Even if your relationship with your spouse or partner is rock solid, social isolation is enough to put any couple’s harmony at risk. Under normal circumstances, life’s distractions keep us too preoccupied to allow underlying issues to come to the surface for very long, but now, in a COVID-19 world, it’s impossible to escape the one you used to happily come home to. Because they’re home all the time, and so are you. And it’s getting to be a bit much, to be honest. What are some healthy ways to cope?
John Sheehan, CEO and President of Harbor, a mental health services facility in Toledo, has 10 tips on how to get through the quarantine with our relationships intact.
You need to stay active to clear your head and not go stir crazy. Consider finding something fun for you and your partner to do together, whether it’s a home yoga practice or throwing a frisbee around in the park.
2. Don’t drink excessively
Sure, having a drink can take the edge off, but it can also exacerbate communication problems and make things much worse within your relationship.
“Fear creates a lot of negative behaviors if it’s not dealt with in a healthy way,” Sheehan adds. “The fact that you can’t close liquor stores in this country without seeing a significant spike in domestic violence tells you something. That’s why they’re still open. A lot of people escape certain aspects of their life by going to a bar for a couple of hours, sometimes every day, and they don’t have that outlet anymore. They start drinking at home. That’s got a whole different set of problems with it.”
If you want to maintain a healthy relationship, don’t overdo it on the booze. Anyone who is struggling with substance abuse issues can make an appointment at Harbor for online counseling.
3. Keep it positive
It’s easy to get caught up in the morbid details of what’s happening all around us. While it’s important to stay informed, you want to keep the majority of your media consumption upbeat so that you feel positive about the future, not hopeless. Watch something funny or uplifting together to take the edge off.
4. Set a special date night
Just because you can’t do dinner and a movie doesn’t mean you can’t set aside a date night to do something special together. Maybe get dressed up and have a romantic candlelit dinner at home or learn ballroom dancing using YouTube tutorials. Get creative about keeping things fresh, even when you’re in the house together 24/7.
5. Don’t let it linger
When it comes to conflict in isolation, Sheehan advises that couples “fight fast and say you’re sorry fast.”
In a situation where you are stuck in the house together, the last thing you need is to have those conflicts festering.
6. Prioritize your “me time”
Get out of the house for a while to work in your garden, go for a long walk, take a long bath— whatever version of “me time” gives you peace— do that. The time you spend apart from your partner is a healthy and vital part of your relationship.
7. Talk to a therapist
Sometimes you just need to reach out for help when things get to be too much, and you don’t need to get to the brink of desperation to do that.
“Seeking counseling provides “unbiased feedback to help you make it through this in a healthy way,” Sheehan says. “It also helps to give you perspective and keep your mental health in check.”
8. Stay in touch with your network of friends
If you’re stuck at home with your partner, it is even more important to have human interaction with other people, even if it isn’t in person. You need to be able to feel connected to your community and your inner circle so you don’t rely solely on your partner for socializing and intellectual stimulation.
9. Establish boundaries “at work”
This one can be challenging, depending on your living space, but try your best to start a routine and create separate work domains.
“By saying ‘this is my workspace, this is your workspace,’ you almost ‘go to work’ during the day,” Sheehan points out. “Try to replicate it as closely as possible to your old life. I think that’s the way you do it.”
10. Take this time as an opportunity to work on your relationship
No one’s relationship is without flaws, and a pandemic is likely to bring out those nuggets of hurt and strife that have been lying dormant for years. But, on a positive note, this is also an opportunity.
“If you make it through this period of time, and you stay together through all of the stresses that you’re going to encounter in this situation, you’re going to test the strength of your relationship,” says Sheehan. “You’re going to come out with some doubts, but you’re also going to come out a lot stronger. We’re all in this together, and we have to take care of each other.”
Harbor, Inc. is still providing counseling during the COVID-19 crisis. Visit harbor.org to learn more about their services, which include online counseling for couples, families, and anyone who needs it. Harbor also helps those in financial need to find coverage, and they’ll even make sure you have access to the technology you need for online sessions. Call 419-475-4449 to make an appointment today.