For couples that have recently moved in together, or for those partners who have been living together long-term, the stress and uncertainty of today’s situation can greatly impact your relationship. With the emergence of COVID-19, spending all day in close quarters is becoming the new normal for couples and families. Whether you live in a house or an apartment, that space may have recently come to feel that much smaller.
As much as we might appreciate our partners and enjoy their presence, there is such a thing as too much time together, particularly under stressful circumstances and in isolation within your home. These types of conditions can place stress on a relationship as we might feel we are lacking privacy or independence, regardless of whether your relationship was healthy or under tension prior to the pandemic. Despite the challenges that living in close quarters with a partner may present, there is good news. This time can be used as an opportunity to maintain relational health and improve your relationship by using the following steps:
Communicating does not just mean talking with your partner, but rather it means being able to discuss your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and needs. This can allow you to manage living in close spaces together, and also serve to further improve your relationship.
Share how you are feeling with your partner and what you need from them, as this allows for emotional attunement and effective conflict resolution. Asking questions helps; inquire about how your partner is experiencing these uncertain times or how they are dealing with stress. Discuss what you anticipate with parenting during this time, purchasing groceries, and other necessities.
Having clear communication will also provide you with a sense of teamwork and structure in your relationship. Simply put, it can provide the certainty you may need during uncertain times.
Resolve Conflict Quickly
Conflict in relationships is common, expected, and normal. What counts most is how you deal with it when it arises. During difficult times, conflict can stem from things such as what to purchase at the grocery store or how to plan financially for the future.
To effectively resolve conflict, be open and understanding to the fact that your partner may have different thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It does not mean they are wrong; it just means they have a different perspective than yours. This mindset can be helpful in terms of perceiving circumstances from more than one lens.
Be curious, open, and flexible to what your partner is saying. Inquire about their different thoughts and ideas and collaborate together to move forward. If an argument escalates, that’s okay, as you and your partner might both have a lot of feelings at this time. When this happens, pause the conversation and set a time to review it later once emotions are soothed and you can both reproach the discussion.
If you feel upset, avoid using “you” statements and opt for expressing how you feel by leading with “I feel” statements to have a dialogue in a less accusatory tone.
Boundaries are essential for all healthy relationships. As we try to manage and process the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important to create healthy boundaries and be able to set times to focus on your needs such as work, hobbies, interests, or self-care. It is important for you to care and inquire about what your partner needs, but it is also crucial to remind yourself that you have your own individual needs as well. Focusing on your separate needs is vital, and directly impacts your relationships.
If you are not taking care of yourself and your needs, it will be harder to attune to your partner and maintain relational health. Both you and your other half can discuss what it will look like sharing space and delegating household chores. You can talk about how each of you will make sure you are able to meet your individual needs and can hold each other accountable in doing so.
Setting clear and healthy boundaries allows both partners to feel a sense of comfort and develop positive self-esteem. If each partner brings a happier and healthier version of their individual self to the relationship, your relationship will only improve and build.
If your relationship is struggling or you’re finding the changes imposed by this pandemic difficult to navigate, then don’t hesitate to seek support. Bhatia Psychology Group offers virtually accessible couples counselling to help you and your loved ones during this difficult time.