Managing social isolation with your partner can be a challenge, especially with COVID19 meaning living in enforced close quarters for an extended period.
For some it may provide an opportunity to reconnect with a partner and establish a deeper level of trust and intimacy. For others, it can be a confronting time as you see your partner through a new lens in a ‘pressure cooker’ environment where they may do things that you find irritating.
Add in uncertainty, increased stress and possible loss of income, and tension in your relationship could escalate.
Successfully adjusting to life in a COVID19 world means working together, being kind and drawing on the strengths of your relationship.
Strategies to Keep Relationships Strong
Here are five strategies to help maintain a healthy marriage or partnership through stressful times.
Create space, set some boundaries and schedule some alone time
According to Relationships Australia boundaries are guidelines that people create for themselves to define where they end and the other begins. Boundaries can help explain what types of communication, behaviour and interaction are acceptable in a relationship.
They are important in times of difficulty, as disruption and loss of control can lead to increased levels of stress and impact mental health, so it is important to maintain some sense of identity and control where possible.
Tips to set boundaries during COVID19 include:
- Have honest conversations with your partner.
- Don’t expect your partner to fill your spare time or spend all day with you during the workday
- Give an ‘I’ message – “I need some quiet time to myself”
- Create clear physical boundaries: no business in the kitchen if space allows, or no talk about the children during office hours. If you can, separate your working space from your living space, and when work is over for the day, turn off the computer and go into the living space.
- Set time for no disturbance periods. Couples thrive when there is a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart.
Brains love structure and the grounding effects of routines can be a powerful way to streamline your days in isolation.
Set up a routine for yourself and your partner or family where you plan mealtimes, schedule exercise, work times and set time aside for creative projects.
Setting up routines is a great way to maintain a sense of control in an uncertain time and restore a sense of normalcy to your daily life. However, remember to stay flexible about your routine and accept that some routines may need to change or be ‘tweaked’ depending on your circumstances.
Close quarters and fear or frustration of the unknown may see a period where your partner’s actions irritate you beyond measure.
While a small anxious habit may be a coping mechanism for them, it can be a trigger for rising anger in you. Thoughtful communication is essential to prevent annoyances turning into anger.
If you feel like shouting or criticising, take a breath and step back. Remind yourself that your partner is doing their best to cope, just as you are.
Try to address the annoyance in a thoughtful way. For example, instead of yelling out an order to stop biting their nails, say something like “I see you’re biting your nails more than usual, how are you feeling?”. Let that approach be the opener to a calm conversation.
Simple, respectful language, such as saying please and thankyou to each other and telling jokes or laughing when you can help keep communication open and your relationship strong.
Everyone reacts to stress and isolation in different ways. So, it makes sense that your partner’s reaction to the current pandemic and isolation restrictions will be different than yours.
If your partner is suddenly moody, you don’t need to jump into their brain and try to determine their every thought. Your responsibility is to manage your own behaviour. Keep the lines of communication open, but also accept that your partner may not want to watch every Netflix show with you.
Help each other feel comfortable through a willingness to compromise and feel empathy. If your partner wants some down time to listen to music or take a walk alone, it’s not the end of your relationship. Personal space can make your relationship stronger.
Finding ways to stay positive, count your blessings and practice kindness will better help you navigate life’s ups and downs with your partner.
Showing extra kindness is a good way to remind each other you are supporting each other through this difficult time.
Small acts of kindness can also make you and them feel less alone in the world. For example, take them a cup of coffee when you’re making one for yourself, buy them a small special treat in your next grocery order or simply text them an occasional quirky joke or humorous message to lift their spirits.
Though they may seem inconsequential, these small acts of kindness can help you become closer with your partner and bond in positive ways.
Get Relationship Support
It’s important to understand that you’re not alone. How you feel is okay and help is available if you need it.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or want support with managing relationship issues call Psychological Health Care for an appointment.
Our psychologists continue to deliver services via regular sessions or via telephone and video-conferencing appointments where appropriate. Call today to book an appointment.