Tips for Live-In Couples to Strengthen Their Relationship While Social Distancing
By Camila Dos Santos, M.Ed., Program Coordinator of the Healthy Relationships Initiative
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the term “social distancing” into everyday conversation and has changed the way most of us communicate and interact with our loved ones. Despite the fact that many of us are spending more time with our spouses or live-in partners, you may have found that social distancing has impacted that relationship. The added stress and uncertainty of this pandemic means that this time is not always spent intentionally or positively, which can lead to conflict in your relationship. In this blog post, we will provide you with strategies to strengthen your relationship while social distancing with your live-in partner.
Remember that this is a new situation for everyone and lean into your partner. We are all figuring out what to do and how to navigate the current circumstances. With things changing daily, there are added levels of stress for us all, but couples in healthy relationships support each other and build each other up at all times, especially the most challenging. Lean into your partner to help get through these times together. Communicate your feelings, ask for what you need, and give your partner the space to do the same. This is a time for clear, honest, and regular communication with one another. HRI provides conversation starters for couples that may be useful in sparking up discussions that strengthen the relationship.
Spend time working on general relationship skills. All relationships have their challenges and strengths and these can be exacerbated during times of crisis. By spending time working on building general relationship skills, such as positive communication and conflict resolution, you can strengthen your relationship now, as well as beyond the pandemic. Couples who practice basic relationship skills are more equipped and likely to apply these skills during challenging times. HRI provides tip sheets and reflection activities to help couples work through conflict and practice healthy relationship skills together. Don’t assume or expect that this will happen – work for it and be intentional about practicing these skills.
Give each other (and yourself) grace and patience. We all need a little grace when navigating uncharted territory. We can’t expect ourselves or anyone to handle everything perfectly, especially when things are changing daily. One of the best things you can do for all of your relationships, but especially your relationship with your live-in partner, is to give lots and lots of grace and practice patience during this time. All of us are experiencing tremendous changes to the way we live life and we would all benefit from some time and space to process those changes. If you are struggling to have patience in your relationship, practice taking deep breaths before responding in heated discussions, give yourself space or a time out when you need it, and practice attentive listening when your partner speaks. Paying extra attention to your nonverbals when communicating is crucial, and avoiding negative nonverbals such as rolling your eyes, will help to keep communication positive and productive and will make sure everyone feels heard and respected.
Make time for positive connections. It may seem silly to think about making time for your partner when you are likely spending more time together than you have in the past, but just because we find ourselves at home more does not necessarily mean that we are connecting and bonding more with our partner. While you may not be able to have normal date nights or other special time together, you can still be creative about connecting with one another. Some ideas to set aside your worries and intentionally connect include: taking a walk together without devices and without talking about the pandemic; cooking a new meal together; reading a book and discussing it together, or working together on an art project such as a vision board. Even if you only spend 20 minutes per day focusing on your relationship, it is time well-spent that will pay off later!
Partner relationships can be a source of tremendous joy and also great stress. During uncertain times and social distancing, our relationships benefit from being even more intentional about connecting and communicating with our live-in partners and spouses. By practicing these strategies now, your relationship will be prepared to handle the challenging times we are all facing and will be strong enough to conquer whatever comes your way.