Using the pandemic to connect and strengthen relationships.
With COVID-19, quarantine, the economy, and the stress of life right now, relationships can struggle under the strain; however, there are ways on keeping relationships strong and healthy during these times.
Like never before, couples are finding they have more time together. Working from home, a lack of late-night meetings, a reduction in travel – all of these combined have meant more time to connect with our significant others. People who are intentional to use this time wisely are shutting off their television at night and working to create greater intimacy with their partner. Meaningful conversation, working together on projects around the house, making meals together, playing games, and having intimate romantic connection are all ways to use this time to benefit your relationship.
Rather than simply survive this crisis, I believe couples can use this as an opportunity to grow in deeper connection with each other. Here are 5 tips to strengthen relationships with significant others:
- Processing feelings: Couples should spend time talking about their feelings during this difficult time. Just as important, if not more so, is validating each other’s experiences and feelings. People tend to want to rescue others from difficult feelings, but sometimes people just need space to process their emotions before they can fully move through them to the other side.
- Conversation: Couples should try and find time to have meaningful conversation- even if it’s just ten minutes a day. Talking about more than the everyday tasks that must be accomplished. Ask each other questions about your childhood, your current goals, and future hopes and dreams. Many couples find even after decades together that there are still things to discover that will deepen your knowledge of each other.
- Exercise: Exercise, whether together or alone, is extremely helpful for increasing positive brain chemistry, and working out stress. Taking the time to go on a walk outside the house when possible gives couples a change of scenery that is likely much needed. Even if pushing a stroller or bringing the dogs along, walking is a simple activity that gives couples the chance to move together and reconnect through uninterrupted conversation.
- Take a break from electronics: Constantly having a screen in front of one’s face doesn’t allow for quality interpersonal communication. Setting aside a couple hours a night or a day a week to going tech-free really forces couples to prioritize each other, and face to face interaction. It gives the mind a break and challenges us to find ways to reconnect intentionally with our significant other.
- Be a helper to your partner: Asking on a daily basis, “What can I do to help you today?” is a simple way to make sure you are actively working to meet your partner’s needs. Whether it’s a good, long hug, help with laundry, a listening ear, or assistance with the kids, checking in to see what your partner’s immediate needs are is a way of putting a “deposit” in your love bank. Having a full account means that, when times get tough, you will have a cushion to fall back on for a withdrawal.
For states where stay at home orders are being lifted and more establishments are re-opening, I believe there are ways couples can keep growing in their newfound closeness. Couples are recognizing the value in slowing down, cutting back on work obligations where they can, and spending intentional time with the people they love. Once things go back to our new normal and people are working as they were before, I think couples who want to keep this newfound closeness going should remember to prioritize time with each other. Simple activities like making meals together, eating together, enjoying walks and conversation are the kinds of things most couples will want to hold onto. Choosing to step away from electronics in the evenings and on the weekends, finding time to connect face-to-face with our significant others, and doing activities together are great ways to keep connected after the quarantine time is over.
During this global pandemic, this increased closeness also might be a struggle for some couples, especially for those spending a lot of time together confined to a small space. Spending time alone is actually a good thing sometimes. Too much togetherness can be smothering, especially in these stressful times. Going for a walk alone, having an online chat with a friend, or purposefully choosing to do different activities even when you in the same house- all of these can help you get the mental space you need to rejuvenate.
Another struggle couples might be experiencing with social distancing, is a lack of connection with others. Many couples normally spend time with family and friends and attend gatherings in their churches and communities. Losing these opportunities means a loss of meaningful connection with people outside of your relationship. No single relationship can meet a person’s every need. Having a variety of people in our lives is a way to get our needs met without putting 100% of the pressure on our significant other. Doing our best to continue connecting with others on the phone, online, and at safe social distancing events like a backyard fire pit are ways we can keep up connections with important people in our lives. This ultimately strengthens our romantic relationships by providing the additional emotional support from outside the relationship that we need for greater security and fulfillment.
Many couple counselors, including myself, have noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of couples seeking therapy and relationship coaching. If you are struggling you should reach out to a competent, qualified professional with training, and credentials. Any of us who have been in lifelong marriages can tell you: marriage is hard and takes lots of work. No one inherently knows how to be a great spouse/significant other; it takes years to become proficient at being in a successful relationship.
Without the proper training and skills, I don’t know how any couple can make the decision to end their relationship. You can’t know if you can flourish as a couple until you learn the tools to create a happy relationship.
I would highly suggest that coupes who are struggling call and schedule a tele heath therapy appointment with someone who can show them how they might be able to repair their relationship before ending it. And plenty of couples who are not in crisis have started calling for counseling too. This is an opportune time to reach out to someone who can help equip you with the lessons you need to make your romantic life happier and more fulfilling.