For most of us, the COVID-19 epidemic has meant being quarantined at home with our loved ones. While it sounds great in theory, it can get hard as days wear on and there’s no end in sight. Here are some tips for couples wanting to do social distancing right!
Top tips from marriage counselling experts
Give each other space
For couples who have separate work lives, many hours of the day are usually spent outside the home and with other people. Social distancing reduces our interactions to only those in our home and this can be difficult for many of us including introverts or more reserved people. Giving each other space during the day will make it easy for each partner to decompress and do their own thing. When you come back to family time or couple time, you’ll find yourself looking forward to it.
No matter how many rooms you have in your home, there’s always a way to give each other space. Let your partner practice her yoga in the bedroom while you work in the living room. Give your partner a quiet room in which to do work calls or catch up on emails. Make sure you have enough time apart so that you can cherish the hours that you are together.
Separate your work and personal life
When you’re working from home, work hours and personal time can blend into each other. For couples, this might mean that one of you is free and ready to spend time together while the other remains at the laptop.
Not spending enough time with your partner leads to a breakdown of communication and intimacy which is one of the leading causes of divorce. One of the first tasks in marriage counselling is to reset the pathways of communication and ensure that the couple spends more time together. For possibly the first time in our lives social distancing is providing an opportunity to do this, and you should make the most of it.
Have a discussion with your partner to plan working hours that suit both of you. This way you both know when to plan time together, and when to provide for your own entertainment.
Divide home duties and responsibilities
According to this article by the University of Melbourne, The HILDA (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) analysis for 2018 showed that Aussie women were still doing seven hours more per week of household chores than men, even when they were working long hours. Housework is often a sensitive topic that many couples require marriage counselling to resolve, but during social distancing it becomes even more important.
For couples with children, work hours are usually well delineated by office and school timings. In times like these when everyone is at home, it is important to make sure both partners have enough time to complete their work and perform household duties. You could make a timetable to ensure that one partner gets some quiet time to work while the other looks after kids/meals/home duties, and then switch it around in the second half of the day.
Treat each other with extra love
In times like this, it is important to acknowledge each other’s anxiety and to respect each other’s feelings. It can be upsetting to be restricted to a single location with only one person to interact with and watch as the whole world seems to fall apart. It can be a stressful time for those who are worried about their jobs or businesses.
Try to avoid snapping at each other or responding to minor annoyances. Practice extra patience and loving gestures for each other – even something as small as making a cup of coffee for your partner when they’re working – so that they feel supported and loved.
If you know your partner tends to worry a lot, spend some time talking to them to allay those fears. While you might feel impatient about having to constantly reassure them, do remember that this is a unique and frightening time, and your partner is more sensitive to it. Being there for them is most important at this time.
Participate in each other’s lives and hobbies
Many couples who go into marriage counselling say things like, “I feel like I don’t know who he is anymore”, or “she’s not the same person I started dating”. When couples grow too far apart, it can affect the intimacy.
Most of us spend our days juggling careers, social lives, families and other responsibilities. By the end of the day we are so exhausted that we just want to plonk down in front of our screens and fill the hours with distraction. Instead, now that we are saving time on our commute have the freedom of many hours being at home and not commuting, carve out some time to rekindle that relationship, to have fun together, and to rediscover all the things you love about them.
This is a strange and difficult time for everyone, and nobody knows the right way to handle it (but you could start with our blog post on staying sane during social distancing and see what we recommend). However as one half of a couple living together in times like this, you have the chance to be a source of strength and reassurance. Think of yourselves as a unit, work together to help each other, and treat each other with love and generosity and grace. At the end of the day, that’s all that will get us through.
Note: This is a light article intended to cheer us all up during tough times, but getting the right help at the right time is important. If you think you need marriage counselling, relationship counselling, or therapy for mental health issues, Avaana can help find a professional near you.