How to protect your relationship during COVID-19

April 7, 2020

The other day, I dared to venture out to the grocery store. Amongst other basic staples, I bought some beautiful tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. I envisioned preparing a lovely sliced tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh basil from our garden for our family for dinner that night. Wanting to do me a favour, my husband decided to prepare the meal. He cubed the tomatoes and mozzarella instead of slicing them. I became stupidly frustrated with him and actually took him to task because it wasn’t what I had in mind. How daft is that?

Tiffs like that lead to many other equally non-sensical ones in times of unusual stress, and before you know it, you and your loved one are constantly at one another for the silliest things.

Are you feeling rather unsettled these days, to say the least? Do you find that you’re uncharacteristically short-tempered with your partner lately?

Here are some suggestions of how you can inoculate your relationship from the potentially damaging effects of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Our significant other’s personal habits have likely never been as irritating to us as they are now that we are confined together almost around the clock.

If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole, again and again, break the cycle by calling a time out on yourself. Say to your partner that you need to take a few minutes to calm down, then leave the room or go for a walk. Remember to come back and finish the conversation. Don’t just sweep it under the carpet as it will fester and erupt again later.

Recognize and acknowledge to one another that you are living an experience none of us has ever had before. You are bound to botch things up at first. Give each other time to figure this out, to find your stride again.

Be willing to take personal responsibility and ensure that feedback to your partner is constructive, not destructive.

Look for new and creative ways to connect rather than pounce on one another for every little peccadillo. Practice the Rule of Four – say four good things about your partner for every negative comment.

Don’t be afraid of conflict

Conflict is actually a subconscious way of creating a connection. Conflict can also be beneficial to a relationship, as counterintuitive as that may sound. It gives partners the opportunity to learn about themselves and one another, as well as to learn how to compromise. Conflict is part of a healthy relationship if managed well. It does not mean losing the plot on your partner and slinging an unending string of demeaning superlatives at them. It means being ok with differences of opinion and expressing emotion responsibly, speaking with “I” statements without hurtful accusations.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

For many of us, during tense times like these, we either lash out or shut down. Either way, our communication skills can become rather pitiful. So instead of chewing one another out or shutting one another out, work on consciously staying open to one another. Ask lots of curious questions to find out what your partner is really feeling and thinking.

And let your partner know what you need. If you don’t know what that is, which in these uncertain times is quite common, then share that with your partner as well.

Genuine, open, clear communication helps us stay grounded and be less afraid.

Practice active listening skills. Acknowledge what your partner is saying by paraphrasing what they’ve said back to them. This helps your partner feel heard and shows that you are making an effort to understand them.

All of this applies even if you and your partner are quarantined in separate homes. Schedule a time to connect via video chat every day. Share meals. Go on virtual dates. Use this time to get to know one another even better. Have fun asking each other questions like “Would you ever…?” and “Would you rather…?”.

Be kind, caring, and compassionate

Commit to one another that you are going to be patient with one another. Go out of your way to be kind to each other, even if at times you don’t feel like it. Give your significant other the benefit of the doubt.

Tell your partner every day what you admire about them and what you’re grateful for. Look for every opportunity to do kind things for your partner, no matter how small, and to make them feel valued.

Remember that we all deal with stress differently and that this pandemic is an experience none of us has had before. Know that your partner will do things that you don’t like and that upset you, and remember that you have a choice in how you react.

Be physical

If you are living with your partner, touch one another often – physical touch is a powerful stress reliever. Take turns giving each other massages. Engage in extended foreplay. Explore one another’s fantasies. Get creative. Have fun. Sex helps you unwind, and it releases bonding hormones that help maintain a strong, positive connection with your partner.

Take time for yourself

Time alone is as critical to everyone’s mental and physical well-being as time together. If you and your partner are isolated in the same home, make sure to balance togetherness and closeness with time to yourself and self-care.

Create a routine

If you and/or your partner are working from home, it is essential for both of you to establish a daily routine – get up at the same time every day, get ready for work (even if you’re working from home), take regular breaks during the day, stop working at a regular time, have dinner together, make time to talk and connect, exercise daily, and have your agreed upon alone time.

Remember, we are all in this together. This is the time to lean into our close relationships, to be there for one another, and to grow together. Take this unprecedented time in our history to transform your relationships for the good.

Are you and your partner on the same page?