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Nurturing Romantic Relationships During a Crisis

Amidst the health crisis and the lockdowns, your partner and you may not be able to spend as much time together. The distance can be hard to cope with, but there are certain things you can do to feel connected to each other.

Relationships are hard work. While maintaining a relationship can be stressful in itself, the global health crisis has only made the experience more challenging. Typically, the thought of getting to spend time with each other makes video calling and texting seem bearable. However, with the need to limit social contact at this point in time, many couples who don’t live together are now in “long-distance” relationships – and this has created a lot of uncertainty and stress. 

After a point, not being able to spend time together physically can take a toll on the health of your relationship. Here are some common challenges that your relationship might be facing amidst the pandemic:

Emotional insecurity: Studies suggest that physical proximity is a vital aspect of feeling secure in a relationship. In other words, the more geographically closer the couple, the lesser would be the uncertainty regarding the relationship and its future. The uncertainty surrounding when you will be able to see each other next can intensify feelings of jealousy and insecurity in the relationship. Not being together also adds to feelings of loneliness. If your partner lives alone,  you might also be concerned about their safety – which in turn can add strain to your relationship.

Inability to meet: With cities going on lockdown, you no longer have the option of planning in-person dates and outings. This can be particularly distressing if you already had existing plans and have now had to cancel them. Being physically close to your partner can boost your immunity as well as your mood. When couples are forced to be apart due to a lockdown, they miss out on these benefits.

Lack of intimacy: While a lot of importance has been placed on staying connected through calls, messages and video calls, it does not make up for the lack of physical affection.  Understandably, many couples are not comfortable with the idea of getting intimate with each other on camera. Lack of privacy at home can be another deterrent for the same. Ultimately, sending virtual kisses and hugs to your partner is not the same as actions like holding hands, giving each other a massage or caressing each other’s hair.

Technological challenges: Communicating via Skype or other video apps comes with its own unique challenges. Poor audio and video quality arising from problems with the internet connection and issues with computer equipment can result in breaks in your conversations.

Living apart can be very stressful and can contribute to loneliness for some individuals. At the same time, couples can find ways to maintain and even strengthen their relationships – and eventually increase relationship satisfaction. It takes effort to maintain any relationship – especially in such difficult times. But the following strategies can help you nurture your now long-distance relationship.

Going the distance: Strategies to make your relationship work 

Trust each other: Developing and maintaining trust is the basis of all relationships, and long distance relationships are no exception. This is the cardinal rule. Assuring your partner of your love and commitment to the relationship can help build feelings of security and trust.

Be positive: Focus on the positive aspects of this challenging time. It might be hard, but you can view this crisis as providing an opportunity to you and your partner to build emotional intimacy.  When you do spend time together, make the most of it by being cheerful and optimistic. Express your gratitude and appreciation towards each other. Additionally, during this time, you can also devote some of your time and energy to developing your own hobbies, your career, and your friendships.

Develop and follow rules: Establish some ground rules for the relationship. How will you communicate? When will you call? Who can initiate the call? How much time will you spend working or engaging in your own hobbies? Communication is key to any healthy relationship, so make sure that you and your partner are on the same page with respect to how you two will navigate your relationship during this time.

Set realistic expectations: As you now have to work from home, you have to learn how to create a balance amongst your daily responsibilities. This can create a lot of conflicts between you and your partner, especially if you have different schedules, or are in different time zones. Be aware of each other’s schedules and priorities, and have a conversation around your expectations of each other. If your partner expects something that is not possible for you to do, let them know gently and suggest other things that might be possible instead.

Manage conflicts wisely: Important things are best discussed over phone or video call, as there is a lesser risk of being misunderstood compared to on chat. Moreover, patiently listening to your partner without interruption shows respect for your partner’s feelings and emotions. Remember that both of you are going through a tough time, and sometimes, lashing out may just be a coping mechanism. Keep in mind that you don’t have to fight your partner; instead, you and your partner have to team up to find a solution to the problem you are facing.

Be open: Disclosing your feelings with honesty – for instance, by telling them,  “I feel frightened when we don’t talk for more than a day” or “I’m feeling very tired today” – can help your partner understand what you are going through, and can enable them to respond to your needs. Similarly, when your partner is sharing things with you, ask them about their emotions – this will help them experience your care and will help them feel heard and understood. 

Make each other a part of your life: Don’t just present your “good side” to your partner or talk about romance. Talking about things happening in your daily life or the anxiety you might be experiencing can help you and your partner know each other better. Check-in with each other and be emotionally available in the relationship. This can make it easier for you both to deal with this difficult situation.

Consider professional support: If you and your partner are struggling to feel connected to each other and find yourselves having unhealthy interactions the majority of the time, you might benefit from professional support. Therapy offers a safe space for you and your partner to explore your concerns.  A therapist can also guide you two to build a better, more positive relationship together. As long as both partners are willing to put in the work, any problem can be resolved! While face-to-face counselling might not be an option amidst the lockdown, you can consider online platforms to connect to a therapist.

While this is a difficult time, looking at the crisis as a way to strengthen your relationship and improve your communication can make it easier to cope. Go easy on your partner and remember to let them know how much they mean to you. Life is truly too short to hold on to grudges or past mistakes!

References

Canary, D.J., & Dainton, M. (2003). Maintaining relationships through communication: Relational, contextual, and cultural variables. long distance relationships. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Dainton, M., & Aylor, B. (2002). Patterns of communication channel use in the maintenance of long distance relationships. Communication Research Reports, 19, 118-129

Neustaedter, C. and Greenberg, S. (2011). Intimacy in Long-Distance Relationships over Video Chat. Research Report 2011-1014-26, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4, August.

Stafford, L., & Merolla, A.J. (2007). Idealization, reunions and stability in long distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 37-54.

Sahlstein, E. M. (2004). Relating at a distance: Negotiating being together and being apart in long-distance relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 689-710.

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