Whether you’re married or not, when you’re cooped up all day and anxious about the state of the world, it can have a harmful effect on your relationship. Yes, you love one another, but during hard times, stress rises and tempers flare. Little things that may have been just very mild annoyances can start to feel like unbearable incompatibilities. The good news is, there are lots of ways to improve the situation. And by learning these techniques and ideas, you can make your bond stronger than ever.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Even during times of low stress and prosperity, great communication is what separates successful relationships from unsuccessful ones. Strong communication is doubly important when times are hard and you’re cooped up in isolation together. Try to be open about concerns, frustrations, and anxieties, and don’t let them stay cooped up. If you do, they could be expressed passive-aggressively, or in other unhealthy or unintended ways. Communicate those fears, but stay positive and avoid making things personal. A great way to do this is to focus on understanding one another’s feelings. And this leads us to our next point…
Practice Empathetic Listening
Communication is a two-way street: in addition to knowing how to communicate your own feelings and thoughts, you need to learn how to be an empathetic listener as well. The root of empathetic listening is trying to understand the person emotionally before you try to understand them logically. In other words, instead of listening to determine whether you think they’re right or wrong, listen first to identify how they feel, and why they feel that way. Try to listen without judgment. Even if you still ultimately disagree on something, you may be able to understand one another better.
Find Ways to Make Them Smile
Surprise them with breakfast in bed. Leave flower origami on their pillow with a note that says, “I love you.” Buy a gift certificate from your favorite local restaurant so you have a date night to look forward to when this is all over (this is a great way to support local restaurants without breaking social distancing norms as well). Be creative and find ways to surprise your loved one with sweetness…making them smile will make them feel good, it will make you feel good, and it will keep the spark of love burning bright.
Create Something Together
Doing creative things together encourages collaboration, fosters teamwork, and deepens your bond. Whether it’s a recipe that you cook together, a love poem where you take turns writing each line, a collaborative video for an Instagram story, or just a puzzle from your box of games, the process of creation will create positive feelings and associations. In essence, mutual creativity will bring you closer emotionally when, ironically, cabin fever from Covid-19 starts making you drive each other nuts.
Do De-Stressing Activities Together
De-stressing together is a great way to ease tension during cabin fever. Whether it’s a walk or bike ride (if you live somewhere non-crowded), some yoga or a workout in the living room, or even a multiplayer video game like Mario Kart, finding fun ways to de-stress as a couple will erase some of that built-up tension from the close quarters of the quarantine life.
Give Each Other Space
Sometimes, all you need is a little time alone — even from the one you love most. While doing de-stressing activities together is great, it’s also important to find time for yourselves when you need it. Otherwise, you might go nuts … especially if you’re an introvert. Don’t be afraid to ask for space, and if your sweetheart asks for it, don’t be offended that they need it. Reading, exercise or other activities alone can be great to feel refreshed and recharged again. For some couples, it might be helpful to set a certain time each day as a “time alone” period, where you agree to do your own thing for a while.
Know that your partner is an introvert who needs their space? Try to anticipate their needs, and give it to them before they ask for it. Chores piling up? Surprise them by doing the dishes. Make sure you’re being proactive to make close living easier, and your relationship will blossom instead of weakening. Make sure the chore balance is fair, make suggestions for stress-relieving activities, find ways to contribute to homeschooling and childcare if you have kids…basically, try to be proactive to make things easier on the one you love. Remember, this is all temporary. So now is a time to think of others before yourself, and if you do this in your relationship, you’ll come out of this crisis a stronger team than ever.