For many couples, lockdown has catapulted them into greater closeness than most ever imagined. You may both still be working outside the home or in far-flung corners of the kitchen, but social isolation means that some relationships are currently 24/7, which can be a challenge however much you love each other. Pre-corona problems haven’t vanished to accommodate new anxieties around health and employment. Money, even if it’s still coming in, can’t buy you much in the way of indulgent distraction and external stimulus: holidays, dinners, and all those outings we usually take for granted are now off the agenda. Couples are forced to find new rhythms and new levels of communication, closeness and co-operation. This strange new world requires adjustment and adaptability – and sadly you can’t order those on Amazon Prime.
So how can you maximise togetherness during this time in isolation and come out of the other end closer than ever? Here, we’ve outlined our wellbeing tips for couples during lockdown:
Embrace the pace
This is an opportunity to re-connect at a slower pace, enjoying more time to talk. Listen to each other, really actively opening your mind and heart to what the other one is saying. Use the slower pace to focus on bonding rather than being dismissive or cutting your partner short so you can put your own point of view.
Go gently on the complaints
You may be seeing more annoying little habits. It is not normal for couples to be together as often as we are now, so try to see your partner’s point of view, and think through your response before you retaliate with criticism. If you can’t help yourself from getting annoyed, then set some ground rules of what you expect from each other and come to compromises over the things that are getting to you. Remember that your partner is also going through this tough time the same as you are and may not be feeling themselves. Try to take a few breathes and think your response through before snapping back.
Try to create closer connection
Marital therapist, John Gottman, suggests exchanging ‘bids’ to encourage togetherness. Your partner offers to chose what to watch on Netflix one evening. Bid back later by suggesting a new walking route. Be curious, not dismissive of the other’s attempt to share. Introduce a surprise. Spurning the bid (and we’ve all done it) feels like a small rejection. Agreeing to Monopoly when you’d rather not, could do wonders for your relationship and bring you closer than ever. In the Covid-19 lockdown, connection is what we need most.
Make future plans
Write separate lists of the dreams you’d like to realise when the lockdown is lifted. Check that your goals are still in line with each other. How many dreams do you share and can you create a combined list? If the freedom from office life and a grim commute makes you reconsider your work-life balance, use this time to rehearse how a different life and different routines after lockdown might benefit you both.
Enjoy the moment
You can plan for the future but NOW is the only moment you can actually live, so embrace it fully as a couple. Appreciate moments of unexpected laughter, do a joint online workout class or cook something new side by side. Waking up well together, without a train to catch, can in itself be a bounty – but only if you pause to share it.
Try to avoid aggression
The current quarantine has unfortunately seen a surge in domestic violence. Don’t let mismanaged anger make you a statistic in these exceptionally stressful times. By all means have a productive argument, but if the mood escalates, call time and agree to talk about the matter again when you have both calmed down. There’s zero tolerance for violence, and that includes a shove or a grab.
If you have been affected by domestic violence, help is available via these organisations:
Both can be contacted on this 24 hour helpline: 0808 2000 247
Remember that you can also contact the police.
Alcohol can fuel a fight, especially if you’re drinking more than usual. Drink your pint or your Pinot to enjoy, not to blot out the blues. If you do need support for alcohol related issues, visit: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-support-services/
Relate-trained counsellors at krysallis are skilled in renewing and refreshing couple communication and intimacy. We can help you to remember why you got together in the first place and how you can rekindle the spark. If the lockdown has highlighted issues you didn’t realise were there, or you think now is the best time to focus on couples therapy, we have counsellors on hand to help you. If parting is inevitable, we can help you to do this with minimum bitterness and hostility. Contact us here.