Whether your relationship was fairly new or you were already living together already, spending 24 hours a day with the same human for endless weeks can take a toll on your relationship, and on your own mental health. Esther Perel put it best when she described the challenges that come with expecting everything from your partner:
"As almost all of our communal institutions give way to a heightened sense of individualism, we look more frequently to our partner to provide the emotional and physical resources that a village or community used to provide.
Is it any wonder that, tied up in relying on a partner for compassion, reassurance, sexual excitement, financial partnership, etc. that we end up looking to them for identity or, even worse, for self-worth?"
So even if you were mindful of this as you began to date, or as you entered a long-term relationship, being in confinement has a way of upsetting this balance. If you're staying at home together, you've become the other person's world. It's only natural that this happens, but there are ways in which you can reinforce your relationship and seek support outside of our partner virtually.
Modify your routines
Think about this last week and try to estimate how much time you've spent taking care of yourself. How does that compare to how much time you spent taking care of yourself before confinement? If your usual weekly self care routine involved a weekend hike with friends, a trip to the library and a few beach runs, try to make sure that you're still carving out time for the stay at home equivalent.
Instead of your weekend hike with friends, schedule a Zoom call where you all stretch together in your living room. Instead of the weekly trip to the library, login to your online account and see what digital books and subscriptions are available. Instead of beach runs, schedule in some time to join a high intensity dance class on Instagram. The way you take care of yourself during this confinement period is important - don't abandon all of your routines that were working for you pre-coronavirus. Just modify them!
Diversify your support system
Though you may not feel like there's much to talk about, it's important to make an effort to talk to your friends and family on a regular basis. As the days and weeks begin to turn into one blur, time can get away from you. It's helpful if you can schedule a standing call with your family, and standing calls with a group of friends. Maybe there's also one or two individual friends who you'd like to have a standing call with one-on-one.
Try to make these calls video so that you can see their facial expressions and pick up on body language. You can also do things together virtually: fold the laundry, cook dinner together, play a game or co-work out. Having these connections outside of your relationship will relieve some of the pressure for your relationship to meet all of your needs.
Have compassion for your partner
This is a difficult period, and everyone handles difficulty in their own way. Be mindful of how you may approach things from a different perspective, and how you may react and deal with stress in a way that's different from your partner. If you're struggling with feeling irritable and you don't really feel that compassionate, try listening to a compassion-focused meditation (Insight Timer is a great free app) at the beginning of your day and whenever you need some extra support. Instead of harping on your differences, use this as an opportunity to learn about your partner. Understanding that you are two different people, and showing compassion for your partner, goes a long way.
If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on "Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus."