Couples all over the world are being asked to shelter in place for an unidentified amount of time. Each couple will experience trials and try to overcome them together — will they make it? Although this sounds a lot like the next concept from the people who brought us “Love Is Blind,” this is the current reality for many. We are now cohabitating, co-parenting, and co-working with our partners 24/hours a day. This is an experience we’ve never had to face in our lifetimes, and there’s no rulebook for how to take on this global pandemic in partnership. However, there are a few ways you can ensure you’re being conscious and communicative, so your relationship can emerge healthier and happier than ever!
If you’re one of the many sheltering in place with your S/O, the two of you are probably feeling like there’s a magnifying glass to each other’s tendencies and habits like never before. They’re always leaving half-empty coffee mugs all over the apartment and you’re always walking through the peripherals of their Zoom calls in your PJ’s. To combat the rising sense that you may be encroaching on areas of each other’s lives you’re not used to being privy to, it’s important to keep a sense of respect for the physical and emotional space you once had. This could look like being aware that your workspace doesn’t intrude on each other’s, or agreeing to alternate doing the housework. Moreover, it’s important to respect each other’s roles within your home as you take on everything side by side. It’s more effective to validate those actions that are helpful over nitpicking those that aren’t. Choose to focus on what your partner does for you or your home that furthers your progress together.
A Reminder to Romance
It’s easy to see how romance could fall to the wayside in times like these. We’re all just trying to keep stress at bay and normalcy in check, not to mention the weeks on weeks of sweatpants. However, it’s imperative to make time to celebrate each other. From acts of service like preparing them a beautiful meal and stowing your phones away to really engage with each other, to words of affirmation, it’s really the little gestures that keep the fire burning day-to-day.
“It’s imperative to make time to celebrate each other.”
Embrace the Healing
All of these extra hours together can really bring to light the good and the bad. It can easily highlight areas of tension we may not have acknowledged before. As these arise, it’s paramount to find open lines of communication regarding your romantic connection, as opposed to letting these issues fester. If communication hasn’t been your area of strength as a couple, now is the perfect time to work on this. Begin with a safe space free of judgment, promise each other honesty, and allow both parties to be heard. If you can’t seem to find common ground, there are incredible resources for couple’s therapy through sites like Talk Space that provide mediation remotely. On the flip side, it can bring into focus fresh characteristics of this person that are exciting or novel that you may have overlooked before. Don’t overlook these! It’s worth coming to these areas with curiosity to explore newfound angles of your relationship further.
If you’re feeling close in physical proximity but far on an emotional plane, challenge your partner to a game of We’re Not Really Strangers. This three-level card game asks all the right questions like “How Are You Really?” and “What Do You Need Right Now But Aren’t Communicating?” You will soon find permission to be vulnerable in ways that might surprise you. Not to mention it’s a hell of a good time.
You’re Not Alone!
This experience may feel alienating for you as the two of you navigate new territory and share new roles of homeschooling or housework, all while maintaining a conscious connection. But you can find refuge in the fact that you are not alone, and the experts have your back. Relationship therapist and author Esther Perel has released a special series of episodes of her podcast Where Should We Begin called “Couples Under Lockdown,” and tuning in can give you the chance to hear other real-life couples facing similar struggles in this new norm. Another great audio resource is the podcast Sheltering in Love by psychologist Tara Brach. Similarly, Brach arms you with an approach to life that prioritizes acting from a place of love above all else.
If you are sheltered in place in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, please seek help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence or call 911 for assistance.