Lockdown has a way of throwing even the most stable relationships off balance, and the ones that were already teetering were doomed from the pandemic’s very beginning.
Any time two people are scooped out of comfort and thrown into a realm of horrifying unknowns, it is bound to add stress. Sitting at home after having lost a job and stable income without any hope for the future is the perfect recipe for a breakup, especially when those two people are too depleted mentally to maintain a healthy or productive lifestyle.
It’s funny how we are most productive when our time is in high demand, but the minute our world slows down and our time is freed up, we find ourselves unable to do the simple things like take out the trash, replenish our groceries, exercise, or even make it out of bed in the first place.
Being forced into such a corner can bring out the worst in us, a version that our partners may only be witnessing for the first time. It can make us depressed, riddled with anxiety, and whiney. It can make us stop valuing our personal hygiene or react to non-threatening situations with a razor-sharp temper. It can make us forget the importance of cleaning our apartment or doing our laundry.
The important thing to keep in mind is that none of us are at our best right now. We need to be patient with one another while we are going through this rather gut-wrenching transition. However, if a relationship isn’t meant to work out in the first place, COVID will guarantee it won’t make it to the next round. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it could put you in a position to focus more on your own goals without having the obligations that come from being in a committed relationship.
For those non-extinct relationships that are still hanging on for dear life, ask yourself if you’re still together out of convenience or loneliness. It’s perfectly fine if you are together for either of these reasons, but it is good to be aware of it. Life is hard. It is meant to throw us curveballs. If your partner isn’t responding well to those curveballs, how do you think they will handle the ones coated in fire headed straight for you in the future? Because this pandemic will likely not be the last of obstacles you will face in this lifetime. That’s why it’s important to take notice of how we respond to these events when they do take place. Does your partner run away or cower in the corner as soon as things get tough? Do they tear you down and make you feel worse? Do they blame you for their problems? Or do they listen and support you while trying to find the best possible solution that works for both of you?
If you feel like you and your partner can stand the test of COVID but are looking for ways to maintain a healthy relationship throughout all the uncertainty, keep reading to learn about the eight tips that helped me.
1. Take time apart.
Before the pandemic we used to leave to go to work every day and then in our free time we’d go to the gym, visit our friends, or run errands. We had so much time to interact with other humans that we’d maybe even start to miss our significant other by the day’s end. However, that’s not the case anymore. Many of us either work from home or aren’t working at all and are imprisoned in these confined spaces with our partners who are beginning to resemble an archnemesis. This happens because we haven’t allowed ourselves the time to separate. Healthy relationships require space so that each person can maintain their own sense of identity.
Even though I’m not technically working right now, I’ve given myself a schedule. I write for about 6-8 hours a day while my partner studies for his online courses and we don’t interact again until dinnertime. We maintain this rhythm all week and sometimes even on weekends. I’ve found that doing this not only gives us much-needed space but it gives us something to talk about when we finally reconvene.
It also helps me to feel as though I’m striving for something despite being unemployed. This has a really positive effect on how we treat one another in the relationship. Everyone wants to feel proud of not only themselves but of their partners. Doing nothing but binge-watching Netflix all day can cause both of you to lose hope in one another, almost like you’ve given up. Finding ways to explore your passions is going to improve the way you feel about yourself and your partner and vice versa.
2. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
If you feel like your world is collapsing beneath your feet, talk about it. Let your partner in. There’s no reason why anyone should have to deal with the current circumstances alone.
Communication is not one-sided and requires both individuals to participate. I find that I am often hit with these random tornado mood swings as a result of my ambiguous future. I don’t always provide my partner with fair warning and sometimes catch him off guard, which makes him attempt to match my moodiness. This is how a fight breaks out, and it can so easily be avoided with honest communication.
Sometimes just inviting him into my head and confessing my feelings can make all the difference. It almost prepares him for a storm that’s about to hit so that he can take the necessary precautions. When our partner responds rather than reacts to our concerns, they are eliciting a more soothing response within ourselves as well. We are far less likely to react defensively or get angry.
3. Reignite the spark you lost.
Just because the law requires us to stay indoors doesn’t mean we have to resort to the same monotonous routines every single day. If back in the “old world” you took your partner out on dates, find a way to recreate those romantic moments. Light candles with your home-cooked dinner and play music that beseeches a slow dance. You are in control of how your days unfold, meaning you can make them as magical or mind-numbing as you fancy.
Choose to leave cute little love notes hidden around your apartment. Choose to surprise one another with thoughtful gifts. Choose to draw a long-overdue bubble bath. Choose to open the nice bottle of wine or dress up even if no one else is there to see you.
4. Look at things from their perspective.
I struggle with this one so much that it almost feels hypocritical to write about. These days, I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to listen. I’m too bogged down by my own worries to hear what anyone else has to say. I analyze everything through such narrow tunnels that I forget to consider that someone else’s point of view might be just what I need to help broaden my horizons. Is it possible that you might be making the same mistake? Having the ability to step outside of your own perspective and view it from someone else’s is a skill that has the power to defuse even the most ruthless conflicts.
5. Focus on your mental health.
There are no rules for how to manage stress, but there are certainly some daily habits that can keep you and your partner’s mental health in check. Try meditating for just 15-20 minutes every morning or find some other healthy way to escape your mind, such as going for a hike, doing yoga, or baking. For me, reading and writing are the two forms of escape I’m most fond of. I like to engage in activities that make me feel like I’m bettering myself somehow so that I don’t feel like I’m just wasting my days away. It’s amazing how such simple practices can change the way you feel about yourself, and believe it or not, how you feel about your partner.
6. Express your love.
It’s easy to take our loved ones for granted, especially if we’re around them every waking second of the day. Remember, though, no matter how comfortable our partners may seem, they can always leave at a moment’s notice. That’s why it never hurts to remind them just how much they mean to us. Say “I love you” and say it often. Tell your partner how much you value them and how you can’t imagine life without them.
My relationship isn’t perfect by any means, but this is something I feel we are good at. We never forget to remind one another of how magical we feel when we’re together. It’s so simple yet so powerful. If you feel your partner slipping away, make sure they know how much they mean to you, and hopefully, they do the same.
7. Be patient.
This virus does not discriminate, which means everyone on this planet has been negatively impacted in some way due to COVID-19. If your partner is exhibiting depressive behavior with heightened anxiety, try and be supportive. Even if you don’t necessarily understand every shade of their emotions, sometimes just being there is enough. The worst thing you could do is isolate your partner in a time when they desperately need it.
8. Strive to be the same person they fell in love with.
Prior to the pandemic, if you showered daily and worked out, keep doing those things. When the lockdown was announced, I went out and got myself a yoga mat. With everything else falling apart, the last thing I wanted was to have a jelly belly and a muffin top. Not only does my 20-minute abs and booty routine add structure to my days but it makes me feel like I’m not a complete waste of space. I feel better, I look better, and my partner hopefully doesn’t view me as the sofa spud I nearly transmuted into.
Hopefully these tips will give the roots of your relationship the capacity to flourish, despite being crammed in a tiny pot. Life won’t be this way forever, and if you’ve made it this far, then you’re nearly there. Don’t lose hope in yourself, your relationship, or humanity. We’ve suffered together, but soon we’ll rejoice together too.