10 Tips to help your Relationship Survive and Thrive during a Pandemic
This is an unprecedented time in our lives. We have never lived through a pandemic and all that it means to our way of life. While we certainly aren’t starving or fearful in a “war is in our backyard” type of way, we definitely are all trying to figure out a new normal in our lives. For most of us, we are “safer at home” by decree of our governors, which means we are not just living at home, we are now also teaching at home and working at home.
While you are hopefully surrounded by the people you love the most, you still may be feeling lots of uncomfortable feelings. You may be feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, stifled, perhaps even claustrophobic and when it come to your romantic relationship, I’m sure there are very few of us that are used to being with our partner 24/7 not just for days on end, but for weeks on end.
Given all the other stressors and responsibilities that we are feeling in times like these, your relationship is the place you should be able to go to for love and support, but that’s tough when you are getting on each other’s last nerve.
While Austin and I are going through our first pandemic, just like you, we have been really intentional in creating a great relationship (not perfect, but pretty great) and we already both work from home on the regular. I thought I’d share some of our tried and true tips and tricks for strengthening (or some days, at least managing) our relationship when we live, raise a family and work all in the same space.
Create separate work spaces.
For those of you that already saw this as a no-brainer, that’s great.
For those of you that think it’s going to be great to work within the same proximity of each other, I’ll tell you, even if you have a great relationship, it’s healthy and productive to have your own space.
Austin and I did share an office for a while. It seemed like heaven…at first. We could just turn around when we had a thought and have an immediate conversation. It was nice just knowing he was close. But then he was getting on some intense conference calls. Even with headphones on, he was hard to tune out. I found myself easily distracted by quick conversations about dinner or the kids because it seemed easier to have the 2 minute conversation right then and there. I had to move into a different room for my calls with clients as they are confidential ( it was easier for me to relocate than him).
I’m grateful I was able to share my co-working challenges with him and we agreed it was better to create separate spaces. Not only is my focus stronger, but I look forward to lunch breaks and the end of the day to see him again. We actually have things to share with and talk to each other about again!
For those of you that live in small quarters and your options are the couch, kitchen table, or perhaps a small desk in the bedroom, have a pro-active conversation about what you need in terms of work space (literal amount of space, the amount of privacy, the hours you want to work each day). Co-create TOGETHER what might look like to support you both and create a win-win. I’ve listed a few suggestions to get you started, but clearly every couple and family has their own unique situation so just consider these idea starters. Try something for a couple of days or a week and then check in with each other to see what is working and what isn’t. Remember, you’ve never done this before, so it’s fine to have to play with this a bit to find things that work for both of you.
Get noise cancelling head-phones. Your relationship is certainly worth $20-$50 for an investment in those. Then go to YouTube and search for binaural beats music. This is music that helps with focus and many of them last anywhere from three to twelve hours.
You have “kitchen table” or “bedroom desk” hours so that you can spread out and/or have peace and quiet, while the other person works in another room. Divvy up those hours/days.
Ask yourself (and perhaps your superior) if all your work has to be done during traditional office hours. If you have flexibility, get an hour or two of work in before the household becomes active and/or an hour or two after they settle down for the evening.
Agree that meetings are taken in a certain room so as to not create distraction/interruption of the other person.
Acknowledge each other.
Every night before bed, share with your partner at least one thing that you appreciate about them and/or something for which you are grateful.
Perhaps you appreciate their optimism and calm when you are feeling scared and unsure.
Perhaps you appreciate that they helped with the dishes or handled the kids when you were getting frustrated.
Perhaps you appreciated that he/she just let you cry it out without trying to fix anything.
This is a super powerful practice. We assume our partner “just knows” that we appreciate and value them, but saying it out loud has a special kind of impact. It’s specific. They now know you noticed. Austin and I have been doing this nightly for a couple of years and we never get tired of it. There was even a night a couple of weeks
ago that I went to bed (and to sleep) before him. I happened to wake when he crawled in and I asked him if he wanted to do acknowledgments. We took literally a minute to do them and I was back out cold. I share this because THAT’s how much it means to me to do them AND I love giving them as much as receiving them.
Find time for a date.
Say what? A date? In quarantine? Yes, a date. You and your partner need time and space for just the two of you. If you have kids, that’s a huge challenge during this time. And if it’s just the two of you, ALL you have is time together. ‘Date’ is really the important word here, not ‘time’.
A date is intentional. A date is special. A date is fun. A date is connection.
Co-existing in the same house is not intentional, it’s not special, isn’t necessarily fun and may or may not include connection.
So, how do you go on a date in your house? Here are some ideas:
Make the kids mac n cheese, then put on a movie for them (send them to their room and/or put them to bed – whatever is age appropriate) and then you open a bottle of wine, cook and eat a nice adult dinner together. This is one of our favorites because we both love to cook, the wine helps us relax and we often have silly and or super-creative conversations after a bottle of wine! We have music on in the background so sometimes we’ll dance (fast or slow) while we are waiting for food to cook. Best of all, it’s all the “date” things rolled into one date: intentional, special, fun and connection.
