7 ways to ensure your relationship weathers the Covid-19 lockdown storm.
Taking all relationships back to basics
It’s no surprise that negative impacts on relationships due to COVID-19 lockdown are significantly growing. Couples feel more stretched and stressed than ever before.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding lockdowns, homeschooling and job security is not helping. Many people feel depleted and apprehensive about the future. As a therapist who specialises in relationship therapy, I have received many emails and calls in recent weeks from concerned couples who are worried about the increased stressors their relationships are experiencing. While everyone’s situation is different and unique to them, there is one commonality. Lockdown is not a walk in the park. Especially considering a walk in a park is about all you can do to take time out these days.
Many couples are spending more time together than usual. While this can be a wonderful opportunity for reconnection and growth, it’s also led to higher conflict for many relationships. When stressors increase, communication often starts to break down. Which is not surprising given the overwhelming day-to-day changes households are experiencing.
Here are 7 proven strategies that you can use to strengthen and better equip your relationship as it continues to battle the COVID-19 storms.
Self–care is extremely important in maintaining healthy relationships. As Eleanor Brownn so aptly shares:
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Self-care has become more challenging due to higher demands placed on us and the inability to go out and socialise. We may not be able to manage our self-care how we would prefer to, but considering the lack of alternative options during this time it is vital for managing stress. It can also really help to have a conversation with your partner about how you can better support each other in attending to your individual self-care needs – eg: Take it in turns looking after the kids. Start by creating a plan and review it regularly. Consider what you are already doing and/or what ideas might be helpful to add to your self-care plans.
Remember, there are many different ways to practice self-care and your idea of downtime and /or relaxation might be different to someone else’s – and that’s okay!
Here are a few key suggestions:
- Try a new app or online program.
- Regular exercise – online or outdoor walk/run/ yoga – even just a few minutes a day can help.
- Practice meditation or relaxation – many options available online to download.
- Eat well – being mindful of nutrition.
- Create a healthy sleep routine
- Engage in supportive and positive relationships.
You can find more suggestions and information about creating a strong self-care routine in my blog here. Remember that by nurturing yourselves you will recharge your batteries, allowing you to both bring your best self to your relationship. It takes two people to make a relationship strong.
Ultimately, whatever self-care practices you put in place during this time, make sure it involves doing something you enjoy and that you go easy on yourself – it may not be perfect and/or how you would prefer to do things, but remind yourself it’s not forever.
Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself the attention you deserve. While everyone is experiencing their own challenges, you’re important too!
2. Communication is key
In couples therapy, communication skills are one of the most frequently addressed areas. This is because a lack of communication is often the cause of relationship stress and breakdown. So dedicating some time to regularly sit down together and just talk is even more important now than ever. You and your partner should be clear about what you both need and expect during lockdown. This can include:
- how much time you’ll spend with each other
- what you’ll do during the lockdown
- what you want to accomplish during the lockdown.
- how you will manage stressors together during the lockdown.
To assist you with this, consider:
Take a few minutes every day to share your highs and lows and your current needs and feelings. Underneath every feeling is a need that wants to be met. Try and understand and be clear with what that may be for each other. This is equally relevant for long distance relationships and couples living together.
Be active and listen
A great exercise that can help improve your communication is to summarise and repeat back to each other what you’ve heard them say – especially when talking about something important. This can greatly improve your understanding of how you communicate with each other and encourage new healthier communication patterns to develop.
In our busy lives, it can be challenging to maintain connection. Given the additional lockdown stressors it makes sense that sometimes we forget to show appreciation, compassion and/or kindness to our partner, but this is so important in maintaining positive communication channels. If you’re separated by distance, build your desire for one another. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Try sharing three things with your partner that you love or appreciate about them. This is a great way to strengthen your connection – I mean who doesn’t like to be appreciated!
