Even if you’ve lived together for a while, being quarantined together is a whole different story. You no longer do you have your separate outlets — like going to work, the gym, or out with friends — and it can be tricky to navigate this new normal. Here, experts share their advice on how to take care of your relationship.
Make your relationship a priority. “Don’t assume since you are both home together 24/7, that your relationship will get the attention it needs,” says Abe Antine, clinical director and Leader of the trauma team at All Points North Lodge. “Plan out afternoon walks, movie nights, special romantic dinners — any activity that you can both, as a couple, look forward to and which will help your days be brighter, is great! It is so beyond important to set personal time aside to recharge. The healthier you are, the healthier your relationship will be.”
Keep your date night. “If you’re cohabiting with your partner, have a date night or day. If you’re not cohabiting, have virtual dates. The important thing is to continue making time for one another. Letting your partner know that they are worth your time is the best way to grow a relationship forward,” says Jennifer Litner, sexologist and founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness, LLC.
“Really put energy into it (not just ‘what do you want to do tonight?’) but rather have the date planned out by Wednesday, for Friday. One thing my husband and I did was put on a Bob Ross video on Youtube and grabbed a set of watercolors and tried to keep up and paint as fast as he did. It was hysterical. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but. it needs to be creative. These dates give you something to look forward to,” says Michele Paiva, licensed psychotherapist.
Try something new. When you’re spending every waking minute together, you have to mix it up a bit. “Leave your comfort zone and do things that you would normally not do. Start with one partner picking an activity, like playing a board game or streaming one on your TV, cooking together, or simply taking a walk but leaving your phones behind and looking up — and then reverse. Don’t forget physical closeness, like hand holding and snuggling on the couch,” says Dr. Moe Gelbart, Ph.D., director of practice development at Community Psychiatry.
Communicate your needs. “Being at home all the time with your partner will inevitably be a source of stress. It’s normal to feel irritated when the built-in outlets both you and your partner had are suddenly and drastically taken away. It’s important to understand we’re all adapting to pretty drastic shifts in our daily routines. Speaking up proactively about your needs is never more critical. Don’t leave anything up for assumptions — communicate when things are not working for you at the first hint of it” says Sharon Yu, licensed marriage and family therapist.
“Never assume that our partner ‘should know.’ This leads to a breakdown in communication. Use this time to rediscover each other and to talk together,” says Karen A. Dwyer-Tesoriero, licensed clinical social worker. “It’s important for couples to make time to stay emotionally connected to each other.”
“Talk to each other from the heart, even if it is about the news, a book you are reading, something that is happening to a friend, new experiences you are making or those you look forward to having together. Work on validating the other’s feelings; this is a key ingredient to keeping the spark alive,” says Gelbart.
Maintain your personal interests. “Relationships thrive on the ability to share new insights, events and experiences. Having parts of life separate from one another other and sharing those are what make relationships rich,” says Gelbart.
Don’t let the small things become big things. “Staying at home, 24/7, begins to magnify the small issues and little grievances, which normally can be ignored, but now are more difficult to do so with the constant presence of your better half,” says Gelbart.
Lean on each other. “Comfort and support your partner and ask for comfort and support when you need it. We often look to our partners for comfort and support during day-to-day challenges, and when severe challenges arise such as the coronavirus pandemic, it can be especially important to support one’s partner emotionally. Listen, communicate, and strive not to take a “fix it” attitude. Empathy and compassion are key.,” says Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist.