Let's be honest, relationships are hard enough, even during normal times. But how do we maintain a healthy rrelationship when we have such limited social contact and are locked away in our homes? How do we make our relationship thrive during the pandemic? Here are some tips that you will find useful and can implement immediately.
Accept that the situation is hard but that it's only temporary. The measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus have been difficult and has cause a lot of stress on all of us. Some of us have lost our jobs, some have gone from working in an office to working from home, having to have new childcare routines, missing out on social routines with beloved ones and the list goes on..
It would be totally unreasonable to assume that this exceptional situation doesn't have an impact on a couple's relationship. Less quality time together immediately limits opportunities for intimacy, and the result can be more conflict between the two, as well as less sex.
If you choose the route of acceptance that your own definition of normality has just completely changed, you can lower the expectations not only on yourself but also on your partner and the relationship. If "business as usual" no longer applies, the approach to the relationship must also change.
Social Pshycologist Barbara Rothmuller brings some positive news from Austri from her research she conducted in Austria and Germany. During last years spring and fall periods, she reserached the impacy of the pandemic on relation ships and intimacy. Seventy-four percent of couples who shared the same household said in April that they were having a lot of fun together and enjoying their time together. In Rothmüller's second survey in November, that figure was still 69%. This is positive news! If you want to know how, read on..
Create personal space
The most common problems amongst couples sharing a home is creating individual space and time to retreat. Of course, this has become particularly apparent when everyone is suddenly at home all the time. In a living space that is perhaps too small, Rothmüller says, it is essential to consciously help each other find more space. For istance, some people stated in the surveys that the solution was to go out for a walk for a few hours so that other household members could also be alone and have time for themselves.
Couples who can express their needs have an advantage. But to be able to articulate our own needs and wishes, we must be aware of them ourselves first. Take time to listen to yourself as well as creating space. This is where the pandemic offers us a chance and we must turn this into an advantage. The lack of social and cultural interactions and outings, as well as countless canceled plans and appointments, means that we are being forced to face ourselves as we have possibly never done before. This can be extremely tough, but it can also be a great opportunity.
Try new things
What better time is there than now to develop new interests, or try out a new hobby we've always wanted to for years? It can be as small as reading a new book, or getting into cooking. What better way is there to find something new and fun than trying?
Our confidence and self-esteem is also directly linked to how we feel about ourselves. If we're feeling efficient and confident, this will also reflect on the sex and intimacy we are having at home. Adopting a victim mentality and sitting home all day in jog pants sipping wine will not make things better for the realtionship. Eventually, this will have a negative effect on our sex life. But staying active through doing sports, cooking something healthy and delicious and getting all dressed up for dinner at home are ideas that will create intimacy and boost self-confidence.
Focus on the sex
Barbara Rothmüller's surveys demonstrated that during the first lockdown, some couples' sexual desire decreased. For some other couples, however, sex was a good ditraction from the reality of the lockdown. This issue can become a real test for a couple. While stress increases the sexual desire for some couples, for others it makes it disappear.
Conflicts in the relationship, whether because of existential worries or overload from work and childcare, do their bit to put our sex lives on ice. On the other hand, physical intimacy can have a strong bond-building function, one that is too strong to simply neglect in a relationship.
Dr. Dewitte who conducts sex research and runs sex workshops explains how just ten minutes of cuddling and kissing can be enough to get you into a mood that previously seemed as distant as the end of the coronavirus pandemic. And if it doesn't? "Then the couple has spent 10 minutes kissing and cuddling," Dewitte says. It's not the number of sexual encounters that matters, she says, but the quality. How nice is that?
Set new priorities
Since our idea of what's normal has already completely shifted, it's a great time to revisit and reorder our priority list. And the general consensus seems to be that health should be at the top of it. Whether it's focusing on ourdoor walks becoming a daily thing to yoga/meditation at home, to a healthier diet plan.
Family and romantic partners are also top on the list, as these are the people who, in a crisis, would sit with us at all cost or whom we sorely miss when a lockdown keeps us apart. On top of this, monogamy which seemed to be an outdated concept has made a massive come back! Rothmüller, for example, speaks of a monogamization of relationships that has occurred partly because a lockdown makes noncommittal and open relationships less accessible.
According to Rothmüller's surveys, many couples have apparently used the break from the social life to invest in themselves, deepening their relationship through more conversations, meaningful interactions, more intimacy and more togetherness. The important thing is to be able to maintain this once the pandemic is over.