Tips to help couples cope during COVID-19
The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in many of us spending more time indoors with the people we live with. If you share your household with your partner, you may have started to find that the increased amount of time you are spending together, along with the higher levels of stress and anxiety that you are both experiencing, is affecting how you are interacting with one another.
Lopa Vihibkar a systemic couple and adult family psychotherapist at Priory Wellbeing Centre Fenchurch Street and Priory Wellbeing Centre Harley Street, has put together seven top tips to help couples through the COVID-19 outbreak:
Stay present and in the moment together
Acknowledge that it is a challenging time and take each day as it comes. If you do have a cross word with one another, recognise that this is completely normal, especially at a time when everyone is feeling more stressed and anxious. Be proactive, rectify the situation and move on from it to stop that one moment impacting on how you both feel for the rest of the day.
Also, stay present to acknowledge and appreciate positive moments. If your partner does something nice, take the time to recognise it and let them know that you appreciate it. And pay attention to your partner’s emotions in the moment too. If they seem tired or upset, do something thoughtful like making them a cup of tea or running them a bath, showing that you are there to support them during this challenging time.
Set out clear expectations and roles
Create a list of things that have to be done and completed in the house every day or week.
Establish your roles and routines based on this list. If one or both of you are working from home, set out strict working hours to stop this role from interfering on other areas of your lives. Also, remember that being a partner is an important role that you both have and should both attend to, so set time aside in your schedule for you to spend together as a couple.
Communication is the key to understanding one another
No one is a mind reader, so it is important to express what you want and need. Take a few minutes to think about how you are feeling, and calmly express this to your partner. Use phrases like “I feel …”, “I need help with…” or “I think that…” so that it doesn’t appear as though you are being critical or accusatory.
Also, don’t make assumptions about how your partner is thinking or feeling, so ask questions. Set out time to go on a daily walk or have a cup of tea together in the garden every evening to give you the time to communicate, express your thoughts and feelings and get a real understanding of how you are both coping over this time.
Most people’s stress levels have risen during the coronavirus outbreak. So you may have found that you have both been more irritated or impatient with one another.
This is completely natural as everyone is under a lot more pressure. Treat yourself and your partner with extra patience. Give each other more time to relax and practice self-care to help you both stay calm. By both taking steps to reduce your stress levels, this can stop you from experiencing outbursts of negative emotions.
Balance your time
Negotiate a balance between autonomy and dependency. You should have time to spend together as well as time to do what you want to do independently.
Try to keep elements of your old routine, and remember you still have needs. So, if you want to do some exercise, cooking or reading, take the time that you need to do this. Also, try not to take it personally if your partner wants some space away from you. It is something that everyone will need at this time in order to help look after their own wellbeing.
Enjoy talking to one another
You are likely spending more time than ever with one another, so have the conversations you’ve not managed to have yet due to busy schedules. Talk about things you are currently enjoying, reminisce over great moments you’ve had together and discuss what you want to spend time doing over the next few days and weeks.
But if there are any big or difficult conversations that you haven’t had that may take a lot of work, pause them until later. This is a challenging time, where everyone is dealing with difficulties and changes to their life, so it may not be a good idea for you to have these weighty discussions yet.
Have some fun together
Make sure that you are setting time aside to have fun together, and maybe even get involved in each other’s hobbies. Use the time you are now spending together to reconnect as a couple and to appreciate that you have one another.