By: Cristina Trette, MA, LMFT
When you and your spouse are working from home, with online schooling kids at home, keeping your love alive can seem like an optional task on a never-ending to do list. Yet affection, emotional connection, intimacy, and sex are important to the health of long term romantic relationships and marriages. They also play a vital role in our overall mental health and wellbeing. In fact one of the greatest things we can do for health is improve our love life.
When couples know how to turn to each other for comfort and support, it makes it far more likely that they will move through stressful times with grace. Keep reading for ways restore balance in your romantic relationship.
Find your groove
Do what works for you. Some couples are winging it day to day and cherishing the forced down-time. Others are working more hours than ever before as they aim to keep careers afloat and help kids with online schooling. Many exist together in a blur of work, kids, meals, cleanup and laundry. There is no way I could maintain peaceful relationships right now without a daily routine that also flexes for extra lounge time, zone out time, and connection time. Figure out what works best for you and your family and own it.
On the one hand I am saying do what is best for you. I mean this. On the other hand I am encouraging you to create structure. Because the truth is, most couples working-from-home-with-kids-doing-online-schooling-at-home need structure if they want peace. Write down what your ideal work day and weekend day looks like. Talk and make some agreements around routine, work hours, housework, parenting, etc. Consider making a plan with your spouse for each of you to fit in exercise, down time, or personal time to do whatever it is that one may want to do while the other cares for the children.
Find small ways to connect daily
You and your partner have probably been together a lot over the past few weeks! But being together non stop does not mean you are having engaged quality connection time. Under normal circumstances, I suggest that couples commit to weekly kid-free time. Right now, depending on the ages of your children, this may be impossible. So get creative.
Small moments of physical affection go along way. Hugs, kisses on the cheek, and love pats on the bum are easy ways to connect. Find ways to focus on each other while hanging with the kids. Swap shoulder rubs while watching a family movie, sit on the patio while the kids play, sneak into the bedroom during your babies nap time. Remember that work and housework will always be there. But if you don't take care of your marriage, it won't be there. Make it happen.
And give each other space
Be explicit about your need for quiet or alone time. Get clear about what you want and articulate this to your partner. Help each other get much needed space. Long baths, walks in the neighborhood, video chats with friends, reading in the bedroom alone are some ideas for carving out time away from kids and your spouse.
Compliment and acknowledge
Express gratitude whenever you are moved to. Words of appreciation are like fuel for our tanks. They fill us up, keep us going, and feed our souls. It only takes seconds to genuinely share with your partner what you love about them. Make this a regular occurrence.
Lean on healthy coping strategies
Exercise, journal, read inspiring books, reach out to uplifting friends and family, breath, do yoga, meditate, and practice mindfulness. These are all effective methods for reducing stress, tending to yourself, and improving relationships.
Feelings come and go throughout the day. Sometimes they are subtle, other times intense. Feel them. This includes anger, sadness, hurt, and fear. When we consistently create space for our feelings we begin to notice over time that they carry immense wisdom. When we get used to feeling our feelings, we no longer need to avoid, ignore, numb, suppress, distract, or run away from.
Let the small things go
Choose your battles. Seriously. It could be easy to get on top of your spouse for every small thing. Don't do this! We all have annoying traits and characteristics. Develop tolerance wherever you can.
Accept acceptable differences
Maybe you are an early to bed and early to rise kind of person but your spouse is most creative and energetic at night. Or you want lots of time to talk and your spouse prefers peace and quiet. Perhaps being in the house all day makes you a bit nutty and your spouse finds it relaxing. Neither of these are good, bad, right, or wrong. Practice acceptance.
Develop healthy communication
I am going to be direct. If your communication was struggling prior to the pandemic, it is likely to get worse. Healthy communication patterns create the foundation for healthy marriages. If most of your interactions are laden with blame, judgement, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or shutting down I highly encourage you to consider couples therapy.
Have some fun
Clearly most of us will not be going on dates, hitting up adventures, or meeting with friends right now. Nevertheless, joy is so important for our wellbeing. Find ways to connect through humor, great sex, being goofy, board games, or declaring a very early happy hour. Find the humor in this outrageous situation and share it as much as you can.
What are you doing to keep your relationship strong during the pandemic? We would love to hear from you in the comments box below.