Hello to a new normal! The new normal for a lot of us is now to live with your partner nearly 24/7 - especially if you are both working from home.
As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who is married to an entrepreneur, we have been living this scenario for the last 20 years. I’ve got tips for you on how to ride out our self-imposed quarantine without driving your partner crazy.
Tip 1: Stress
First, let’s just address the elephant in the room. Stress. In our lifetime, in our country, and globally, we have never experienced anything quite like this. Social distancing is now the new buzz word.
Whenever we face a brand new situation, we are naturally going to experience heightened stress.
Are you the kind of person that is typically aware of how much stress you can handle? Do you know and actively use your favorite coping methods to reduce your own stress?
If not, just do a quick search on coping methods for stress and commit to trying 5 new things this week as an experiment. You will quickly find 1-3 stress-reducing activities you favor.
Stress that goes unchecked or is escalating can bleed into our relationships. If each partner commits to actively reduce their own stress, you can show up for each other in amazing ways.
Tip 2: Celebrate your Wins!
Talk to your partner about what’s going really well for the two of you. Verbally tell your partner all the things you really appreciate about them.
Reminisce on how you met, and what drew them to you. Talk about fun things that happened in the past. Remind each other how you’ve gotten through crises before and that you can do it again now.
Tip 3: Quiet that critical voice
If your stress level is at a constant high, you might feel inclined to take it out on your partner. Sometimes, that looks like being critical of your partner. Try to avoid this.
Be aware that using language like, “You always...” or “You never...” is critical language and will only make your partner defensive. Instead, focus on your own feelings and use “I feel” statements.
An example of this would be, “Babe, I am feeling really frustrated and overwhelmed right now. Can you do dinner for the kids while I go take a bath/workout/call a friend?” That sounds better than, “You never cook dinner! Why am I always the one doing this?”, right?
Tip 4: Maintain or increase your intimacy
I don’t mean just sex, either. Although, please do keep having your normal amounts of sexual intimacy with your partner. (No need for social distance here!)
Other forms of intimacy look like
Finding ways to serve one another (do a household chore you know your partner dislikes);
Jointly parenting your kids together (brainstorm ideas on what your kids’ need are and how to meet them);
Friendship intimacy (showing genuine interest in your partner and their interests); and
Communication intimacy (not only do you take time to talk at the end of the day but also are responsive to the small things your partner says throughout the day).
Tip 5: Dream together
It’s healthy and helpful to have a “Dream Board” with your partner. It doesn’t have to be an actual board, but go ahead and verbalize what your hopes and dreams are. It can be about your relationship, your career, family life, retirement, an upcoming vacation, or even a new show you want to watch together. Couples who regularly chat about their hopes and dreams both as a couple and as individuals create a sense of unity and connection that is undeniable.
Soon enough, we’ll be back to normal routines. Imagine that day. How will you want to look back at your quarantine time together? One full of too much stress or frustration? Or one where you spent purposeful time together, maintained your individual sense of identity while also being a support for your partner?
It is known in social psychology that crises can forge a unique bond in your relationships. Nothing quite like a pandemic to quickly bring us closer together. Be well. And remember to breathe.
Jenny Elledge, LMFT
Jenny Elledge is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling, trauma work, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, faith transitions, mixed-faith relationships, life transitions and parenting issues. She offers both therapy and coaching services in-office and online settings for couples, families, and individuals.