Humans have evolved into die-hard cohabiting partners. We naturally seek long-term relationships as love is etched into the human psyche. But were we meant to be cooped up together in a quarantine? I think not. That’s the key to the answer, we are not in a normal situation. But can we survive togetherness? Of course we can.
That said, let’s review 5 tips to survive quarantine with your partner and reduce the blasted disharmony that doesn’t belong there any more than the pandemic itself!
What happens now that couples find themselves stuck at home together? Some with children, teens, babies.
If you’re finding this article interesting, let me warn you. I’m writing it as if I’m speaking to clients. I don’t care about keywords or search engine optimization of strategically placing 16 key phrases throughout the article. Meaning, I’ll be giving you a lot of examples and lists, but as well, it will go nowhere, as Google search will most likely spit it out. So, if you enjoy this article, please tell a friend, share it on social media if you will. Call me a rebel, but my site is for my clients and subscribers. And I do abide by the SEO techniques or I’d not be able to pay my bill, but sometimes I just want to speak with my readers. Thank you in advance for your support.
Surprised? Come on, how hard is a little cuddling? As a plus for science, which is on our side by the way. The indestructible human passion is real, we naturally are a pair-bonding species that develop love through interactions and the good old biological factor of neurotransmitters like oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine! So, hang on to these facts, because hormones and nature are on our side. We can in fact use them! Just touching turns on hormones that heal.
Is your spouse up at 3:00 a.m.? Is the house a mess when it typically isn’t? Do you wake up wondering what the hell you’re going to do today, but even more important, what about the future?
Dealing with relationship stress during the coronavirus quarantine has turned into relationships ending during coronavirus. How to keep your relationship healthy has become an important topic. How to overcome anxiety. How to relax!
The stress is real, face it, and ask yourself if you want to lose your partner or stand by while they feel upside down?
And remember even when the quarantine is lifted or lightened. The stress most likely will continue for a while. There are millions looking for work and millions that will need help. Be proud you take control.
Date night: Romance is an amazing drug. Set times to meet for a picnic on the balcony or bed. Open a nice bottle of wine for special moments. Talk, love, kiss, and during the romantic interlude that you are on your date time, do not talk about the coronavirus. Talk about why you love that person. What they do that is remarkable. Maybe they are an artist, a chef, a writer. Remember the good times. Laugh and love and balance the pain with some fun.
You should as well set aside time to discuss fears, problems, and issues affecting your family, but date-night is not the time to discuss business.
LISTENING & EDUCATING YOURSELF ON THE NEGATIVE BIAS
John says his wife can’t get out of bed on time, plus she’s grumpy all day, and he’s tired of her trivializing his lack of interest to keep up on daily updates. That he locks himself away in his office working and pretending nothing has changed.
John doesn’t want to hear any more news. It’s depressing, repeats itself and he’s tired of arguing about who’s telling the truth. The facts are, no one knows what’s really going on!
Negativity bias: the tendency to give more psychological weight to negative things than positive or neutral ones. We pay more attention to what can harm us. This explains the ever-growing need to see a lot more positive news on this pandemic. For every article on doom, we need multiple positive reports.
And for couples, according to John Gottman from the Gottman Insitute, and Robert Levenson, who studied the effects of negativity with couples, they suggest a ratio of 5:1, meaning for every negative encounter, there should be at least five positive ones to counterbalance the effects of the one.
Couples are not one size fits all of course. Some succumb to negativity much quicker than others, which under typical difficulties is a large threat to a relationship. So, the impact of the quarantine is a mountain on top of another.
Negative things have less impact on those who are confident as individuals.
I’ve noticed over the years that couples with higher levels of confidence and independence as individuals, could withstand the ups and downs of marital troubles much better than couples who struggled as individuals. I’m sure that’s not rocket science and most would assume it, but is there more?
Respect and trust, affection and attachment, are not jolted so easily for those who feel good about themselves. The grumpy moments that could turn into a fight, the anxiety that rises to emotional outbreaks, fear that builds during stressful moments, these factors are understood, forgiven, and taken less defensively by confident and independent people.
Notice that love is not a core component of staying calm during a crisis. This may come as shock to a lot of people – but love doesn’t make wise men appear, and confidence doesn’t need love.
Romance, passionate love, and marriage has a myriad of designs. And in these delicate times, treating your lover cautiously is only fair. It’s like an oil painting: in the early stages, the picture can be smeared, but as it matures it becomes less vulnerable.
So, is there a romance language that might help with the negativity pouring in daily? Yes. Consideration – not taking offense – understanding just how heavy the negative news is weighing on everyone -planing really nice date-nights of no coronavirus discussions!
TIP # 3
THE STRUGGLE OF CONFINEMENT NEEDS A PLAN
Coronavirus has disorganized our lives. I’m sure that is a no brainer. So, what do we do?
