How To Survive Quarantine with Your Partner
With so many folks stuck in isolation with their loved ones, love is being tested. A recent statistic out of China noted that divorce rates are increasing post-quarantine. It has been suggested that the same outcome can be anticipated in North America where the divorce rate is already close to 40%-50%. Learn how to survive quarantine with your partner while in self-isolation to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and divorce rates.
Manage your Own Self-Care and Well-Being
It goes without saying that when you feel stressed, you will naturally feel more irritable and less patient. This is the perfect opportunity for minor annoyances to become large arguments or turn into bickering matches. Take time to take care of yourself during the coronavirus pandemic. This might mean that you spend time alone, do activities solo that you might typically do with your partner, and give one another breaks from regular responsibilities like childminding.
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
John Gottman talks about embracing an “us versus them” attitude with your partner. In isolation, this can look like giving your partner the benefit of the doubt that 1) they don’t intend to be mean, and 2) they don’t want to fight. We already have a shorter fuse from stress, you can avoid extra relationship stress during with this idea in mind.
Acknowledge your differences and recognize that quarantine will amplify your differences. Introverted and extroverted partners might be clashing more at home. In our regular schedules, time at work, with friends and spending time with hobbies meets our needs outside of the relationship, and we can’t do a lot of these activities right now. Adjust your expectations of your partner, and find creative ways to meet your own needs.
Problematic areas in your relationship before COVID-19 are going to be amplified now. We know from research that financial disagreements are a common problem. Many couples are experiencing increased financial stress right now. Other common areas of disagreement among couples are sex, electronic distraction, chores and parenting. The good news is that these are solvable problems. The bad news is that quarantine might not be the time to solve these problems.
Put big arguments on hold. There is less room to calm down and process right now, which leaves more room for big arguments to last for longer. The phrase “choose your battles wisely” comes to mind. This can help to take perspective when an disagreement pops up. Recognize your partner’s irritation/frustration signals and respect them. We're more irritable because of increased stress and uncertainty. In turn, mundane and even trivial conversation topics can become triggering. Take a break from conversations that seem to spark irritation or frustration.
Increase Fondness and Admiration for Your Partner
It can be easy to let annoyances and frustration lead to dehumanizing your partner in some small way. Following the Gottman principle of Fondness and Admiration, show compassion to your partner for how challenging this time is. Don’t assume that your partner is feeling the same way as you. Because of personality differences, you might have very different experiences. Show gratitude to your partner for the efforts they‘re making in the home and how they are adapting to the changes that have happened.
Turn Towards Your Partner
The Gottman principle of Turning Towards describes opportunities to connect positively with your partner. Instead of assuming your partner will collaborate or help with a task, invite them by asking for help or ideas. Take time to check in during the day. Use the "love tank" check in. This comes from the 5 Love Languages, and is a way to measure your feelings of closeness for your partner. Simply ask your partner, “where is your love tank at?” Zero means empty, 2 to 3 means low, 5 means room for improvement, 7 to 8 is quite full, and 10 is completely satisfied. Whatever score your partner gives, ask what you can do to increase the love tank. The other partner must, to the best of their ability, give a specific activity or behaviour that can increase the love tank rating.
Stress Reducing Conversation
A “stress reducing conversation” where you listen, emphasize, don’t interrupt and avoid problem-solving can create warmness and closeness in your relationship. In the stress reducing conversation, each partner takes 15 uninterrupted minutes to talk about their day went, what's on their mind, and how they're feeling. The idea is to reduce stress, so avoiding conflict topics is essential. If bickering begins, take a break to avoid flooding. The nature of a good break is taking 20 minutes to do an enjoyable activity in another area of the home, or outside of the home if one partner chooses to go out. It’s essential that you communicate to your partner when you need to take a break. Simply leaving the room is more likely to escalate the conversation than saying, “honey, I need to pause. Let’s continue this conversation after dinner.”
Negotiate how to manage creating separate spaces in the living areas of your home. Set boundaries to reduce interruptions in your day. For example, maybe the dining table has become the workstation. Or the den or office area is a place to work or enjoy quiet activities if you aren’t working. Communicate rules for the spaces to your partner and other members in your family to keep tensions low.
Set a Family Routine with Your Partner
For some folks, every member of the family is home at the same time, either working or not working. Having set meal times, wake and bedtimes can be helpful to keep a routine established. Set expectations, roles and goals for the family. The house might be messy more often, so make a cleaning schedule. Give age-appropriate responsibilities to kids to lighten everyone’s workload on house chores. If appropriate, involve the kids in activities like cooking, doing the dishes, cleaning and laundry. Designate an area of the home for chilling out. For example, if the kids get heated and start to argue or fight, have a designated area of the home where they can go at separate times to relax and cool off.
Keep a Date Night
The idea of a date night is to spend intentional quality time with your partner every week. This is so easy to overlook even before the pandemic, so now is a great time to implement this if you don’t already have a date night. Change out of your sweats and comfy clothes to break the typical routine of watching TV or spending time on devices to create space for you and your partner to connect. Be intentional to make it special. Turn off your phones and get out of your regular daily routine. Use your creativity to make the most of your date night. Here are some fun ideas:
- Pitch a tent in the yard or make a blanket fort
- Have an indoor picnic
- Challenge one another to a cook off using all the ingredients found in your cupboards
- Play a fun question game like the Gottman Card Decks app
- Start a book club and read together or read to one another
- Trade massages
Let your love languages guide you for your date night activities. Injecting touch into your day is another way to keep connected to your partner in a positive way.
For Better or Worse...Sometimes
Creative solutions can help you work through relationship problems during isolation and quarantine. Here are some examples:
- Listen to a couples podcast
- Read a couples book together
- Start couples therapy
- Join an online couples workshop or group
I’m facilitating an 8-week online couples workshop based on John Gottman‘s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work beginning later this month, on May 24.
If you’re in a difficult spot in your relationship, reach out to emotional and social supports to help decrease your stress. Knowing when to contact a professional can help you work through your challenges individually as well. The coronavirus pandemic has had a fatal impact on the globe and on our daily lives. It doesn’t have to take down our relationships, too.
Seeking some mental health support?
Schedule your first counselling session today.