In conversations with my clients I have heard one of two things, either COVID-19 has made them feel closer than ever to their partner, or it has put a tremendous strain on their relationship. Maybe you and your partner are learning to balance working from home and homeschooling your children. Perhaps you are an extravert, who is now relying solely on your introverted partner to meet your need for social connection. It could be that you are used to going to the gym after work to decompress before returning home to your spouse, and you have noticed that you are more irritable. Whatever your circumstances, it is certain that your relationship has changed as a result of COVID-19. Here are some tips to help you and your partner stay connected amid these changes.
Do not ignore problems!
If issues arise in your relationship during social distancing, it may be tempting to avoid talking about them as to not rock the boat. However, avoiding difficult conversations can result in resentment, bitterness, and disconnection. Furthermore, it may be easy to blame your relationship issues on the extenuating circumstances of COVID-19. You may be hopeful that your relationship issues will disappear when social distancing guidelines relax. Take a moment to be honest with yourself! Were these issues present in your relationship prior to COVID-19? Are these issues simply exacerbated by being in close quarters? If you answered yes to these questions, it is likely that your relationship issues will remain when life returns to normal. Feeling stuck? Remember, many therapist are offering confidential online therapy sessions that can be done from the comfort (and safety) of your home.
Yes, you and your partner have PLENTY of time together. But, are you using that time to connect and nurture emotional intimacy? Make time to get to know your partner’s world by remaining curious about them. You may assume that you know most of what happened throughout their day, but that is likely not the case. How are they coping with social distancing? What do they miss most about working from the office? What have they want to take away from the experience of COVID-19? If you and your partner struggle with more intimate conversations, apps such as Gottman Card Decks can help you dig deeper and learn something new about your partner.
Let’s face it, your partner can’t read your mind no matter how much as you might want them to. If you are not used to working from home, it is likely that your partner does not know the ins and outs of your workday. They may not know what times of day are most stressful for you or when you take breaks throughout the day to stay centered. In order to effectively make this transition, it may be helpful to communicate proactively. Try having a short meeting with your partner each morning, sharing your agendas for the day how you can best support each other. Try to be as clear as possible to avoid frustration or disappointment.
Michaela Standhart is a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate. She specializes in couples therapy, betrayal trauma, and works with adolescent as young as 12 years old. Michaela stays sane while practicing social distancing by reminding herself how happy her dog is.