. “We need time by ourselves, and it can’t just be when we use the bathroom. Make time to be alone, whether that is to talk to a friend, taking a nap, reading … whatever. The important thing is to take time to be with you, yourself, and just you.
Figuring out how to fight in a way that’s not hurtful
Well, this is a stressful time—jobs are in jeopardy, fear of mortality is kicking in people for themselves and for their loved ones, and routines are disrupted—so even without the added pressure of constant close proximity, conflict is inevitable. In case you find yourself in a conflict situation with your partner – try to be nicer in conflict. Learn to differentiate between a surface and a real issue. “For example, you got upset that your partner did not compliment you on a dish you prepared with so much of hard work. The real issue is that you feel ignored and unimportant. Express the latter.
Negativity Effect – Bad is stronger than good
Research says that a negative event (such as a fight) has three times the impact of a comparable positive event (your partner complimenting you). To keep love alive, bear a rough guideline in mind known as the Rule of Four: Four good things are necessary to overcome one bad thing. Given the nonstop negativity circulated through the news, couples will need lots of positivity in their personal lives to compensate.
If you are struggling during these grim times on how to stay happy, plan a self-care ritual (finding joy in doing little chores of home, taking extra time to comb your hair with all the softness, taking time to finely chop veggies on the dicing board, reading that book you bought but never had time to read, listening to the chirp of birds from your window sill etc.). Run through the positive past memories: that trove of photos and videos of outings and celebrations that you’d never had time to go through. Now you do. So nostalgize happily by reliving the past.