The pandemic has put pressure on so many areas of our lives. And relationships are definitely one area that may be suffering right now. Pre-pandemic, we had our offices, our nights out with girlfriends, our family gatherings and churches to take the pressure off. Now we are stuck at home with our spouse and kids, no outlets for anyone.
The added stress that we take on adds pressure to our relationships. But we can still survive, and even grow! Here are three qualities that couples that survive (and even thrive!) possess:
Now with telecommuting, you may be with your partner 24/7 and the issues that were conveniently pushed aside are now glaring at you all day. You can’t escape to the office, or go have drinks with your friends to get space. The tension often times leads to a big argument, often over small things.
The silver lining is that being together all the time is allowing you to see where you need to address the issues in your relationship. So talk about what is bothering each of you. Work out some of these things that maybe you have been pushing under the rug. And if it gets too much, see a therapist or other trusted person to help you get through it.
Be aware of your needs, either for closeness or for space and let your partner know. Sometimes we feel like “this is the way it’s always been; I don’t want to change.” “I feel guilty for asking for space,” or “I feel guilty for asking for more intimacy.” This is normal. Change can feel scary and unnatural. Asking for what we need can feel vulnerable. However, you can use this time to be an opportunity for growth, for your relationship and you personally.
Find ways to work out the small things that annoy you from being together all day. Learn how to communicate so that the small things don’t blow up into big arguments. Sometimes small tweaks to communication can prevent hours of arguing over small things. If you don’t know what to say, read books, go to youtube or find a therapist to help you make these changes.
2. Acceptance of the Messiness of Life and Relationships
Life is messy with the pandemic. Kids are having to do school over screens, we are having to meet our friends over zoom; everything feels less than ideal. This is no different from our relationships. Things will be less than ideal. Date night? Forget the romantic candlelit dinner at the 5 star restaurant (it’s closed). Need some alone time with your spouse? Forget it, your kids will be there!
In your relationship, you may be bickering more. You may feel less excited about being with your partner since you are with them all.day.long. Don’t let this immediately send you into wondering if you should break up with this person. Life is messy and right now our relationships are going to be messy. We can acknowledge that right now things feel a little out of whack. And we may need to reassess and tweak things to make our relationships work. And that’s ok.
The Ability to Find Creative Ways to Have Fun
Everything is closed. And if you have kids, you have no babysitting. This makes it (really) hard to have fun. And although Netflix is a fine way to pass the time and bond with your partner, finding creative ways to have fun can spice up a relationship and break up the monotony of being home all day.
Be open to new things. Many of us have had the same routine for many years. Our day to day lives have become stagnant, and maybe our relationship reflects this. This is a time where you can open your mind to new activities and bond with your spouse. Trying new things together often brings a new spark into a relationship.
Find a new hobby together, learn a language, cook a new dish. We can’t go to museums or restaurants, but we can do things outdoors. Depending on the weather, and where you live, there are many things to do outdoors. If anything, take a walk and have a quality conversation with your spouse. Got small kids? Put them in the stroller and have them go with you. Take the dogs too! Exercise, sunlight and nature are excellent for our mental health. And if you are both happy, you will be better partners.
We are living in unprecented times. Things have shifted and changed. And with that, our ways of life have also changed, in our work, our schools, and our relationships. Being flexible to that change, learning to adapt and be creative, can allow our relationship to not only survive but grow into something amazing.
About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling. She serves the San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont, Cupertino, and surrounding Bay Area. If you are interested in couples counseling to survive the pandemic, find out more about her here.