Coronavirus: Six things relationship experts want couples quarantining together to know
As coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, millions of people have found themselves confined to their homes in an effort to curb it.
For couples who live together or have chosen to quarantine together, this means facing a future of what is currently an indefinite amount of time spent in one another’s company.
Understandably, many couples are finding it difficult to adjust to the safety practises and new norms.
Fortunately, relationship experts are confident that this time can be spent strengthening relationships – and ultimately growing as a couple – as long as people take the time to be mindful of their own needs and those of their partners.
From prioritising routines to focusing on the positives, these are the six things that relationship experts want couples in quarantine to know.
Try to stick with your individual routines
For many people, lock downs and social distancing precautions put in place amid the coronavirus outbreak mean that careers have become remote.
As a result, people are seeing the time that used to be dedicated to waking up and following a morning routine has been replaced or ignored.
But, according to Dr Jennifer B Rhodes, a licensed clinical psychologist, dating/relationship coach and founder of Rapport Relationships, one of the most important things that couples should be doing is following their pre-quarantine routines as much as possible.
“I think that this is really an opportunity we’ve been forced into to practise our self-care routines,” Rhodes told The Independent. “For many of us, work has either disappeared or been replaced by working from home, but now people are sitting side-by-side with their spouses or partner.”
To keep relationships running smoothly, Rhodes said couples should keep in mind their own routines, and continue to follow them.
“It is important to keep in mind your own routine and stick with your routine and not let partners’ needs force you to bury it,” Rhodes said, adding that if you typically relish the quiet time you get in the morning – either by waking up earlier than your partner or commuting – then you need to “get up earlier”.
This also means prioritising exercise just as you would during your typical life, as Rhodes said moving our bodies is essential for keeping “anxiety and depression at bay”.
Focus on the positives
Acknowledging that it may be “hard right now” to focus on the positives, Rhodes told us that doing so can ensure that you don’t find your partner and yourself fighting unnecessarily.
“It’s really just a shift in mindset,” Rhodes explained. “Rather than seeing your partner’s flaws because they didn’t put the laundry in the hamper or haven’t showered, focus on ‘I’m happy we’re together’ or my partner is doing the dishes or ‘I really like that you’re keeping up on the facts about the virus.’”
“Figure out ways to keep more positive because we’re all absorbing negative energy right now,” Rhodes said.
You should probably have a conversation about sex
Whether you’re having more sex or less, experts want couples to know that the amount of sex they are having shouldn’t be cause for concern.
“It’s not something you should be overly focused on right now,” Rachel A Sussman, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert, and founder of Sussman Counselling told us. “If you’re having less, I wouldn’t say that should be something you should be too concerned about. If you’re having more, good for you.”
However, according to Sussman, a conversation about sex should take place if you see it being an issue, or if you feel your partner isn’t on the same page.
“If you’re having issues, be kind to each other and talk it through,” Sussman said. “I can imagine one person is saying: ‘There’s nothing else to do, lets have sex’ and the other is saying: ‘Are you out of your mind, that’s the last thing I want to do.’”
Rhodes also suggested that couples discuss their sex lives, as men and women have been known to deal with stress differently.
According to Rhodes, women in heterosexual relationships may face an increased “pressure” to have sex more frequently because “men often cope with stress through sexual activity, whereas women usually lose their desire”.
To ensure that sex isn’t going to cause an issue, Rhodes told us: “There needs to be open conversation about how everyone is feeling.”
She also acknowledged that both partners will need to make conscious efforts to “be present in the moment” because “we’re absorbing so much anxiety,” it is likely that this anxiety will find its way into the bedroom.
Do activities that require your hands
Doing other activities that require your hands is also recommended for couples quarantining together, Rhodes said, as “anything with your hands stimulates the heart chakra and can calm the nervous system”.
According to Rhodes, cooking, especially if it’s a recipe that brings up memories of your childhood, or puzzles, are good options.
“I think the idea is to try to not be super serious and find things that are fun but stimulate some aspect of the body,” she said. “Use your hands and don’t just watch Netflix 24/7.”
Think of your relationship as a business or start-up – and plan accordingly
For couples with children especially, quarantine has meant a change in typical roles, as parents have had to take on additional responsibilities such as teaching the kids.
“Everyone’s life has changed,” Sussman said. “Even if you’re a traditional family, even then your life has changed.”
According to Sussman, to navigate these changes, couples need to be open to accepting new responsibilities and to helping their partners as “there is obviously so much more work to do”.
This also means “whoever’s role has changed, the other parent should be empathetic and willing to pitch in,” she told us.
To ensure that these changes are as seamless as possible, Sussman recommends couples sit down and devise a plan that is going to work for them.
One method of doing so is to view the relationship as a “start-up,” according to Rhodes, who said: “I think it’s a good idea for parents to be having planning meetings on Sunday afternoons and deciding which responsibilities each parent is going to take for the upcoming week.”
By discussing what’s working and not working, like in any business, couples will be able to deal with the frustration that is going to come up with being cooped up together,” Rhodes said.
In addition to easing any issues during this immediate time period, the tactic will also help strengthen couples in the long run, according to Sussman.
“Everyone is going to be working harder – you have to accept that, but also that it won’t be forever,” she said. “The better you do this dance the stronger your family will be.”
Have empathy for your partner
One of the most important things relationship experts want couples to remember during this stressful time is to show empathy to their partners.
According to Sussman, one of the biggest issues she’s seen so far is with couples is partners lacking empathy towards one another – even if they have gone through something difficult such as the loss of a job.
Explaining that this “falls along gender lines,” she told us that she has seen men saying “I have to be strong” during this period of hardship, whereas women often want “compassion and empathy”.
She also said women are finding it difficult to display empathy towards their partner, as “they aren’t used to seeing their husbands weak or falling apart”.
But, by making it a point to understand the anxieties and fears a partner is experiencing, couples can ultimately grow stronger.