“You’re Driving Me Crazy!” A Couple’s Guide To Surviving Isolation Together
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing panic and challenging times for the population nationwide, we must learn to adapt to the necessary recommended changes. These are indeed challenging and scary times for us all. We have been hearing the phrase “social distancing” a lot, but not everyone is clear on what that means. A medical expert at Johns Hopkins Medical defines social distancing as “deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness”. Simple enough, right?
But wait, how does one practice social distancing when they are home on a self imposed quarantine...with their significant other? Yikes! Some of you may be thinking, “this is great!” or even excited about the opportunity to spend more time with your loved one doing things you normally don’t have time for. Catching up on Netflix, dinners together, and partner workouts all seem very appealing.
Sounds nice for the first few days, but what happens after a week? Two weeks?
When you go stir-crazy, every little thing someone does tends to create frustration. “Stop chewing so loud, pick your stuff up, turn the TV down, stop SNORING!” As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I see people in all stages of relationships on a daily basis. If you’re not used to being together 24/7, this is going to be quite the learning curve. In order to learn, we sometimes need help. I want to help you avoid “driving each other crazy” during these equally crazy times.
I have created a list of tips to help make the most of your time in insolation, keeping things healthy and calm vs crazy:
SPACE: This is key. It may seem unrealistic, especially if you are stuck in a smaller house or apartment together, but it IS possible to create space. Space doesn't always have to mean a large physical distance, but more simply, a time and environment to focus on yourself. Go to a different room, sit outside in the sun, or take a safe, solitary walk. This space will help you to stay balanced with me-time and we-time and decrease the chances of “going crazy” with your significant other.
ENTERTAINMENT: This one is all about fun! Take this time of isolation to reconnect with your partner on all things entertaining. Watching new TV shows and movies, playing board games, trying new recipes, exercising together, spicing things up in the bedroom..anything goes! I always preach to my couples in session on the importance of creating a strong foundation of fun and enjoyment to fall back on and help us tackle the hard times, so take advantage of this time to do just that. Another GREAT idea for entertainment is to do the Building Love Maps activity created by The Gottman Institute. This activity is a deck of cards that consist of open ended questions intended to help couples to “connect emotionally, and increase intimacy and understanding in a fun, gentle way.”
PRODUCTIVITY: “Work from home” still includes the word work! Sometimes working from home is hard and staying productive seems like a reach. However, keeping yourself motivated and focused on accomplishing work, setting and achieving goals, and taking advantage of the time to do/finish projects can be a perfect way to stay sane with your partner and keep off each other's back! Stay busy, it will benefit you and your relationship.
COMMUNICATION: Now more than ever is an important time to work on your communication skills with your significant other. It can be easy to fall into bad communication habits when we're feeling irritable. Criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt (check out the dangers of these 4 unhealthy communication patterns) can all sneak their way into your communication without us even noticing. Stay focused on practicing healthy, respectful communication with each other in these difficult times to increase support and connection vs. distance and neglect.
SELF-CARE: Don’t neglect YOU! We all have our unique routines, personalized regimens that keep us feeling like our best selves. Bubble baths, exercise, meal prepping, mediation, yoga..the list goes on and on. It’s no secret that you are the best partner you can be when you are feeling like your best self! By making it a priority to continue AS MUCH of your own self-care regimens as possible you are decreasing the chances of irritability, stir-crazy emotions, and conflict with your partner. Self-care for you is just as important for your partner and relationship. Go put that face mask on, read a book, play your favorite sport, it’s more important now than ever!
If you and your partner are looking for extra support during this stressful time, call my office today at 954-391-5305 ext. 9 or visit me Jamie Ratowski at Brightside Therapy Services. I would be happy to speak with you about setting up a telehealth session via my HIPAA compliant phone or video conferencing platform.
Stay safe and healthy, together!