When your home is structured, there is generally more harmony, as expectations are managed. Kids thrive on a certain amount of structure too. Remind all family members that it’s vital to still work together and contribute to the household even if that means re-evaluating your household routines, chore schedules and house rules. During lockdown, your daily schedule will likely have been thrown into chaos. Without a solid plan, each day can start to feel like groundhog day, and motivation will decrease. Work together and create a shared approach towards building a plan best suited to your relationship and/or family unit. Here are some important topics that may be helpful to consider as part of your plan together:
Fun – Planning for work, dinner, school and chores is important. It’s equally important to schedule time for fun. Make sure you spend time together or apart to achieve this goal. Consider creating a playlist for an at-home dance party, or adults only cocktail making night. Whatever it looks like for you…add it into the diary.
Finances – Many families are doing it tough, so look at ways to manage spending together, come up with fun rewards along the way to keep things exciting.
Social time – Connect via phone calls, virtual conferencing, or talk to the next door neighbour.
Chores – Discuss and negotiate the household tasks so everyone is clear about their responsibilities. When families and couples learn they can support each other by working as a team, the home is often happier.
Work – With an increase in both partners working from home, coupled with homeschooling, it’s important to implement a plan of who works where, with what equipment, rules around video conferencing and noise levels, and even food breaks, and who is a teacher, etc…
Share your ideas with each other, be flexible where possible as you try new ways, Agree on a plan and most importantly review regularly what’s working and what’s not.
4. Reduce your stress
If you’re finding the lockdown challenges increasing your stress levels, it’s important to find suitable stress management strategies to help you cope and to ensure it doesn’t have a long-term impact. What works for one person, might not work for someone else. And each situation is different as well.
The first step is to recognise your feelings and identify the cause/s. Is there anything you can do to reduce the stressor or fix the situation? I suggest writing down your worries and concerns, considering what needs your immediate attention, and focusing on a few small steps that may be helpful and within your control. Take your time and evaluate your options, and make the commitment to try at least one of your solutions.
Please note, the pandemic has caused many uncertainties and has become extremely challenging but when we try and direct our focus to the things we can achieve and/or are in our control it can often help alleviate stress and improve our mood, strengthening our resilience in how we cope with the lockdown. Here are some more tips to manage your stress and anxiety.
5. Respect each other’s space
Being in your house for a longer period means you will likely need some time out for yourself, both mentally and physically. You can maintain your connection and understanding of each other by regularly checking in. When we communicate more, we are better able to recognise the importance of each other’s need for space or time out. We can then work better together at meeting each other’s needs in a way that is important for them.
6. Keep the Romance alive
For many, keeping the spark alive with a busy household can be challenging enough on a good day but with the additional lockdown stressors and depleted energy levels it is of no surprise that couples are getting little to no time together.
Romance and intimacy is an important part of our relationships but stress can play havoc with our levels of desire and passion, or both. So communicating our thoughts and ideas about how we’d like to manage this area is just as valuable during these more difficult periods. Every household and couple is going to be different in terms of what may be manageable or desirable but starting with a conversation together is a great way to acknowledge its importance and better understand each other’s needs around it.
Here are some creative ideas you might like to consider to keep the romance alive:
Take turns each week planning a romantic or fun filled date together. Some lockdown date night ideas include:
- Massage (a hot stone massage with essential oil infused body oil is incredible)
- Watch a rom com or an X rated movie together, let it add fuel to your fire and re-ignite some passions.
- Order in a dessert hamper and set up a candlelit picnic or even a picnic in the backyard under the stars.
- Watch memories of past holidays together and plan your next one together.
- Do an online escape room challenge or trivia quiz.
- Stare into each other’s eyes and think of all the reasons you’re grateful they’re in your life.
- Play a board / card game
- Cook a delicious meal together
- Create some new features in the house together (if you have the time).
- Create a wish list in a bowl – you each pull one out and act on that person’s wish.
- Dance together
7. Reach out for support
You don’t have to do it alone. Relationship counselling is still available during these difficult times and is even more important now if your relationship is struggling.
Even healthy relationships go through challenging periods but reaching out for support, when you need it, can make all the difference in how you get through it together.
We all experience storms in our relationships. Through research, we know that couples who come together, communicate openly and plan together have a greater chance of survival. When couples work together, they often report feeling closer and more connected after the storm has passed.
If you or your relationship is struggling please reach out today to speak with one of our dedicated relationship therapists. Our appointments are currently available online via video conferencing (zoom) or by phone. You can call us on 0404 032 636 or make an appointment online today.