Pop some popcorn and find an old-school comedy to watch. Cuddle on the couch. You remember how to laugh, right?! You remember how to cuddle, right?! This isn’t just sitting close enough on the couch that you both can reach the same popcorn bowl, but really cuddle, up close, under the same blanket.
Crank up some dance music, whatever your flavor, and shake it. Even if you’re terrible, it’s just about having fun. We often forget how to be silly with each other, and there is no safer place to practice silliness than at home.
Play a game: a board game, a video game, a card game. Austin and I play Mario Cart. I lose evvvvvery time. I don’t care. We laugh. We have fun. He finds it amusing when I cuss and curse at the TV and my driver and the bad car I pick every time. For some reason, this is so much fun!
Grab a coffee or milkshake through a drive through and just go for a long drive. Talk about the things you can’t wait to do when we are free to roam again. Dream about how you want things to be in your “new normal”. They can be big or little, silly or serious.
Dream together. Set goals together. Co-create together.
Actually, this last date idea is so good, I’m going to make it a tip. While I’m all about living in the present, take a look at your life – your job, your family, your relationship, and talk about what’s working and what’s not, and then talk about how you can create more of or less of what you want in your future life.
Did anything show up in your lives during the pandemic that you want to keep or get rid of?
What are you looking forward to when we get past quarantine?
Which vacations do you want to take?
Which goals do you want to go after?
What do you want more of in your relationship? What do you want less of? (Do this for career, parenting, friendships etc)
Can you ask your boss if you could work from home a day or two or three going forward to keep stress lower, save commute time, increase productivity (so you can work less)?
Take some time to share, talk, dream about you want out of life and what’s possible for both of you! Sometimes these conversations seem “pie in the sky” or too “fru fru” under normal circumstances, but our world is changing, our lives have been altered and this might be a great opportunity to dream those dream and see new possibilities for you, your family and relationship.
Take some time for yourself. Alone.
Perhaps it’s a walk.
Perhaps it’s a drive to Starbucks (the wait is a good 30 minutes or so at our local Starbucks).
Perhaps it’s locking yourself in the bedroom for an hour to read.
Perhaps it’s a long, hot bath or shower.
Perhaps it’s getting up a little earlier than everyone else for a cup of coffee and listening to the birds and the quiet of the house.
It’s really OK to take time for yourself. It’s actually really healthy for you to take time for yourself. You may already know this for yourself.
However, some of you may not think you need alone time because you didn’t do these things for yourself before the pandemic. Here’s what you may not realize: You may not realize that you DID have some alone time, but it looked like a commute to/from work or it may have been the time before all the kids got home from practice while you were starting dinner.
Whether you think you need it or not, TAKE IT! Even if you think you’re fine, take it now as a pro-active step to take care of your relationship. Don’t wait until you feel stifled and overwhelmed with being with the same people 24/7 and then get crabby and frustrated. This is to help prevent that resentment from creeping into your relationship.
Remember your partner is not your punching bag.
When you do become frustrated with your partner, take a deep breath and a pause. Ask yourself “is this is something that would have frustrated/bothered/upset me before the pandemic?” It’s just a place to notice if you might be taking our your stress, your fears, your boredom, anxiety and any other negative emotion you might be feeling out on your partner. Perhaps what you really need is a hug, or a break, a venting session or a shoulder to cry on. It’s so easy and very normal to take our feelings out on the people we love the most. For us women, many of us already subject our partners to this on a monthly basis! Hehe! Let’s not add even more of this. It’s really about taking a moment to get in touch with our feelings and respect our partner.
Make a gratitude list
Austin and I had been dating for a year when I broke up with him. I broke up with him because he wasn’t perfect. Yup, I did that. Well, a year later I asked if he’d be willing to give me another chance. What happened during that year that changed my mind?
Gratitude. It didn’t exactly show up like that, but ultimately, that’s what it was.
I spent the year away from him not getting over him, but realizing all the things I missed about him. I quickly realized that the list of all the wonderful things about him was pages and pages longer than the very short list of his imperfections.
It really was all about what I chose to focus on. When I focused on the imperfections, I only saw the imperfections and all the wonderful things faded into the background. When I focused on the good, the negative faded into the background. Choose wisely what you focus on.
I highly suggest starting and keeping a running list of all the things you love and appreciate about your partner. There will be big things that will come to mind right away, but then throughout the next days, weeks and maybe even months, you’ll see all the little things that are really important. When you’re struggling in your relationship and your focus has shifted away from the good, go back to that list.
