13 Tips to Help Your Relationship Survive a Pandemic
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is still making international headlines, and many say that this pandemic doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon.
For many of us, that means continued weeks — perhaps months — of social isolation with our nesting partner(s).
If you’re living with your partner, social isolation comes with needing to accommodate your partner’s constant proximity.
And, as tends to happen with people who spend a lot of time together, tensions could arise between partners… especially when added to the stresses many of us are already feeling around COVID.
My nesting partner and I have been acclimating to each other’s space for over two weeks now, and it’s gone much better than either of us expected. Before we began socially isolating, we were quite open about how we would manage this sudden increase in time together, as well as the decrease of space we had available.
Here are a few of my expert tips that will hopefully give you and your nesting partner(s) an edge in handling social isolation together.
I’m not talking about protecting yourselves (and others) against Coronavirus. That would just be redundant, because that’s the point of self-isolation!
Making sure you have a balanced diet and getting the vitamins you need, exercising, and getting enough quality sleep are key to managing your stress — and keeping the peace with your partner at home. If you take medication regularly, make sure your prescriptions are renewed and you’re staying on schedule.
Don’t forget that eating foods high in sugar and fat, drinking a lot of alcohol and caffeine, smoking tobacco, and taking recreational drugs (with the exception of cannabis, unless used in excess) can lead to irritability and mood swings. Sure, these behaviors might occasionally be our vices and pick-me-ups when we’re feeling stressed. But, especially when your partner is around you, you might end up taking your moodiness out on them.
Keep Up Good Hygiene
Even if you’re not going to work and staying home all day, make a concerted effort to keep up with basic hygiene, like brushing your teeth, taking regular showers, and changing your underwear (I know, I can’t believe I have to remind folks to do this!). And though it might be tempting to sink into the couch in your comfiest jogging pants and faded college sweatshirt, occasionally change out of them and into something a bit more appealing — both to yourself and to your partner.
Avoid cabin fever by stepping out of your home together. Of course, take every precaution and maintain social distancing from others. Don’t underestimate the power of getting some fresh air! A walk or bike ride can rejuvenate both of you and provide your body with some exercise… all of which can help you feel less stressed, boost your mood, and strengthen your immune system.
Declutter Your Space
Whether you’re living in a loft apartment or you have ample room in your house, your shared space might start to feel extra crowded as you spend more time together. So, make sure you keep it as reasonably clean as possible. Don’t leave your clothes all over the place or let the dirty dishes pile up in the sink. Keeping your space clean means that you can focus your attention on more important things, and on each other, leaving no room to argue about who’s responsible for cleaning the kitchen!
Create a New Routine
Time might feel like it’s passing slowly right now. It can be tempting to stay up late, wake up at all hours, and have no set schedule during the day. But creating even a basic routine is important for feeling some semblance of normalcy and control. Set your alarm to wake up at approximately the same time in the morning, and figure out a decent bedtime for yourself that enables you to get the rest you really need. Try to have your main meals at around the same time every day (which is also good for your body and metabolism). If you’re working from home, plan for breaks throughout the day to relax, exercise, and stretch out your body. Having a bit more structure throughout the day can also help you focus and give you both something to look forward to! For example, “I can’t wait until our lunch break at noon… I’ll meet you in the bedroom for a quickie!”
Get Intimate with Each Other
Intimacy doesn’t always mean sex. (But if you're looking for ways to get sexy with your partner during self-isolation, read my recent blog.) Intimacy is about connection, first and foremost. What does intimacy mean for you in your own relationship? Does it involve snuggling under the warm covers together and holding each other? Going for a long walk, hand-in-hand? Taking a bath or shower together? Reinforcing your connection is a big key to facilitating your lives while in self-isolation.
