These Quarantine Times can put a lot of strain on relationships. Spending 24/7 together during this stressful period is the ultimate test for couples. After being together around the clock for weeks on end, some couples might crack under this constant pressure. So how do you survive this crisis together without breaking up your family?
There is no doubt that the outbreak of this global pandemic has created a significant disruption to our daily routine. Businesses, schools, and universities are preparing to move online for the long-haul. People are adjusting to working from home and having to come to terms with canceling not just the daily activities of life like going to the gym or out to the movie theater, but people are also coming to grips with cancelling family events, weddings, and vacations. The unknowing is perhaps what is most stressful. This uncertainty has led many people to panic buying (read hoarding toilet paper) and stocking up for a long-term “doomsday preppers” type of situation. All of this coupled with the fact that many states and countries around the world have issued shelter in place precautionary measures where people can only leave their homes if they are essential workers or for essential items. For the sake of safety, people have been forced to spend most of their time in their homes with just their immediate family members.
For most couples, the daily routine is what helps to make the relationship function. In the morning, each partner goes to work, and then in the evening, quality time is that much more important because of the hours spent apart from each other. As our schedules have gone awry, it has become clear how much we rely on these patterns of closeness and remoteness to maintain a happy and healthy relationship.
I’m a graphic designer and due to the nature of my work, I have been working from home for 4 years now. My husband has been working from home for over a year now as well. Up until now, we were able to get along with both of us working at home over the past year, and it was even nice to have each other’s company. But since this has all started about a month ago, it has brought many new tensions to our relationship. Over the past few weeks, my husband has been constantly watching the news. When the stories of the dangers of this pandemic first started hitting the news back in February, he became terribly scared while I was somewhat unconcerned at the time. This created a breeding ground for anger and fighting. I thought he was being delusional about the situation, as he would tell me about the latest speculation and conspiracies he saw online. I would be indifferent, and it came to a point where I would just yell at him to leave me alone to make him stop!
Children who see parents argue with each other will grow up in a reality where it is normal to deal with disagreements like this.
Here are five ways you can help yourself and your relationship during this time:
1. Be together but apart
You can love someone and still need distance. Take time to be together when you feel you need it and accept that your partner may want space at different times than you. It is important that you talk about your personal space as well as individual working spaces in your home. Creating the space and the new routine that comes with working from home can help determine when and where you want to spend your time together each day. It is important to tell your partner that you need privacy, otherwise it can lead to anger and resentment.
2. Encourage each other
Who doesn’t love to receive compliments and be recognized, right? Being encouraged by others helps to contribute to positive behavioral reinforcements (like when children receive an allowance for doing their chores to help instill good habits). It is such an important thing for couples to compliment and encourage each other even if it is about the smallest things. If your partner has prepared a meal, washed the dishes, or played with the kids, show your appreciation. Even a simple thank you can go such a long way, and you will be amazed how much this can with your relationship.
3. Be empathetic to your partner
Given that each person has their own unique personalities, temperaments, and past life experiences, we all have our own ways of dealing with stress and uncertainty. The likelihood that you and your spouse are dealing with this virus similarly is quite low. The difference in ways of coping may cause misunderstanding and lovers’ quarrels. The calm partner may say, “It’s crazy! You’re totally exaggerating!” Whereas the more frightened partner might respond, “You don’t understand how serious the situation is! You’re in denial.” But there can also be a positive side to this. The relaxed spouse can bring a sense of calm and optimism to the situation, while the stressed spouse will take the necessary precautions to ensure that the family is safe and healthy. If we are empathetic towards our partner’s response when dealing with this situation, we can look for the bright spots in our partners rather than shaming them for the way they are handling it.
4. Love yourself
In order to foster a healthy and happy relationship, we must first take care of ourselves. It is very difficult to treat your spouse with patience and kindness if we are not practicing those ideals within ourselves. Fostering and caring for our bodies is also a great way to nurture our relationships. Therefore, it is recommended to eat healthy foods, exercise daily, practice self-care, and maintain good sleeping habits. This is also a very unique time in our lives to make some sense of this unstructured time. Do activities that are important to your own happiness and wellbeing. Use this time to expand your level of knowledge on a certain topic, or maybe learn something, like a new recipe, a new instrument, or even a new language. This might also be a nice time to work together as a couple to create a new passion project that both partners appreciate. Whether you are working on something solo or together, self-love is the key to a successful and happy relationship with yourself as well as a fulfilling relationship with your partner.
5. Be gentle
We are social beings, so emotions are contagious. We tend to match facial expressions, synchronize body language, and feel the feelings of those who are around us. At a party or celebration, emotional attachment helps us to increase the feeling of excitement and fun. But under pressure, we are in danger of negative emotional contagion, which results in less effective coping. If you remember that emotions are contagious, you can take some space from your partner for the sake of the relationship when you are in a negative spot. Especially now with everything going on, we need to communicate effectively with each other and check in with ourselves to stay centered. If one partner is feeling especially anxious, it might be helpful to say, “I’m very anxious right now. I love you and don’t want my anxiety to take over the conversation, so I’m going to the other room to cool down for a bit.” Another helpful tool might be imagining yourself talking about this situation in a year or even five, ten, or twenty years from now. It can help to look at the present situation in a slightly different perspective about how one day you will share this story with future generations. Being gentle to both ourselves and to our partners helps to increase mutual understanding.
We hope that these five steps will serve as a helpful reminder in the days to come. This is a stressful period for everyone, but we hope that you and your partner can use this time to appreciate each other and to strengthen your understanding of one another.