While we know that social distancing will help to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our communities, the daily reality of life with so many restrictions has created a new set of challenges for individuals, parents and couples. Many of us are missing the routines and free movement we had before the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those who are socially isolating with a spouse or partner, the physical and emotional space we used to enjoy has shrunk to the size of our existing homes or apartments. This may be the most uninterrupted time you’ve ever spent with your partner and you are probably learning new things about them, some of which might be irritating. People are also experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety due to the coronavirus outbreak, which may cause them to be more responsive than normal. This can contribute to an increase in relationship tension and potentially more frequent disagreements between partners, which may also feel larger or more significant than usual.
As you navigate this new world of cohabitation, here are some strategies for couples to help cope with unlimited “us” time and make it through the quarantine stronger than ever.
This may be one of the most important lessons couples in quarantine learn! There is no reason to spend every moment of your day together, and if you are fortunate enough to have space to spread out, you should take advantage of it.
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then it’s no surprise that a significant increase in time spent with your partner might cause some tension in your relationship. Remember, you and your partner are individuals and it would be unrealistic to spend all of this time together. Carving out your own space to work, exercise, cook or relax will help you maintain your sense of balance and individuality, and will make the time you do spend together even more enjoyable. Find a new podcast, television show or workout class as a treat just for yourself and build in time during your day to enjoy it.
Get back to basics. As we know, honest and open communication is the key to a strong relationship. During this stressful time, each person in the relationship may be responding differently than the other. Check in with each other and communicate what each of you need to manage during this time. Communication is essential for allowing both parties to feel they are being supported. Set a plan to support one another in managing stress. Even questions like, “How did you sleep last night?” can allow your partner or spouse to open up about any fear or anxiety they may be feeling.
This might be the first time you have a front row seat to your partner or spouse’s daily work life. It might be beneficial to ask each other about your different daily responsibilities or tasks in the morning. This way, you can adjust schedules and physically relocate if necessary, to accommodate things like remote-work meetings or home repair projects.
Tackle a Shared Project Together
You probably have a bit more free time on your hands, so why not use it to accomplish something as a team? Some couples are using the home quarantine to watch the greatest movies of all time or to tackle a home improvement project, like planting a garden. It’s not so much the project itself that is important but having a shared goal that you can move towards together. Once the quarantine comes to an end, you will also have a shared memory of this accomplishment that will mean something to both of you!
Carve Out Special Moments With One Another
You may not be able to go out to dinner at your favorite restaurant or take in a movie together at the theater right now, but a home quarantine can provide a great opportunity to get creative with the time and space you do have. Having a fun activity or plan on your shared calendar will break up the week and give you both something to look forward to.
- Revisit old photo albums or set up a digital slideshow on your computer or TV. Looking at wedding photos or pictures from a fun vacation can be a great bonding activity for couples, especially as you talk through your favorite memories together.
- Make one meal a week together special, whether it’s having a picnic outside, dressing up for a “date night” at the dining room table or treating yourselves at home to brunch on the weekend.
- “Visit” a museum together virtually or take in a streaming concert from a band you love or theatrical play from the comfort of your couch.
- Got a deck of cards? There are lots of games that two people can play, including War, Crazy Eights, Gin Rummy, Slapjack, Spoons and GOLF. Keep track of your wins and losses and play toward some sort of prize or reward to keep the spirit of competition alive!
- Schedule a nightly walk or drive. It will be important to get out of the house and help one another move from the workday to the evening.
So much about our normal lives has changed, and it can be hard to be positive. During this stressful time, having a companion who loves and supports you is a gift to cherish. You and your partner may never have the opportunity to spend such concentrated time together again. With a little creativity, increased communication and an extra helping of patience, you can emerge from this time stronger than ever.
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.