It’s our world’s new normal in the confines of a 1 bedroom New York City apartment. Or a house in a small village like mine, where no one comes to visit anymore. Many are out of work. The sounds of our children we usually don’t hear while we put strategic budgets in place for work. Zoom work that is. It’s feeling like you’re the Partridge family touring on a small bus! It’s suddenly having superpower hearing after weeks of not seeing another human being when your spouse’s breathing becomes that of Godzilla panting in an escape scene! It’s wanting to spend an hour in the bathroom and not be missed, or send the kids and spouse out for pizza so you can snag a break.
“Blame it on the walls closing in, lingering uncertainty, compelling desire to eat chocolate late at night, but don’t blame it on me I love my partner I just wish I didn’t have to see him/her today!” Sound familiar?
If it helps, most everyone is feeling it. So, if your mood surfing the waves of anxiety, boredom, or frustration, one of the ways to combat it is to create a plan with your partner.
- Go over a daily schedule. What do you want to accomplish each day?
- Who do you want involved? (The spouse, the partner, the kids, the dog?)
- Set a time with your partner to go over problems, fears, difficulties, and so on. And listen to each other without minimizing.
- Stay on a schedule, eat on time, set time to play with the kids. Routine makes a home feel safe.
- Rise happy in the morning. I read a lot about getting up early and at the same time daily. That really depends on your family. My son is 15 and I can sleep an extra hour if I worked late. But in our home it’s not sending the message that I’m depressed or bored. It just works for us. Set your schedule according to your personal needs, but do keep in mind, staying up all night when you never have before is a sign of troubles. And that maintaining the same routine you had prior to the quarantine can be best for a lot of people.
- Take walks.
- Make sure your work schedule is understood by the whole family. It’s very easy to take for granted that dad or mom is home, or that your partner now doesn’t go to work. Explain what you do and how you want to work. (Quiet, music, breaks, and etc.)
- Take time alone. Even if it’s a hot bath, a walk, a moment on the balcony with your coffee or tea. Set time aside to chat with your best friends. And let your partner and kids know this is your time.
- Take time to think about your partner and family. Are they acting normal? Do they need anything? Think it out.
TIP #4 & 5
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
I have a very intuitive client that wrote me. We’ll call her Sarah and him Richard. The client wrote detailed blows; week by week experiences between her now fiancé and boyfriend of eight years.
By the second week of quarantine strange bickering had begun. Shouting between either or both erupted. “Seriously? The ketchup is right there! How many times do I have to treat you like your five? I’m not your mother. And can you pick up your towel? I’m not your maid either! Must you talk that loud on your zoom calls? Where did you hide my book? I’m finding the dog a new home after the quarantine. You never take her out!”
By the seventh week of quarantine, the fundamentals of hygiene were questioned. One partner felt showering was crucial to keeping positive and healthy, the other skipped days with an explanation to conserve water in the case of a shortage. They stopped tidying the house and having meals together. She consumed herself in work while he played video games night and day or slept late. (He’d lost his job and found it hard to interview online.) They stopped talking.
Questions win wars, turn the prospects of history, save you money, and change lives. Sarah and Richard were nearing a break- up smack dab in the middle of the quarantine when they agreed to participate in a game.
Before they started their day they had to talk about positive things that brought them together? The idea was to ask questions they normally would not.
2ND TRUE STORY ON HOW THE RIGHT QUESTION CAN SAVE A RELATIONSHIP
This story is off track, but it shows how anxiety and tragedy are one and the same, regardless of a pandemic or a one-family event.
I knew a woman who loved her husband more than life itself. She was struggling through a personal and tragic situation when simultaneously cancer appeared on top of everything. Anxiety had risen to a threatening level and the couple stopped talking in a time they needed each other most.
He felt rejected, discarded in a woeful sense of emptiness and estrangement. Nothing is harder than when someone you love disregards your feelings. Or, you think they do. So, in his desperate need to be loved he stressed her with arguments about why she didn’t love him anymore, rather than see the big picture of what was happening to both of them.
His fear of losing her frightened her more than any experience she’d ever had because she didn’t understand why near him she felt alone, threatened and that his loneliness mattered more than her pain. She felt nothing for a while. That was part of the problem. Anxiety can occur in people who have no obvious stressors, or it can manifest without symptoms. She showed signs of being irrational but she didn’t talk about what it felt like to leave her 10-year old without a mom, or her husband. She couldn’t look him in the eyes and say, I might leave you for a box in the ground. So, when he panicked continually about her not loving him, she began to question if she did.
Her husband was offended by her isolation over being worried why. She took a trip while too sick to fly, she bought new wardrobes of great expense. She took pictures of herself in strange places, hundreds of them in the mirror as if looking for a reflection she’d recognized. She even wrote letters to an imaginary lover wanting to see if she could love another. It was ludicrous. She loved him more than life. And as odd as it is, she saw nothing of her action as odd, and without a doubt they were.
He nor anyone in the family saw her anxiety had risen to the level of dreadful harm, she kept hearing. “It will be okay.” These words to her were words of doom. For how could they know “it” was okay when the doctors did not. “It” was not what hurt her, “she” hurt in her mind. No one let “her” cry, or feel. No one asked questions about what she felt or acknowledged her pain to possibly leave the two people she loved the most. It wasn’t spoken about.
