12 Tips for Couples Who Have Become Long Distance in Quarantine
Couples separated by social distancing can still keep their relationships strong.
COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of our lives—including our love lives. Six weeks ago, you and your partner were going out on dinner dates and planning a summer vacation; today, as you quarantine separately, you're suddenly figuring out a long-distance relationship, with no idea when you'll see each other again in person. It's a lot to deal with. But there are ways for couples separated by quarantine to stay close, connected, and happy—and maybe even to grow. According to sex therapist Nan Wise, PhD, author of Why Good Sex Matters, "not being in the same physical space, and needing to be creative about how [you] communicate and connect, is a great way to reboot your relationship."
Here are some tips from experts on how to maintain—or even improve—your relationship while you're quarantining apart. And if you're quarantining with your significant other, try these 9 Relationship Tips for Couples in Quarantine, According to an Expert.
Set aside time to focus on each other every day.
Set aside a time each day to concentrate on just each other, with no apps, devices, chores, or housemates to distract you. "We can always learn new things about ourselves and each other, no matter how long we're together, by being really mindful about listening to what our partner is saying," says Wise.
She recommends checking in about the high and low points of each of your days, and telling your partner about the state of your body and mind. "In everyday conversation, we're listening to make a point, we're listening to refute, we're listening to influence, we're listening to control, whatever it is," says Wise. "We can take this opportunity to really start to listen to what our partner's experiencing."
Keep date night going.
It can be tempting to stay in sweats all day, every day—especially since all your coworkers are doing it, too. But Wise suggests planning a date night the way you normally would, including getting dressed up.
"Dress up for your partner, and flirt," says Wise. Flirting when you can't physically be together, she notes, can create exciting romantic tension. And it can also serve as foreplay to any kind of long-distance sexual connection you feel comfortable with.
Schedule your time together.
It can be tempting to chat or call your partner any time you feel lonely or bored—after all, everyone has more free time now, right? But try to resist that urge, says Michael Kaye, global communications manager at OkCupid. According to Kaye, "a lot of people are going to be more dependent on talking to their partner" than they might have been in the past, because they're feeling lonely and isolated. But just because you're free to talk, doesn't mean that your partner is—and if they don't answer your chat, it can feel "really difficult and really frustrating."
Avoid confusion and hurt feelings by touching base in the morning before your day gets started, and making a plan to catch up when you both have time.
Do virtual activities together.
By now, you've probably logged some serious hours talking to your partner over video chat. But there's no reason to limit your communications to just chatting. Virtually doing the activities you love together—whether it's taking an exercise class, sketching, cooking the same meal, or watching a movie—will help you feel closer and more a part of each other's lives. "Sometimes you don't even have to talk to each other," says Kaye. "You can start a video chat and watch a movie or TV show at the same time."
Write a daily email.
Video chats can be wonderful and intimate, but once they're over, they're over, and there's no memento your partner can look back on when they miss you. That's one of the major benefits of putting your feelings in writing. "Think about writing your partner an email every morning. Let them know about any dreams you had, or what you're working on for the day and what your schedule is going to look like," says Kaye. "It's just a nice way to wake up and start your day." And for a relatable story, read one person's account of the new normal: My Relationship Became Long Distance Due to Coronavirus.
Have virtual double dates or friend hangouts.
You don't need to only hang out one-on-one in order to have quality time. "Invite your date to join you and your friends via the HouseParty app," says sexologist and author Jess O' Reilly, PhD. "Their friends can join, too, and you'll likely see additional sides of one another as you interact with friends."
Don't expect your partner to be your entire support system.
In times of stress, our first instinct is often to run straight to our partner for comfort. But "if your partner is overwhelmed with their own stuff, you should find resources in other places," says dating coach Monica Parikh, founder of School of Love. Talking to family and friends when you're stressed won't just lighten your partner's load; it can also make you feel more independent. "It's always healthier for both people to have a robust network of people they can fulfill their needs with," says Parikh.
Don't hold back your emotions.
With so much stressful news each day, you might feel inclined to keep things light with your partner, and not tell them if you're feeling hurt or annoyed. But, according to Kaye, trying to stay 100 percent positive can become its own problem.
"I think all our emotions are super heightened right now, and people are more anxious or sensitive than they've ever been before," he says. So be honest about anything that's bothering you. "Don't keep that bottled in, because you'll wind up exploding later on." And for exes who became a couple again amid the pandemic, read this personal account: How My Ex and I Reconnected and Moved in Together Under Quarantine.
However, that doesn't mean you should just complain or unload on your partner. "You can think through a fix for it," says Kaye. If you're feeling too distant from your partner, suggest a solution that would help you feel better, like starting every morning off with a phone call. If you're annoyed that your partner always wants to spend date night playing video games, propose a virtual trip to the museum or watching a free live music performance.
Get outside help if you need it.
If the quarantine has intensified relationship problems you were already having, or highlighted new ones, you don't have to deal with them alone. "I really think it's helpful to have a professional that you are able to process with, because sometimes emotions are super complicated," says Parikh.
Assess the health of your relationship.
If you've had questions or doubts about your relationship, now may also be a good time to consider them more deeply. "Ask yourself, 'Is this relationship meeting my needs, and do I want to invest more of my time and energy into it? Or is my time and energy best used in another place?'" suggests Parikh. She recommends honestly taking stock, and considering whether the relationship makes you happy or fulfills a lot of your needs. If not, "it may be time to let go and say, 'You know what? We've learned a lot from this relationship, but better to kind of let it sit here and not go any further.'"
And check in with yourself often.
With no end of the quarantine in sight, your mood and relationship expectations might be changing a lot each day. According to Janet Bayramyan, LCSW, relationship expert at the Love Discovery Institute, the best way to cope with the shock of all these transitions—and their ramifications on your relationship—is to check in with yourself.
"I would recommend checking in with yourself on a weekly basis to evaluate your own expectations of your relationship and also of your partner," she says.
And once you've checked in, let your partner know what you're feeling, and what you need. "While being understanding and accommodating, do not lose your communication skills," says Bayramyan. "State your needs. State your fears. State your hopes." And, most of all: "Remind yourself that this is only temporary."