Hi everyone! Today I want to talk about something that is likely affecting all couples during this time. Relationship health. How’s it going over there? Are you guys going like rabbits and loving all this time together … or are you in each others face ready to strangle one another?
Everyone’s life, routines, and schedule this last week flipped RIGHT upside down, and that alone, is enough to put a major strain on your relationship with your loved one, never mind all of that AND having to stay at home with one another more than usual. I thought of writing this blog because, to be honest, this has been a challenging time for Justin and I and we both have been reaching down deep to use the skills we learned in counseling to get through this time.
I know every family is experiencing different things right now … do the kids go to childcare and school if they are still open? If they aren’t open, and both parents still have to work, who takes care of the kids? Some couples aren’t always on the same page with what is going on. What EXACTLY does self-distancing mean? Can we still go to the grocery store? To work? What about the Nanny or house cleaner? Or worse yet, couples who one or both parties were laid off, or family businesses that are suffering because of what’s going on. Financial stress is a huge factor in all of this as well. Which partner’s career takes a back seat? How much news are we watching and how are we juggling new schedules? Are we talking about MORE than just current news? Are we making time for each other?
The list of questions can go on and on. Most of these are things Justin and I have discussed in our house and while I am really proud of us for managing this to the best of our ability it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. So, having said that, I wanted to reach out to remind couples that this is a very interesting time that none of us have experienced before. This can put a ton of strain on couples and families and it’s normal if things aren’t all “hunky-dory” in your household.
But, there are ways to cope with this (and this is especially important if you have kids) and I wanted to share some of those things with you! I, of course, am no relationship expert, but Justin and I have learned many skills from our therapist over the years Sig Taylor, and I asked if he would help me write this piece to help all of you!
Take it away Sig!
Hi everyone! My name is Sig Taylor, as Jillian mentioned I am a Marriage and Family Therapist based out of Calgary, AB. I am excited to discuss 5 relationship survival strategies that you and your partner can implement during isolation.
Let’s dive in!!
1. Get control of your emotions – practice relational mindfulness
In times of stress, our emotional systems go into “overdrive.” Coping mechanisms (healthy or otherwise) are amplified by stress and fear. If you were already disconnected before the crisis, it could get worse. Try regulating your emotions by practicing this simple technique – before you react to your partner, STOP – BREATHE – THINK. Don’t just dump because you’re triggered. If you’re “really triggered,” the best action is taking a time out.
2. Carve out quality couple time each day (not too much though)
Many of us are going to find ourselves spending a lot more time together during isolation. “Quality couple time” should include deepening your connection and creating intimate togetherness. Maintain rituals such as sharing morning coffee or having creative date nights. A great way to stay connected is to have a Daily Check-In with your partner. This helps to improve communication and reduce conflict.
3. Take time “apart/together”
Divorce rates often increase after spending long periods of time together, especially in close quarters (“cabin fever”). Welcome to our new reality! Confinement and lack of routine can cause claustrophobic irritability and restlessness, which puts stress on intimate relationships. Take time apart, even if you can’t physically do that. Create a psychological boundary of space between each other for a certain period of time each day.
4. Set limits on “virus talk” and the news
Some people will want to focus on and talk about the “situation” all the time. Don’t do that. Make an agreement to limit discussion about unfolding events. Staying informed while keeping healthy boundaries is necessary for our mental health. Remember, we’re likely in this for a long haul!
5. Seize the opportunity
Traumatic events or “working against a common threat” can bring couples closer together. But for others, it can drive them apart by revealing different “coping styles.” Seize this opportunity to strengthen your bond and improve your life on the other side of this. Examples are mindfulness practices, healthy family time, setting up new routines, getting caught up on projects or hobbies, making your home a sanctuary and readying yourself for the future.
If you find that you or someone you love is in a situation where they are not only housebound but in an abusive relationship a helpful resource to keep in mind is The Canadian Lifeline. Please know that you are not alone and there are many resources available to assist you during this time!
On the other hand, if child management is an issue, I highly recommend 123 Magic – “3-Step Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting.” I’ve used it for many years with my clients and for most parents, it really does work like magic!
Lastly, don’t hesitate to get help! Some counselors (including myself) offer online couples’ video sessions.