If you feel compelled, share that list with your partner to let them know what matters to you, what is meaningful to you and what you appreciate about them. Not only will that make them feel appreciated and valued, but they will have an idea of what to keep doing that is valued by you!
Get to know your partner all over again.
We are busy. We used to be busy and we certainly will be busy again. The obligations and responsibilities of day-to-day life bogged us down. We went through the motions and did what needed to get done to take care of everyone else. In this type of life, we often take our romantic partnership for granted. We assume that the other person is able to care of themselves, that they will ask for help and support if they need it, and there are others who need us even more, like our children, our bosses and our aging parents. We lose connection with our partner. We just co-exist in the same space and our relationship falls to the bottom of the priority list, if not completely off of it.
Ultimately, here’s what happens: All those seemingly simple and basic day to day experiences change us.
You change. Your partner changes. Your life circumstances change. Which means…your relationship changes.
It usually happens in little, tiny ways and it sneaks up on us. It’s totally normal. Sometimes we feel so lonely, even when we are in a relationship. We lay in bed thinking “I don’t even know that person lying next to me.”
Here is your opportunity. You know you’d love to have the feelings of love and passion and excitement and adventure back. You want to feel connected to your partner again. The opportunity is to simply acknowledge so much has changed for each of you and to commit to getting to know each other again.
Here’s how to do that: Pretend you don’t know this person you are living with, and get curious. Ask questions. Pay attention to what they are saying, what they are doing. Maybe it starts with simple things like: What’s your favorite movie, your favorite music artist? (and then watch it, or listen to it together) Maybe learn how your partner takes their coffee.
This is NOT a test of how well you know each other. This is not something to get right or wrong, pass or fail.
This is a game, a way to play with each other. A way to see each other in a new light.
Ask each other things like:
What is the chore you despise the most? And the chore you mind the least?
If we had 24 hours to do anything, what would you like to do?
What do you love most about our home?
If you could only eat one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
These are simple questions. Some will give insight and some are just fun to know. The idea is to start with little things to pave the way for deeper conversations and connection.
Building connection is often like building a muscle….it takes practice and time. You just don’t go and lift a #100 dumbbell. You start with a #10 for a little while and work your way up to #12, then #15, then #20 and so on. And once you get strong, you need to keep working it to stay strong. Staying connected is always something you’ll always have to practice, to consistently do to keep a strong relationship, but it stops being so hard and is actually something that makes you feel oh so good! And what better time to start practicing than now.
Flirt. Play. Show affection to your partner.
Yup, smack that ass. Grab their hand. Kiss the back of their neck.
Look, while we know we are safer at home, sometimes it does feel like we are stuck at home. However, you get to choose how you handle it. You can be doom and gloom and all negative about it, or you can choose to make it light and playful.
And yes, we often want (and wait for) our partner to do those things to and for us, but here’s the truth bomb. If YOU want that from your partner, and aren’t getting it, it probably means your partner ALSO wants it (because, hey, we’re human) and isn’t getting it either. So right now, if neither of you are willing to give it and neither of you are getting it, it means you’re in a stalemate and both of you are losing.
So, you can wish for your partner to step up and flirt and play with you until the quarantine is over, and maybe even longer, but let’s reality check. Think about how hard it is for you to change yourself. Usually pretty hard, right? Now think about wanting to change your partner. Doesn’t usually work, especially not in the long run.
But what DOES work? Inspiration. I’m telling you, inspiring your partner will work wonders. What does that mean? It means when YOU start to hold his/her hand, smack the booty with a towel, wrap your arms around them or really kiss them, they most likely will be inspired to do those types of things in return. Win-win. Was that really so hard?
Get naked together.
Maybe this is already happening way more than pre-pandemic times because well, what else are you gonna do? If so, that’s awesome!
But perhaps it’s the boredom itself that has you feeling “meh” about this. Every day is the same as the last one. Nothing exciting. You’re in a rut and a routine. Maybe you’re already in a frustrated place with your partner being with them 24/7.
Please, please, please don’t wait until everything is “fine” or “back to normal” in your relationship to have sex. Now, don’t go having sex out of an obligation or because I told you to. But when you CHOOSE it as a way to connect with your partner, an opportunity to have fun, and you choose to put your frustrations to the side for the time being, there is so much gold in sex. Sex releases endorphins! Sex relieves stress! Who doesn’t need more of THAT right now? So while perhaps not so romantic to think of it this way, sex is actually the tool to let go of frustrations and stress and to increase connection and intimacy.
I hope you found at least a nugget or two of wisdom or reminders in these pages. I realize that some of these ideas sound simple in theory but are difficult to execute. If you’d like some support, I’m here for you. Just send me a email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can set up a time to talk. If you’re so inclined, I’d also love and appreciate feedback if you found this helpful (or not) and what was most valuable to you. Feel free to send me an email or drop at note on my website at forloveofyou.com
Wishing you a life filled with all the abundance, love and adventure you desire!