The first thing on your mind probably isn’t your relationship. It’s more likely the pressing issue of your physical health and that of your loved ones.
Or the financial stress brought on by being sent home from work – unsure of when you’ll be able to return.
The pressure to somehow keep your life afloat while the world and everything around you is changing by the minute.
It’s stressful – to say the least. And quite frankly, terrifying.
Once you’ve settled into quarantine and the stressors surrounding your immediate health have been lifted (even if only ever so slightly), other issues can rise to the surface.
Being forced to stay at home in quarantine, be it implicitly or explicitly because of COVID-19, can place extreme pressure on your relationship.
All those things that you’ve been pushing to the side for so long – are suddenly right there, screaming in your face.
You can’t avoid them anymore.
I want you to know you’re not alone and that there are ways of dealing with this.
Problem #1 You get on each other’s nerves
All of a sudden it’s like your partner or spouse is trying to annoy you.
The way they chew their food, their bad choice of Netflix shows, or their constant worrying about the situation is driving you crazy.
The last time you spent this much time with them was probably when you were madly in love, and now you’re finding it hard to remember just why you fell in love with them in the first place.
- Reminisce about good times together.
By chatting about good memories you’ll be reminding yourselves and each other, why you’re so good together. Talk about when you first met and what drew you to one another. What did the other person do or say that was irresistible? Do you they still do those same things? What do you love about your partner?
- Do a quick intimacy inventory.
We usually think of intimacy as sexual – but according to researcher Stephen T. Fife, there are in fact 17 types of intimacy, sex being only one of them.
When you’re both driving each other mad, doing an inventory of the kinds of intimacy you share in your relationship or marriage can be a great way of redirecting your attention to the positives (and the things you’d like to work on together!).
If you’re in quarantine for a while (and you may very well be), you’ll have lots of time to work on your relationship.
When you do an intimacy inventory you work together to create the kind of relationship you both want.
First – make a note of which of Fife’s 7 out of 17 types of intimacy you share together. It’s not important you share all of them, but hopefully you can find one type of intimacy that resonates with your relationship.
You connect by laughing together. You’ve got inside jokes and make each other laugh. You enjoy the fun side of life together.
You share the experience of giving to/assisting others. You get closer to each other when you jointly share the joy that comes from giving to/sharing with other people.
You share the responsibility of bringing up your children; meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. This includes you working together when it comes to teaching and upbringing, and that you love and worry about the well-being of your children.
You feel close and care for each other as friends.
Closeness comes from creating things together. You share intimacy by being creative together.
You get close with each other by dealing with problems and pain together. You stand united in the face of tragedy. You deal with adversity together, whether it’s about family, illness, ageing, unemployment.
You bond with each other through conversation. The communication channels are open. You listen to your partner and appreciate your partner’s ideas. You’re loving, considerate, respectful, giving, honest, and open in the way you communicate.
Second – Talk about which of these 7 types of intimacy are strengths in your relationship. Again – talking about the positives reinforces your love for one another and will help minimize irritation. This is essential if you want your time in quarantine to be as pleasant as possible.
Third – Decide which aspects of intimacy you could stand to work on together. You’ll likely find you want to strengthen at least one or two or the abovementioned forms of intimacy.
Fourth – Plan how you’re going to work on your intimacy goals. If you’d like to share more humour intimacy, perhaps you could Netflix a stand-up show? If creative intimacy feels important to work on, maybe you could try making music together, baking or playing a game together?
Problem #2 You’re both stressed out
A pandemic is, thankfully, not the norm. But because we’re not used to it, it can cause massive amounts of stress. Finding ways of dealing with this stress isn’t only paramount to your own health and mental well-being, it’s also important for your relationship.
Oftentimes our stress is taken out on our partner. We don’t mean to do it – but it’s our coping mechanism. While in quarantine, try out the solutions below as a means of finding new coping mechanisms.
- Tell yourself relationship stress is normal – because it is.
Being together 24/7 for at least two weeks isn’t the norm for most couples – so finding it stressful is normal. Getting on each other’s nerves is par for the course.
Nothing is wrong with your relationship just because quarantine is getting to it. You’re stressed, worried and anxious – potentially on an existential level. Remind yourself that this too shall pass. We don’t know when or how, but you won’t have to be in quarantine forever.
- Practise mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about being in the moment – regardless of what that moment looks like. It’s about learning to sit with your emotions and thoughts, even when they’re terrifying, exhausting or just plain annoying.
In times of stress, practising mindfulness can help you acknowledge what’s running through your brain, and what is likely causing the cortisol levels in your body to rise. Once you acknowledge those thoughts you can let them go – and you’ll likely feel better because of it.
Being stuck in quarantine is stressful for many reasons; we worry about our health, the health of the planet, and where our next pay-check is going to come from. You don’t need to add worrying about your relationship to this list.
- If you’re annoyed with each other – focus on the positives and do an intimacy inventory.
- If you’re stressed and taking it out on each other – find other coping mechanisms, like mindfulness and realizing that this will pass.
Signed, a sex therapist who’s currently in quarantine.
Originally published on Therapy by Leigh.