Why is COVID-19 bringing some couples closer together and others further apart? And what can we do about it?
Regardless of how long you’ve been together, it could be 1 year or 50, the COVID-19 outbreak is causing some major changes in the way that we live together.
If a couple isn’t good at dealing with stress, giving each other space, or handling disappointment in general, then the added intrusions – isolation, travel bans, shelter in place, lockdowns, and quarantines – will exacerbate that. Often bringing to the surface issues that have been easily set aside during the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced lives. A crisis always exposes the parts of a structure that are not well put together (witness the gaps in our healthcare system during this pandemic), especially when it comes to sex and relationships.
Human beings don’t like stress, don’t like troubles, and we don’t like problems. We’ve been taught, either directly or indirectly, that stress, troubles, and problems are bad for us and that they prevent us from enjoying our lives and being happy in our primary relationships.
But it’s not these that interfere with us being happy and being joyful as a couple most of the time. Rather, it’s our relationship to stress, troubles, and problems. The amount of energy we spend avoiding and resisting them would, in fact, be better spent on navigating, planning, and creatively dealing with whatever comes our way, including COVID-19. This post is intended to bring more peace and contentment to couples so they can thrive through this unprecedented period in the 21st century.
To begin, ask yourself the following: How do you and your partner generally cope with stress, troubles, and problems? Do you talk about what troubles you and how you feel when faced with a problem? Or do you check out with the use of alcohol or drugs?
Are you prone to arguing, fighting, getting frustrated, dismissing, invalidating, interrupting, and raising your voice? Or do you have a more positive approach? Do you get lost in reading, cooking, eating or exercising? Do you use running, walking, or perhaps yoga or meditation?
It’s possible that the differences in how you and your partner respond to the general stresses of life, as well as what this pandemic adds, will bring an added level of tension to your relationship.
Most of us will survive this pandemic. What won’t go away is the damage you may have inflicted upon yourself, those around you, and yourselves as a couple. Let’s consider how you can manage the ups and downs of this new life, along with the ups and downs in your relationship:
- Find new ways to make special days. Choose a recipe together, or have sex in a new place (we know you don’t have many options now, but getting resourceful is part of the fun). Check out Love Bytes for more small suggestions that make a big impact.
- Don’t let boredom set in – date nights are important and creativity is incredibly important to making date nights work, especially now. Zoom with other couples to get and share ideas.
- Spend time apart – get away from one another. If space is limited this can be a real challenge. One idea, take turns going on a neighborhood walk, while practicing social distancing of course. Go out for time alone and give your partner some time too. Got kids? Alternate taking the kids out.
- Designate areas of the home to create a SACRED SPACE for each of you. With larger homes, this is easy; in smaller spaces it will take more creativity and the willingness to have it work for everyone. I interviewed some couples to see how they’re doing it:
- “We split the house front to back and excluding the kitchen. My husband has the front (nearer the kitchen because he does like to cook) while I have the back half to myself. It’s brought us closer.”
- “My fiancé and I live in 750 square feet. We are on top of each other. The only alone time we get is alternating walking the dog. We’ve decided to do a deep clean of our apartment and we will be arranging designated space for each of us. This has been tough for us.”
- “We each have our own bedroom. It’s easy for us to give time and space to the other and on special evenings we will invite the other over for the night. We’ve gotten closer.”
- “I have an outside office. It’s big enough for me to sit comfortably and enjoy some space. My husband really likes the deck and that’s where he will hang out. We wake together in the mornings and do our daily rituals through to breakfast. At that time, I head to the office and we meet again at lunch then dinner. We arrange together time. We are feeling closer and happier with each other than ever.”
- Give each other little surprises – just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t eliminate online shopping. If that’s not an option, then pick a flower while you’re out, write a simple note or on your next grocery outing, pick up something – just for your partner.
- Talk about your feelings. Not everybody likes to discuss feelings, and you or your partner might be someone who doesn’t. If that’s the case, then consider specific conversations around how you’re doing. A great way to open up is to use TABLE TOPICS for couples. We have been using ours every night at dinner, even before the pandemic.
- Don’t alienate yourselves as “a couple” from the ones you love – plan ZOOM events with your family and friends (dress up or create a theme, and designate an end-time, so guests can schedule their time).
Regardless of how you choose to cope, it is your recovery time that will make the biggest difference. Especially during these difficult times, your being able to bounce back quickly from challenging moments with your partner will surely pay off.
“What the pandemic has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it.” –Julio Vincent gambuto, film producer, writer director
A rare opportunity to only put back into our relationship what works for us. Building it from what makes our lives richer, more peaceful, and more content.
This is your chance to redefine your relationship as a couple. Take it!
Thomas Kuster has trained inside the work of Peter K. Gerlach – Parts and The Internal Family, Patricia McDade – Consulting Alliance, and is certified through the HEARTMATH Institute and the Awakening Coaching Alliance. His systematic approach, The Heart Path, along with his unique point of view, helps couples and individuals see new possibilities for their relationships. Thomas started his coaching career in 1995. He designed and produced a classroom series for couples called Partners For Life, partners committed to a lifetime versus a life sentence.