The novel virus, COVID-19, has ushered in a novel way of life for couples and families. Stay-at-home orders across the country have yielded unprecedented amounts of time for togetherness for most. With this new-found abundance of time, there is a multitude of challenges to embrace. From balancing work from home schedules with household-child care duties to battling feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness or isolation. It is sufficed to say, 2020 is a year of uncertainty.
One thing remains clear: this is a period where navigating relationships is key; moreover, this is a period to strengthen valued relationships. For couples, it is a unique opportunity to either reconnect or move their relationship to a more intimate threshold. This may sound like an easy feat but let’s face reality: a quarantine-lifestyle with even your most favorite person is bound to drudge up some feelings of annoyance, dislike, or just plain disdain. Whatever your experience, if you and your partner wish to reconnect and thrive during this time, consider the following pointers to nurture the flame in your relationship.
- Emotional check ins. It is important not to underestimate the power of asking your partner how he/she/they are doing today. Intentionally asking your partner about their feelings sends several messages. For starters, you are indicating that despite the day-to-day stressors, you sincerely care. It is as if you are signaling to your partner that communication lines are open. Further, you have set the stage for intentional bonding. A simple five-minute conversation about bubbling emotions is a great segue to fostering feelings of emotional intimacy. This may not sound like a thrilling romance novel moment but emotional intimacy is a strong foundation to build upon.
- Create space to miss and/or appreciate your partner. I get it. You are most likely thinking: ‘What do you mean I need to miss my partner!?’ Yes, I realize you probably see or hear your partner pretty much every waking minute of the day. But let us explore a different perspective. Even though, you are ordered to be home with your partner for an unforeseeable future, you are most likely not physically with your partner in every single room of your home, every minute of the day. You also are most likely entertaining different work schedules and busying yourselves with daily tasks to keep the homestead up and running. In all honestly, you are NOT truly with your partner 24/7. Try to pause and notice this. Use the times of separation to remember the things that you actually like or adore about your partner. For instance, the little snort when he/she/they laughs. Remember and appreciate the time your partner insisted on picking up the groceries because he/she/they did not want you to be unnecessarily exposed in public. Maybe your partner cooks dinner and makes you eat when you are having a down day with your depression. Perhaps your partner endures a Netflix binge with you. There are many simple moments, gestures, nonverbal cues that speak volumes about how your partner cares for you. Take time to pause, reflect, and appreciate in the moments of their absence.
- Intimate expressions. A simple gesture goes a long way in communicating feelings. Consider using the time together at home to rekindle feelings with small sentimental gestures. For example, when your partner is in the other room send a random text message. It could be an inside joke, a simple ‘I love you’, or even acknowledgement of how good looking they are today —followed by a winky face. Another cute expression could be to play the first song you ever danced to as a couple while making a meal together. Hand written notes left around the home are also a thoughtful surprise. Maybe order in a meal from your partner’s favorite restaurant as another unanticipated gesture. As long as it comes from the heart, you cannot go wrong.
- Create distraction free periods. Let me start this section by acknowledging the obvious: home isolation means communication with the outside world is critical; however, there is a fine line between necessary media/social media consumption and overexposure. It is important to be mindful of device usage and how often you and your partner engage in other means of distractions. It is possible that constant video chatting with family and friends, Netflix binges, gaming, and/or other hobby indulges are ways to cope with what is going on in the world. Are you using any of your time to connect with your partner? Instead of co-habitating during this time, actively engage in activities together at least once a week. It could be immensely beneficial to fostering and solidifying your bond. Some examples of bonding activities could be planning and cooking a meal together, looking through old photos, co-organizing a cluttered room in your home. The activity could even be as simple as you and your partner sharing an interruption free conversation in a comfortable setting in your home (i.e., backyard patio). Make the activity a phone-free zone. Whatever you and your partner choose, be sure that it fosters meaningful interaction.
- Date nights in a box! You and your partner are no longer able to get glammed up and hit the town, but you can still have a date night; glam optional! Consider signing up for a boxed date subscription. A well-planned date is mailed directly to your front door for you and your partner to enjoy in the comfort/privacy of your home. When I conducted a recent online search, I found a date night box for nearly every interest: wine tasting, crafts, cocktail crafting, games, puzzles, cooking, and more! If you and your partner have a particular interest, rest assured, there is probably a date night box for the both of you to enjoy. Many of the companies that create these boxes consulted marriage and family therapists and so in many cases, box themes are designed to generate connection and bonding. If this is of interest to you, I strongly encourage you to check it out!
For questions or if you are seeking support in improving your marriage or relationship during this time, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714. Telehealth services are available.