The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.Audrey Hepburn
Did you ever think that you and your partner would be home together twenty-four hours a day seven days a week? This year has turned most of our lives upside down. For some couples this has been the ultimate dream, while others are fantasizing about just five minutes alone. Where’s the quarantini?!
I’ve talked with several friends, and regardless of the number of years they’ve been together, all of this quarantine togetherness has been an adjustment, to put it mildly. Some are retired; and already used to being together all day, yet COVID-19 has put a new spin on their routines. Once, we were able to be footloose and fancy free with outdoor adventures, romantic dinners in restaurants, or even simple gatherings with friends and neighbors, but we cannot do that as easily right now. It’s like we signed up for marriage, but the “contract” didn’t mention anything about having breakfast, lunch, dinner and every waking moment with them. . . . e-v-e-r-y day. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of togetherness!
Relationships are work. There’s no denying it. The weeks and months quarantine have made a lot of us re-examine ourselves and our interactions with our partners. Now may be just the perfect time to strengthen our relationships, go back to the basics, and focus on all of the good things in life. I’m offering some tips to maintain healthy relationships during quarantine.
Now more than ever, communication is essential. And actually, it’s probably better to communicate more than we normally would. Talking freely about things each of us could do better will undoubtedly bring to the forefront the things that are great about the relationship too. Be an active listener. Don’t always focus on the frustrating or the constructive elements. Celebrate the successes and “feel good” moments in your life as they happen.
Having empathy for your partner’s feelings is also crucial in our conversations during this time. We all cope with stress in different ways and trying to empathize with how your partner is feeling is going to help to make your relationship stronger. If there are days or moments when you’re about to blow a gasket for one reason or another, take a deep breath, relax, and when you’re calm, don’t be afraid to bring up the “stressor” to your partner in a constructive manner and talk through it. We all know that when we internalize things, it’s not healthy. Use this time to reconnect and vocalize your feelings constructively. Work towards solving “issues” together through collaboration and teamwork. Chances are they will bring you closer together.
Though date night might look different than it did BC (before COVID), it is still important to make it a top priority. It may be something as simple as making dinner together or watching a movie after the kids are put to bed—just create downtime for yourselves as a couple and remember why both of you decided to be in a relationship in the beginning.
Get creative to find unique ways to spend time together. It may be taking time to do what your partner enjoys such as going fishing and having him show you the tips and tricks up his sleeve, taking a walk together on the beach at sunset, or setting up a homemade movie theater in the backyard and watching a romantic movie. Take turns planning the evening. Be spontaneous. Be romantic. Rekindle your relationship. Celebrate the joys in your chemistry.
You remember that old saying: Laughter is the best medicine. Well, it’s true! Don’t we all feel better about things after a good chuckle or belly-laugh? During times of uncertainty, joking and laughing with each other may be the last thing on your mind, but it is likely exactly what is needed. Laughing releases feel-good hormones which in turn alleviate stress, invite you to let down your guard, and bring you closer to your partner. If you and your partner are not seeing eye to eye and tensions are running high, sometimes the best thing you can do is crack a joke or find a way to make them laugh to ease the tension. This may also help to start a new conversation on a positive note.
What are some things you always wanted to do, but never seemed to have the time for? You have time now. Maybe spend it looking through your photos together. Laugh and tell each other your love story all over again. Or spread the photos all over the dining room table and share with the kids. Tell them the stories and see how they respond.
Dance in the middle of the day with no music. Or turn on the music up loud and have a dance party. Sit down for a Seinfeld (or your favorite comedy show) marathon. Find ways to be silly. Laughing together and making light of situations whenever possible keeps a relationship fun and engaging. And it lifts the mood of the entire home.
Take advantage of the fact that you’re together to have some affectionate moments. Even just the simple act of holding hands while watching a show together, randomly coming up behind your partner and giving her a hug while she is doing the dishes, or kissing each other goodnight can add affection to your partner’s day and keep your connection alive.
Take Time For Yourself
Even though you may be stuck in the house right now, it is still important to take some time for yourself. Or even better, suggest to your partner that you’d like to create downtime for them. Offer to take the kids to the park for a couple of hours, or take the lead with the household so that your partner can slip off to take a nap. The fact that you offered is sure to feel like a gift to your partner, and likely one they will want to reciprocate.
Do something you have enjoyed, but haven’t had time for recently, such as reading a book from your favorite author, working on your car, catching up on podcasts, trying making a cheesecake, or concocting cocktails for your family and friends. You may even choose to take up a new hobby such as planting a garden, writing a book, or renovating a space in your home. Setting time aside each day to do something you enjoy will help improve your mental health and your relationships.
While this might be one of the hardest times that you and your partner have faced, remember that you have each other to lean on, and that is a prize in itself. Life is short, and you may not have the opportunity to spend this much time together again, so appreciate the time you have with one another, learn new things about each other, and enjoy the journey along the way.