Love in the time of Corona – eight things you need to do to ensure your relationship survives the lockdown
Unless you are blessed with a wealthy partner who doesn’t work, and a huge house in which everyone can have their own space, living through lockdown is going to see your relationship truly tested.
There’s plenty of advice about how to ensure you safeguard your mental health during this period. And almost all of it requires us to be more organised and planned than we have been before.
That’s because our old routines – in which we were perhaps perfectly happy, or dealing with low level dissatisfaction – have gone. And instead we need to proactively create some new ones.
Probably never before have we been in such a creative position. Normally these routines, perhaps refreshed at New Year or after a family row and a resolution to be better, just creep up on us.
This also applies to family life.
Every couple is different
Let’s face it, every couple is different. When we asked a panel of workers two weeks into this period how they thought they would maintain their relationship, the answers offered two ends of a spectrum.
Some couples have created family agreements and posters and are sitting down for a family debrief at the end of the day. Others, meanwhile say we just need to bring more love and kindness to every situation, accept there will be very bad days, and roll with it.
So you need to ask the following questions: Are you a family who usually sticks to a routine? Do you always sit down and discuss things over the dinner table or are you more fluid? Any attempt in my house to form a family agreement would be met with raucous laughter.
Even the fluid types with younger children to manage and home school to balance with work commitments realise some organisation is really necessary in this time.
Eight ways your relationship can survive lockdown
Here are eight things you can do to ensure you come out of lockdown with your relationship intact.
1) Agree a timetable
Share calendars and make agreements on who will be where at what time and who is managing childcare when. If you are taking on home schooling you have to share the times you will be unavailable. You can always negotiate and send an updated to-do list at the end of the day.
2) Work out how to share space
If you only have a small space in your home, agree who has the premium space and when. So, for example if there’s only one office or desk, work out a rota as to who uses it when.
3) ‘Leave’ work on time
Try to keep you work life as normal as is possible when you’re working from home. So start with a “commute” – even if it is a walk around the block (or kitchen!). And make sure you switch off your laptop and stop work at the same time each day.
This can ensure you have the time and energy to give your relationship and family, and stops resentment breeding that you’re not really ‘there’ or are leaving too much work and responsibly to your partner.
4) Allocate family time
Allocate a time each day where you will do some things together – cooking a meal, playing a game, or doing an online workout session.
5) Don’t put pressure on yourself
If you have perfectionist tendencies, or generally over achieve in every area of your life, now is the time to put that on hold.
Accept that not everything can be in your control right now, and nor will it probably be perfect. So if a child wanders into a Zoom call, if they are not making the progress with school work you feel they should be right now, try to (to quote a movie you may be familiar with…) let it go.
It’s fine for things not to be perfect now. The world won’t end because you didn’t maintain strict standards in every area of your life every day. Pick the things that ARE important to get right, and let yourself off the rest a little.
6) Expect meltdowns
It is very normal for people to have meltdowns in trauma and crisis. What we are experiencing now, as a nation, is a form of collective grief.
Sand as you may know, anger is often the first stage of grief. So don’t be surprised if your partner and children are more testy than usual (or you are!). It doesn’t mean your relationship is in trouble if you have an outburst or raging argument. It may even help release some emotions.
7) Remember the five languages of love
We all express and receive love differently, and if your method of working and your partner’s don’t align there is a temptation to feel you’re not compatible.
Instead of panicking though, find out what their priorities are and try to work in line with them, if not in the same way. Don’t do as you would be done by, do as they would be done by).
The five languages of love are:
- Words of affirmation – Use positive and complimentary words to build up your partner and let them know they’re valued, appreciated and loved.
- Gifts – These don’t have to be bought, a flower from your daily walk or breakfast in bed can be just as gratefully receive.
- Acts of service – Doing something helpful for your partner can be powerful, especially if it’s unexpected. They can be simple gestures lie running them a bath or bring them a cup of tea.
- Quality time – Give your partner your undivided attention. Sit and chat, or watch a movie together and discuss it.
- Physical touch – Touch is a powerful way to maintain intimacy and demonstrate affection. It can be as obvious as hugging, and as simple as just touching their arm as you pass.
8) Give each other (and yourself) space
We all need our own personal space and peace and quiet. But with lockdown this is more difficult, if not virtually impossible.
Space can enable us to be with our own thoughts, get perspective on things and even calm ourselves down if things are getting on top of us. So make sure you prioritise it in yourself, and give it to your partner.
This can be as simple as disappearing into the bedroom/back garden/bathroom for a while. Or taking your daily exercise or provisions run separately. And don’t be offended if your partner wants to be alone. It doesn’t mean they don’t love or need you; they just need some space.
Whatever happens – it will be okay
Coronavirus lockdown can offer us all the opportunity to redefine our relationships. Some of us will emerge from it as a stronger couple. Others might discover that familiarity breeds content, and decide their relationship as run its course.
Whatever happens, just make the right decisions for you, and remember that in the long run, things will work out okay.
Heather Beach is the founder and director of The Healthy Work Company. Unique in its model – THWC offers tailored training solutions in line with office culture and support employers’ wellbeing strategies.
Heather is a positive psychologist and a leader in her field in health and safety and HR. She is currently working with ITV, London Luton Airport, Mace and The Telegraph delivering courses to enable managers to spot signs and symptoms of distress, have the confidence to start better conversations, and empower them with the tools to have teams which thrive.
Photo by Frank Busch