Over the last few weeks, almost every counseling session I have had has been about navigating relationships in the time of this pandemic. COVID-19 has taken our world by a storm – to say the least, and we are feeling challenged as we adjust to living life with social isolation as a new and compulsory norm.
Even in the best of times, couples need some space regularly from each other. To process, to catch a break, or sometimes to just cool down after a fight.
Going for a run to a park or a night out with friends helps to regain some equilibrium and get some perspective, but now in this lockdown, those are no longer available options.
Couples are together constantly – and while this may be something a few dream about, it is far from romantic when you add the stress of work from home, household chores, and anxiety at the state of the world.
We are worried about our finances, about us or our loved ones getting sick, and about what our job situation might look like in the future.
Couples aren’t used to spending so much time together, and with all the worries plaguing our minds this forced togetherness can be an annoyance and can feel extremely claustrophobic. Although there is no escaping this situation and we will just have to wait and watch how the world evolves, but there are few proactive steps that can be taken to keep one’s relationship healthy.
Carve Out a Routine With Time Together as Well as Time Apart
This doesn’t have to be a strict time table you adhere to, but in general, throughout the day try to carve out some alone time as well as schedule some activities together.
Physically removing yourself from your partner’s vicinity for two to three hours a day will be a blessing for both of you.
And if your living situation doesn’t always permit this don’t be scared to verbally ask for some alone time as well.
Spend the Day Apart, Relax at Night
Spending the day apart doing your own individual chores or work and then reconvening at night to relax together or watch a movie sounds like a good plan, but you have to see what works best for you. The key is balance. You may feel like you don’t need to plan out time together since you’re constantly in close proximity but the idea is to spend some quality time doing what you both enjoy rather than just be in each other’s company because you have no other option.
Talk to Each Other About Your Fears
These are uncertain times we live in and it’s normal to feel anxious about what lies ahead of us. None of us can be sure about what turn to the virus is going to take and exactly how much time it takes for a cure to found. In such a situation where we have no clear answers, feeling anxious about our futures is very normal.
Talking to each other will help you both verbalize your stress and sometimes that in itself causes great relief.
When we talk about worries us rather than just thinking about it, we are able to question our own thoughts. By doing this you will be able to weed out the what if’s and instead focus on things you actually can control.
Plan Your Day and Activities in Advance
Spend time together planning out your finances or work or kids’ education for the short term. If you put your heads together instead of worrying on your own you will come up with actionable solutions that will help you be more prepared.
Plan your day in advance: If you both have a list of things you need to get done during the day it will automatically keep you from getting in the other’s way and it will also give you a sense of purpose which will keep the stress at bay. Even if you don’t have a lot of work going on, try to keep yourself occupied with household chores, meal planning, some reading, or learning a new skill. The idea is to not turn to each other and crowd the other person because you are feeling lonely or like there’s nothing to do.
Have Some Empathy
This feels surreal for everyone and there’s a lot going on in everyone’s mind which we may not be always verbalizing. Try to give your partner some extra benefit of the doubt during these times and try not to be quick to react or judge. Focus on the fact that you’re not alone and that you have someone to sail through these troubling times with. Come together instead of going apart and focus on what unites you rather than what momentarily irritates you.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist and reader and lover of red velvet cupcakes.)