Expert relationship authors offer simple ways to stay together – even in the face of unbelievable stress

By Mary S. Park
November 02, 2020 09:30 AM
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Even the healthiest partnerships have been challenged by the stress caused by COVID-19; the combination of working from home, being unable to access our normal ways to blow off steam and very little separation from one’s partner (turns out, absence really does make the heart grow fonder) all have had an impact on couples’ relationship happiness.

According to Karen Elizaga, a lifestyle coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence, staying the course in your relationship actually requires some work. Using the right techniques can mitigate the negative feelings experienced during the seemingly endless Coronavirus pandemic.

Make Time for Quick Connections

“Even though you’re together all the time, you may not actually ‘see’ one another,” she says. “Ironic, but when you’re going to refill your coffee or toggling Zoom meetings, make sure you take a moment to see and check in with your partner. Twenty seconds of easy connection can fuel your relationship.”

Create Quarantine Ground Rules

“Never have we ever spent so much time under the same roof. Usually, there is the respite of working outside the home or going to school. But for the last several months, many of us have been together 24/7. It is important to create reasonable expectations for how we want to operate, and how we would love for our partner to operate,” Elizaga advises.

Rather than lob off a critique in the heat of the moment, she says, “Make time for a meeting with your significant other to discuss a plan. It is so much easier to get your point across when you aren’t hopped up on emotions of the moment. Ask each other how you will split duties in the household, such as who will cook versus who will do the dishes.”

Take Me Time

“Even if you need to hide in the bathroom because it’s the only private space in your home, do it,” she says. “It is so important for us to be able to be on our own to regroup and re-energize. If you can’t find space indoors, take a walk with a mask on, sit on your front porch, or take a drive with no particular destination.”

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Reframe Your Thoughts about Housework

You may have had different tidiness expectations before, but rarely had to confront them because you spent most of your day out of the house. “Unfortunately, when everyone is home and working in a shared space, things can get a little bit messy,” she points out. “Understand that it may be time to reframe how you and your partner think about what is an acceptable level of cleanliness and order and shift your perspective so that those ‘signs of productivity’ a.k.a. messes are reframed as reasons for which to be grateful.”

Forgive and Forget

“In this strange time of having to stay home and worrying about when things will get back to normal, we are not our typical selves,” Elizaga points out. “When your partner says something offensive or insensitive, take a breath and perhaps attribute it to the stress of the moment, rather than taking it personally. And forgive what may be caused by the mental and emotional strain of juggling childcare, schooling and working from home during COVID.”

She suggests focusing on creating a strong bond with your partner, instead of lecturing or arguing – trying to model the desired behavior instead of demanding it.

Susan Winter, a relationship expert and author of Allowing Magnificence, also shares several tips to keep the peace and come out on the other side stronger.

Laugh Whenever Possible

“We live in uncertain times. Our many concerns can easily dampen our mood,” Winter says. “Try to find the place of laughter again. Having a sense of humor and allowing yourself to play, and to look for joy, is absolutely essential for the relationship.”

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Keep Appearances Up

While your home is doing quadruple duty as an office, a gym, and a classroom, it can be tempting to make the same pair of sweats work for all four “locations.” That’s why something as simple as getting dressed up for each other in the house can speak volumes.

"Being sequestered and having limited social contact has allowed many of us to get off our game in terms of appearance,” the author says. “We are all visual creatures. Attending to the factors that create visual attraction are vital in long-standing relationships."

Reinvigorate Your Relationship by Committing to Each Other

Clue your partner in to the steps you’re trying to take to break-up proof your relationship, and invite them to take part too. Try to find something new that you both enjoy to help break up the monotony of couch-bound Netflix nights.

"Long-standing relationships need to be reinvigorated by adding in new elements of surprise, wonder, and discovery,” Winter says. “This keeps the relationship fresh and growing … New input stimulates the mind and creates stronger connections within the partnership."