For those navigating the pandemic with a partner, this may be the longest period of time you’ve spent together. Yet despite working side-by-side — maybe even elbow-to-elbow — you might be feeling disconnected.
When together all the time, couples may start to lose some emotional intimacy — like maintaining eye contact, or checking-in “just because” — which causes vulnerability to go to the wayside, Lauren Cook, Ph.D., an author, speaker, and therapist tells Thrive. And once we stop being vulnerable with our partners and staying in the present moment, Cook says it’s easy to feel detached from our relationship.
If that description sounds familiar, the simple tips that follow will help you reconnect and spend more present time with the person you care about:
Put some distance between you and your distractions
The allure of our devices is all too real — but so is your partner’s need for your attention. That’s why it’s important to dedicate time to them, sans distractions. “It doesn’t mean that the distractions go away,” Cook clarifies. “Rather, we are choosing to focus on our partners and the relationship — even with competing tasks, thoughts, or people interrupting.”
By placing some physical distance between you and your biggest distractors — maybe it’s your phone, your laptop, or even your pet — you create space to deeply connect with your partner. Once the distance is there, Cook suggests going for a walk, a drive, or even making a meal together — all without checking your phone or tending to other distractions.
Weave conversation into screen time
Let’s be real: Completely eliminating screen time from our relationships isn’t realistic.
Say you and your partner just started a new Netflix series, and it’s something you look forward to watching at the end of the day together. Avoid mindless binge-watching by taking a few moments for discussion after watching an episode.
Is there a character you particularly like or relate to? Is there a component of the plot that you don’t quite understand? Talk about it! Hashing out the details is a great way to connect even in the presence of our screens, and you might just find you’d rather hit the pause button and continue conversing with your partner instead.
Try a hands-based activity
When it comes to spending quality time with your partner, Cook recommends doing an activity with your hands — like painting, playing tennis, going surfing, or cooking. “The great thing about hands-based activities is that they don’t allow you to hold a phone in your hand, so you’re already more present,” she explains. “Working with our hands often builds a sense of community as we’re engaging in a shared task together and it requires our present attention fully so that we are more able to connect.”