Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and who knows how many weeks or months of quarantine you have spent with your partner. This is an adjustment we are all learning to cope with as community regulations are continuously changing.
While some couples are cherishing this newfound opportunity for connection and finding a way to thrive in it, most relationships are struggling with adapting — and just plain surviving. Your relationship could be a little bit of both scenarios.
More time together may be fostering more opportunities for connection — but perhaps it isn’t feeling like quality connection. Without quality connection with our partner, we feel like we are floundering.
So how do you move your quarantined relationship from surviving to thriving within the realistic confines of a pandemic?
You find a way to get “unstuck.”
1. Develop a routine to build connection and make interactions meaningful
You’re probably thinking, “how do I this?” or “what does this even mean?” Well, you’re in the right place.
It is easy to get into a rut of doing the same things every day, almost as if you’re on autopilot, but where is the enjoyment in that? The first step to combatting autopilot is to identify it and become aware of what it looks like in your life. It could feel like you are going through your daily life with no emotion. It may just feel like you are a robot completing tasks by muscle memory while lacking thoughts on the activity.
Instead of moving on with life just going through the motions, find ways to be intentional about your actions to avoid autopilot. Intentionally interacting with your partner may help alleviate some of the negative feelings that come with spending all day every day together.
By being intentional, you are bringing your focus to the here and now and interacting with purpose. Being purposeful and intentional might look like putting your phone down and being involved in the conversation rather than mindlessly scrolling. Or it could look like creating routine (even just small moments of ritual) that create purpose in your daily life
Studies show that incorporating routines and rituals into your daily life provides the space for all family members to enhance emotional stability in their home life. Routines have been found to allow children to feel supported when expressing themselves and it increases their mental and physical well-being.
Not only do routines and rituals create a comfortable environment for all members of the household, but they allow the family to come together to find shared meaning in family activities and make memories that could last a lifetime.
Making the interactions memorable may take some creativity, but you have the ability to make your relationships stronger.
Sure, you’ve probably been living your life in some sort of routine up until this year, but as the situation changes, your routine may benefit from some updating. You may no longer get your alone time when your partner leaves for work and the kids go to school or maybe you’re missing out on intimate partner time.
Whatever the case may be, creativity could help refresh that old routine that no longer seems to be working. Something as simple as taking a car ride together could be meaningful by decreasing distractions and increasing room for conversations.
The cool thing about building new routines is that they don’t have to be huge changes. The tiniest of changes can make a big difference.
Here are some ideas you could incorporate into your routine to find new ways to connect daily:
- Discuss day plans and things you look forward to over coffee in the morning
- Have dinner together to reflect on your day in the evening — what was good, what could have been better, and how you may change it tomorrow
- Talk about something that brings excitement
- Begin a new TV series together
- Make a new recipe together once a week
- Take turns choosing what is for dinner and make an in home date night once a week
- Talk about your dreams together and determine how you could make them come true
- Go for a walk the same time each day
- Identify 3 things you are grateful for every night before you fall asleep, make it a habit
- Read a book as a family during bedtime
- Designate 10-20 minutes a day for family play time — no phones, iPads, or TV allowed
Even though these scheduled interactions may take away from the spontaneity, they are ensuring that you are still putting effort into the relationship when you feel like you’re in a rut.
Building a routine is a great way to not only reconnect with your partner, but it also provides a sense of structure. This could be modeling structure for children in the house or even serving as a way to decrease symptoms of depression that may arise when you feel like you are in a rut.
The routine should be a small way to bring joy and something to look forward to each day.
2. Take space for yourself
Just because you are at home together all the time does not mean you have to spend every minute together.
By taking the time for yourself, you are giving yourself an opportunity to recharge and reset.
Though it may be tough with little ones around or in a small living area, it is important that you make that time to maintain emotional stability. (Remember, everyone responds to parenthood stress differently.)
Make a schedule with your partner outlining who gets alone time and when. Follow that structure and respect your partner’s alone time.
Do something that feels right for you and creates joy in your scheduled time. Jessie Duniphin recently wrote an article that explores ways to create joy in times of stress. You can pick up new hobbies that bring joy to your life, workout, take a bath or a nap, or even just sit in your car and scream. No matter how you choose to spend your alone time, at least take it.
Taking a break does not mean you do not love your partner, it means that you love yourself enough to allow yourself time to focus on you.
It may even mean you love your partner more because you are willing to take the time to handle your emotions during a time when irritability and frustration is at an all time high.
Lastly, the foundation of the previously recommended tips and quite possibly the most important part of a relationship…
3. Communicate with your partner
I don’t mean just talking about surface level topics, I mean truly get into some real conversations.
Talk about your feelings with your partner, provide space for your partner to do the same. A great way to check if your partner is ready for deeper communication is to ask your partner “do you have time and emotional energy to talk right now?” If the partner says yes, then get started! If they say no, respect their response and maybe try asking “can we schedule a time to connect?”
Speaking this way and asking questions like this may feel uncomfortable or awkward at first, but over time you can develop your own wording that works the same way.
Another beneficial way to communicate with your partner is to talk about the good characteristics they portray and show your gratitude.
Sure, a lot of times you may feel frustrated and placing blame on another person can just happen naturally, but how does that tension help the relationship?
Hint: it doesn’t.
And hey, maybe by setting time to highlight the characteristics you appreciate about your partner, you will develop a habit of picking up on the good things that have been overlooked or under appreciated in the past. Make showing gratitude fun by incorporating playfulness into your conversation style. After all, conversation is allowed to be fun!
Communication is not only important for strengthening the relationship, but it plays a significant role in being able to relate and build connection. And don’t worry if you say the wrong thing sometimes.
By enhancing conversation between you and your partner, you may find that in a world where everyone feels alone and misunderstood, you may actually be closer than ever.
When you are feeling stuck, a significant, but somewhat uncomfortable, step is to schedule time to make enhancing your relationship a top priority. COVID-19 has already ruined so many lives, don’t let it ruin your relationship.
If you’re having a hard time getting “unstuck” on your own, couples counseling is a great way to find support, new ideas, and a fresh perspective. Move your quarantined relationship from surviving to thriving with an appointment with Carlye.
Author’s favorite relationship strengthening phone application: Gottman Card Decks.