5 Ways To Improve Your Relationship During Social Isolation
Many people who are used to living alone, or simply not used to spending 24/7 with their partners, are suddenly being forced to. No matter how much you may love your significant other, this seriously significant change will likely be challenging for your relationship. So how can we not just get by but actually improve our connections during quarantine?
We consulted clinical psychotherapist and relationship expert Mary Jo Rapini, M.Ed., LPC, who shared five tips for fostering a romantic relationship, even when tensions are high:
1. Show up in little ways.
"It's always the little things," Rapini told mbg. If your partner is feeling irritable or stressed, go out of your way to do something kind for them. Though most restaurants and cafés have closed for dining in, many are still open for takeout or delivery. "Go on a walk and pick up your partner's favorite meal, or grab them a coffee in the morning," she suggested.
Not only will you support a local business, but that simple, thoughtful act can show your partner how much you care.
2. Prioritize your own self-care.
Though small acts of kindness go a long way, "It's not your partner's job to make you happy," she said, "and it's also not their fault this happened."
It's a stressful time, but taking it out on loved ones will only create more problems. To keep from putting all the pressure (or blame) on your partner, remember to prioritize your own self-care.
Read a book that you haven't otherwise had the time to finish, go outside for some much-needed vitamin D and a change of scenery, or take this time to start an exercise routine.
"This is an emotional roller coaster, and as much as you care about the person sitting with you, it's still your experience," she said. "Keep doing the things that bring you joy."
3. Change your expectations.
"This is not a romance novel or movie," Rapini said. "This is real life, so we can't expect things to be easy." If you've unexpectedly moved in with your partner and are adjusting to each other's not so favorable habits, remember that it's only temporary.
"It's one thing to live with someone," she said, "it's another to be with them all day when you don't know what's going to happen to your job, your family, your livelihood. Nothing is certain at this time, so be patient and kind with one another." Things will go back to normal eventually, but for now we have to expect the unexpected and be there for the people we love.
4. Openly communicate.
Communicating your needs to your partner is the best way to mitigate unnecessary conflict or prevent you from saying something you might regret. Explaining your needs can help your partner respond with respect and love, especially when emotions are running high.
If you're already good at communicating, try going deeper. "One thing Amazon is not running out of right now is We Connect cards," she said. The cards prompt thought-provoking questions, which Rapini said, "many couples choose to sweep under the rug and not talk about." The cards, paired with a bottle of wine, can be a great indoor date-night activity.
5. Show your appreciation.
"Many of us know our partners are great, but we still take them for granted," she said. What better time to stop doing that and start voicing our gratitude? Rapini recommends telling each other, once a day, something you really appreciate about the other.
"If you can't think of a single thing, it's time to get to work." That may mean finding a counselor who can work with you over video or assigning yourselves "homework," like giving each other massages or learning your partner's love language. These actions may remind you just how much you appreciate and love your partner.
What's the biggest take-away?
No matter who you are or how much you love each other, you're going to run into conflict during this time. "You might see things in your partner you've never seen before," she said. "It's important to be understanding or forgiving of that."
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