She wanted to hear, “It’s okay to feel fear, death, pain, worry, and uncertainty. When she drafted a last will and testament, she was laughed at. Of course, her family and spouse did it to protect her, telling her it was ridiculous that she was fine. But she didn’t feel that. Her husband acted as if everything was certain. The woman was so stressed she couldn’t do simple addition with her son for his homework. “Mom you can’t add?” When things like this happened she was quiet rather than speak about it.
The couple divorced. Perhaps the right questions wouldn’t have prevented a divorce, but they would have been fair and kind and wise. Love is supposed to be unconditional, but we are not trained for it until it’s too late.
The stress of coronavirus is real. It has ripped lives apart. It affects each differently. Lawrence D. Needleman, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Ohio State University Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic commented that Anxiety is a normal emotion that almost everyone feels. It’s when it persists, and interferes with important aspects of your life that it should be looked at.
The woman with cancer had a sign around every corner. Was she loved? Yes. But love is not the answer, it is the catalyst. The right questions and care are carried on the back of love. But love without the right caring tools, can end poorly.
Minimizing. no partner wants to feel their feeling, worries or concerns are trivial: “It’s nothing. Why are you acting like this is the end of the world?” Minimizing tells your partner that their feelings are not real and of course it leads to them thinking their feelings don’t matter to you.
Communication that helps, is when you learn to see past what you feel. What you think is right. Sarah learned that Richard was seriously depressed. Not showering was a sign of it, but all she saw was a lazy man and it irritated her until she took the time to asked the right questions:
“Just because you lost your job is no reason to fall apart!” Richard didn’t answer.
“It will be okay, everything is fine!” (Richard was overwhelmed. Hearing things were okay did little for him without talking about what he really felt.)
“And why are you not showering?” I don’t need to; why waste the water?
“But you stink and it’s not positive or encouraging to be around you.” I’ll shower when I’m ready.
“Do you not notice your hair looks terrible? No.
“All you do is play video games!” So. What else is there to do?
“Richard, what is really wrong? What are you feeling?
Sarah was exasperated, she had her own fears and worries. She was sick of everything and didn’t need an immature man acting like a child. But what she didn’t realize was that she had become very bossy, controlling, wanted everything her way, her order, her schedule.
They talked for hours until both were sick of talking but finally when Sarah began understanding that he was really in trouble, is when she listened.
“I’ll go if you like and give you space, but what you’re saying has made little sense, so I don’t feel you’ve told me what really bothers you. It’s not showering, and it’s not work.”
Richard did open up when she asked the right questions. They began walking together every day, that was all they both needed. To talk again. To need each other with unconditional love.
When someone acts differently and distant, these are a few questions that might help open up discussions. I’ve noticed that under anxiety, even extroverst will close up and not freely talk.
- What agitates you and why?
- What worries you the most and why?
- What do you feel when you’re restless?
- What would make it better?
- What is your biggest and smallest fear?
- Can I help lesson your fear?
- What do you see happening?
- What would you like to see happening?
- What’s the worst-case scenario?
- Do you see how even in the worst we will be okay? (Asking and not telling someone it’s okay is different.)
- Do you feel less of a person?
- Do you feel I don’t hear you, listen to you and how can I change that?
- Explain your fatigue in detail.
- Do you have trouble concentrating? If so why do you think it’s happening?
- Are you tense physically?
- Can I give you a massage?
- Are you having trouble falling asleep? What do you dream about?
- Would you like to try something new like meditation, prayer, singing?
- Do you feel panic inside? Why, when, and how often?
If your loved one feels any of the above list in excess, or no solutions are reached when you ask questions, then it’s possible they should be seen by a professional.
A CHEAT SHEET FOR SUCCESS
Couples remaining at home during the coronavirus pandemic can maintain healthier and happier relationships with these expert tips.
- Understand how stress is affecting you and your partner.
- Keep communication open and continuous.
- Date-night and special time set aside.
- Ask the right questions and see the big picture.
- Build your self-confidence: set aside time for building a better you.
- Don’t minimize.
- Take care of yourself.
- Make plans with your partner.
- Check-in with each other and listen.
- Allow yourself to feel, and validate your partner’s pain.
- Journal, write, color, draw, sketch, do anything artistic.
- Yoga or Meditation, and don’t forget to breathe deep periodically throughout the day.
- Eating a healthy diet: Diets high in vegetables and fruits. Only quality meats, lots of fish, nuts, and whole grains maintain overall health.
- Move your body, take walks, exercise it’s all know to lower anxiety and give the mind an overall boost.
- Seek other sources of connection
There is a light that comes upon you when that person you love is near. It’s blinding bright but soft in the night when love is near.
- Nature Review Neuroscience, Hasse Walum & Lary J. Young, The neural mechanisms and circuitry of the pair bond
- CollectiveHub -Bridget De Maine, HOW MANY GOOD EXPERIENCES FINALLY OUTWEIGH A BAD ONE?
- Healthline, Kristeen Cherney, The effects of anxiety on the body