7 Relationship Survival Tips During COVID-19 Pandemic
As the recent Coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, many couples are being obliged to spend the vast majority of hours with each other in the same space. In addition, the stress of home schooling children, possible loss of income, fear and uncertainty about the future are all factors that are likely to escalate anxiety, feelings of pressure and stress and may push couples to the edge of their coping capacity!
For some couples these circumstances may bring issues to the surface that may have been bubbling underground for some time, for others being in close proximity over extended periods of time may lead to greater conflict. Even couples who have a relatively healthy relationship prior to the coronavirus might need some support over the next few months!
Being in lockdown is a huge challenge for many of us. Heightened anxiety and increased tension is inevitable, however even without the luxury of our usual outlets and ways of blowing off steam through friends and activities, we can still be proactive in protecting and looking after our relationship.
Seven tips for relationship survival
- Learn to accept the new normal – the quicker we adapt in this time of crisis, the better. Accepting that we are living in close proximity of each other and need to adapt helps us accept reality and create new routines. Crises by nature means we are out of control so making new plans and routines in the current environment helps us feels more in charge of life again.
- Let go of things that don’t matter– pick your battles – we’ve all heard this before, but in these times this is an essential skill to have. When something does warrant a discussion, use I statements (I feel…. I need…) and stay with your own experience of events. Try to avoid criticism which invites defensiveness and tends to escalate arguments. Look instead for what our partner is doing well and express appreciation for that. Try letting your partner know at least one thing you appreciate about them each day and remember, connection doesn’t thrive in a critical environment.
- Validate each other feelings– it’s OK for each of you to be impacted by current events. Normal life stresses might be compounded at this time by financial concerns and fear for the future. When bad things happen we tend to process things differently from our partner. Listen to your partner and try and show support. Let your partner have their own feelings about things and practice being empathic and actively listening to their concerns. If you don’t know what to say in response, stick to ‘safe responses’ such as ‘you sound really upset/ stressed/worried…and ask what your partner needs from you at this time.
- Ask for what you want – it’s ok to ask for what you need too at this time. It may be different than before and therefore listening to each other and negotiating new needs while in lockdown might feel strange. For example, you might need some time alone in another room away from your family at times. Asking for what you need within lockdown and listening to your partner’s needs can support you both through this period.
- Give each other some space – you will be in each other’s space A LOT. Being together too much can be exasperating, so if possible create some alone time for yourselves within each day – even if it’s only 30 mins. Negotiate with each other what you each need and work out ways to get this need met. It might be as simple as going out for a walk each day or having some time in your room to read a book.
- Stay connected – be creative in how you do this, it might be cuddling while watching Netflix or playing a game with your family or each other. Having time for the two of you might be harder to find, so be creative with ways you do this and find connection in moments together within this circumstances.
- Remember this is a temporary situation – it is not going to last forever and everyone will look back on this time with some memories. So remind yourself this is temporary and no matter how hard it is now or becomes, it will pass.
Finally, it is always Ok to reach out for support if you need it. We are continuing to offer web and telephone consults for individuals and couples at reduced rates during this period of time. Look after yourselves and each other and stay safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
The views and information expressed in this article are for general interest only and are not designed to replace personalised therapeutic support from a psychologist, counsellor, psychotherapist or other appropriate professional.
© Sarah Forman 2020