Identify Your Emotions
If you’re feeling trapped, crowded, annoyed, frustrated, or anything else, take stock of your emotions. What might be making you feel that way? Are you tired because you didn’t sleep well? Are you upset because your social media is full of bad news? Ask yourself: What can you do to help yourself feel better? Is the answer taking breaks from social media? Going to bed earlier? Eating fewer sugary foods? Taking a long walk outside to clear your head? Try to identify what’s causing you to feel this way and see what’s in your power to modify your own behavior and/or circumstances to make yourself feel better.
Once you figure out how you’re feeling and why, maybe you’ve realized that there’s something you need your partner to help you with in order to feel better. Do you need some alone time? Maybe your partner can agree to take a walk outside to give you some time by yourself in your own space. Or they can help you reorganize a room you’re sharing to make it feel less cluttered and accommodate sharing it together. If you need space to exercise, maybe you can ask them to clear the room for a period of time and let you do your workout while they spend time doing something else in another room or area of your home.
Keep in mind that you might both have to make compromises in order to keep the peace and make sure you can meet each other’s needs as much as possible. Self-isolation does create less than optimal circumstances for us all, but there are some things that you can do to help each other get through this.
And Communicate Healthily
You might find yourself in an argument with your partner, and that’s okay. It happens, even under normal circumstances. Keeping it in can build resentment and can lead to passive aggression and even explosive arguments.
If you really feel the need to fight it out, see if you can take some space to yourselves first and let cooler heads prevail. When you do get back into the argument, don’t accuse your partner of making you feel a particular way. You might not be able to control the way you feel, but you ARE responsible for the way you react to things.
So, take ownership of your emotions and use healthy communication skills with your partner.
For example, try an “I” statement like this:
“I feel [emotion] when [action] because [why]. I need / would appreciate [what you need from your partner].”
Which can sound like:
“I feel crowded and annoyed when you pace around the house while you’re on the phone because it’s very distracting to me and I can’t get my work done. I would really appreciate it if you could go into another room or out for a walk while you’re having a conversation or let me know in advance so I can create space for you.”
If your partner approaches you with their own feelings, don’t get defensive. Be patient and listen to what they are saying. Then try to take steps to work together on helping them meet their needs.
Do Fun Stuff Together
I’m not necessarily talking about sex here — but I do have some tips on how to feel sexy in self-isolation. There are lots of fun things you can do together that can help you bond together. I’m talking beyond Netflix and chill — anyone can do that. Turn off your phones and the TV and get creative. Whether it’s completing a puzzle, redecorating a room, cooking together, or reading to each other, the point is to make time for each other to relax and have fun!
Support Each Other
Everyone deals with things differently. You might have good days and bad days. Have a plan for the bad days. Do you prefer to spend time alone, or do you need some extra attention from your partner? What do they need when they’re struggling or having a rough time? As early as possible into your quarantine, try to figure out together how you can help each other through the rollercoaster of emotions you may experience in the coming weeks. Of course, you can adjust anytime, but it’s good to prepare yourselves with a basic idea of what you can do as a starting off point.
Don’t Forget About Date Nights!
Even if you can’t go out for a date, prioritize time to focus solely on each other, without any other distractions. Try playing a game together, like Naked Twister or Strip Poker. Take time to give each other sensual massages, without the pressure of it leading to sex (although it might happen when you’re both feeling all loosened up!). Cook a delicious meal together with all new recipes. Do whatever you want to do that gets you away from the TV and your phones. The goal is to help you both feel more connected and boost your intimacy. Check out some other ideas for date nights while in quarantine.
Respect Each Other’s Privacy
If you and your partner are in an open relationship, you’ll likely want to connect with your other partner(s) that you’re not currently living with. Allow each other the space to maintain those relationships, and give each other privacy during those conversations. And if you need time to masturbate, go for it, and give them the same liberty to do so themselves! Don’t think of it as your partner not wanting to have sex with you — it’s about reconnecting with your own body, which is always so important, and de-stressing while focusing only on your own pleasure.
Do you have any tips to help folks who are self-isolating with their partners?
Share with me in the comments below!