We’re here to guide you through the coronavirus lockdown.
Are You Even In Quarantine If You’re Not Doing These 9 Things?
These are tough times for couples and single people alike, of course. But if you are living with your significant other, there are ways to be mindful and make things work smoothly.
Here’s how relationship experts are maintaining their relationships under one roof during the lockdown.
We give each other space.
As much as it’s nice to get up and have breakfast together in the morning, or both spend all evening on the sofa watching TV, it’s also healthy to have some time apart. Of course, that’s easier said than done during lockdown.
Sex and relationship therapist Miranda Christophers says, working on the premise of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, she’ll make sure she spends time alone each day – whether it’s working in a different room, having a video call meet up with friends or going for a run.
“Most people like a bit of their own time and space, and will appreciate their partner more for having it,” she says. “It may be helpful to ask yourself every now and again if you’re feeling stifled – and communicate with each other if you need more time out.”
We have a date night every Friday.
Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach, says she and her husband have a date night every Friday, where they get a bottle of wine and order food in. “We both get dressed in real clothes,” she says. “I bring out the lingerie, we play music and dance together for hours. It’s special for us and helps us feel connected.”
Engle says they don’t drink during the week, so having Friday nights to look forward to gives them something to “get jazzed about” when they’re working hard.
Christophers also does this – come Friday she’ll dress up, order a takeaway or cook something nice with her partner. And there’s strictly no talk of work, chores or coronavirus. “Right now, a date might just be the pair of you sitting in another room and having a glass of wine or chat,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what it is, but making that time for you as a couple keeps you more connected.”
We stick to a routine.
At a time when we don’t have much control over lots of things in our lives, it’s wise to take control of your schedule – at the very least. Engle and her husband stick to a specific routine, which she says has worked well for them so far.
“He gets up at 7am and I sleep in until 8.30am,” she says. “We schedule everything. We have breakfast at the same time, we go on long walks and get our 10,000 steps, we do intense 60-minute workouts everyday. Sticking to a schedule helps the days feel fulfilling and doesn’t leave us feeling stifled.”
A strict schedule is also good to follow if you have kids, so you know who’s in charge at what point and take it in turns.
We set boundaries.
Boundaries are important, especially as work and home life blurs into one. Saddington says setting boundaries around the working day and the working environment – so it’s clear when he’s working and when he’s not – has been crucial for his relationship. He’s also wary of not letting work spill into home time.
We exercise a lot – and yes, this includes sex.
Exercise has been a crucial way to stop Saddington offloading his anxiety onto his wife. “I’ve made a point of timing my exercise to coincide with when I’ve finished my work with clients,” he says. “I get time to process and separate what is my emotion and what the clients have bought into my consciousness.”
This is also key in Engle’s relationship. She trains for an hour a day with her husband and they’ll practise yoga on Sundays to ground themselves. They’re also seizing the opportunity to have a lot of sex. “We have a lively sex life normally, but we’re much more intimate during isolation,” she adds. “Sex is an amazing stress relief and can help couples to reinforce bonds.”
This is more important than ever. Be open, share and listen to each other. “I take a view of don’t leave things down to interpretation,” says Christophers. “I think it’s good not to expect your partner to guess how you’re feeling or how you want something to be. I avoid guessing what someone is feeling or what they mean when they say something – I just ask, and listen.”
You can improve communication by asking open questions and avoiding criticism or anything that could be perceived as contemptuous – “these two things will create a really unpleasant atmosphere and have a destructive impact on the relationship,” says the therapist.
“Quit any stubbornness. If you need time out, take it, go for a walk, call a friend but don’t harbour resentment and create a defensive atmosphere.”
Saddington finds it useful to have a daily check-in with his wife – “we give ourselves time to reflect and say how we both are, as well as talk about the family.”
We look to the future.
It can be easy to feel hopeless, but couples should remember they’re lucky they can rely on each other for moral support. “This is a time when relationships that have previously struggled can create some new foundations and get closer,” says Christophers.
“I find it a good time to think about how I would like life to look when we’re back out of self-isolation. I see it as an opportunity to dream together and think of hopes and wishes for the future. Ultimately we have to keep going, so it makes sense to keep on going the best we can.”
One way to move forward is to set yourselves a goal together, as teammates. The goal is to get through this time and appreciate all you can. “If we want the relationship to feel good, we each need to feel good and the best way to achieve that is being on the same page,” says Christophers.
“Be open, be compassionate, and hold the other in positive regard, we’re in it together and want it to succeed and achieve that common goal.”