17 Quarantine Marriage Tips from Relationship Experts
Isolating together isn't easy, but this expert advice will help keep your bond strong.
No matter how solid your relationship is, being stuck indoors for weeks or months on end with one person can push even the happiest couples to their breaking point. Between the stress of being cooped up together and the undeniable mental toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking, it's no wonder tensions are running high in countless households, making an already difficult situation even tougher. If you want to be a better spouse, take to heart (and put into practice) these quarantine marriage tips that will help keep your romance on steady footing, no matter how long you're stuck at home. And if you want to avoid any serious romantic missteps, discover these 15 Ways You're Causing Relationship Problems in Quarantine.
Make space for yourself.
Even if you're cooped up together in a small apartment, carving out your own personal space—and giving your partner ample room of their own—can help keep your relationship from entering rocky territory.
In addition to filling your space (no matter how tiny) with things that bring you happiness, licensed mental health counselor GinaMarie Guarino recommends that you actually use it. "Don't be afraid to excuse yourself to your space occasionally as well, because the space will help you decompress if you are feeling pressure from the confinement," she says. For more self-care ideas, check out 17 Mental Health Tips for Quarantine From Therapists.
Do things apart.
Just because you're physically occupying the same space as someone else doesn't mean that you need to participate in the same activities 24/7.
"Taking time apart to do the things you enjoy can be very helpful," says Nikki Winchester, PsyD, owner of the Cincinnati Center for DBT. "Take a bubble bath. Play a video game. Watch a movie the other person doesn't want to see." And if you could use some solo time, try out these 15 Effective Self-Care Tips That Are Made for Quarantine.
Put yourself in your partner's shoes when you get frustrated.
It's understandable that you might be feeling a little less patient with your partner than usual these days, but try to see things from their perspective and you may be able to prevent those disagreements from becoming full-blown fights.
"If you notice yourself getting frustrated with your partner's behavior, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes," recommends Winchester. "This is important because right now, it is easy to get wrapped up in our own experience, [but] we also need to consider our partner's experience."
Check in throughout the day.
Don't assume you know how your partner's feeling just because you're spending more time together than ever. Taking just a few moments to see how your partner's doing can make all the difference in how you're both feeling.
"You can check in in the morning, evening, or whenever you and the other person are likely to be at their best," advises Winchester. She also recommends communicating honestly about how you're feeling during these check-ins, even if it's difficult to say anything other than, "I'm fine."
Use "I" statements.
It's easy to let those tensions boil over and turn into fights, but if you want to be a better spouse in quarantine, it's worth it to keep your cool and try to speak to your spouse in a compassionate manner.
"Instead of saying, 'you should' or 'you shouldn't,' you can say 'I would really like it if' or 'I feel really bothered when,'" suggests Winchester, who notes that doing so will make it easier for your partner to avoid becoming defensive.
Validate your partner's feelings.
You may not share your partner's feelings of worry, anger, or frustration, but if you want to be supportive of them, it's important that you show empathy nonetheless.
"Validation is essentially communicating that you understand where someone is coming from," explains Winchester. "This might look like, 'You have every right to be stressed out about this. Anyone would be in your shoes. I get it.' Or, 'Of course you're stressed. You just found out you might lose your job.'"
Make time for self-care as a couple.
One of the best ways to keep your relationship healthy in quarantine is to engage in self-care activities both of you enjoy.
"The important thing is that couples' self-care be an absolute priority," explains New York-based licensed psychotherapist Yonason Witonsky, LCSW, founder and clinical director of NYCSUPPORT.org. "Even a social distancing, mask-wearing walk around the block can make a tremendous difference."
Discover something new about your partner.
You may feel like you know everything there is to know about your partner, but in quarantine, you have an unprecedented opportunity to take the time to find out more.
"Create your own fun questions list," says David Strah, a licensed psychotherapist based in Los Angeles. He suggests starting off with icebreakers like, "What was your most embarrassing moment?," "Where were you when you laughed at an inappropriate time?," and "If you had to eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?" And for more ways to keep your relationship healthy, discover these 65 Ways to Be a Better Spouse After 40, According to Experts.
Express your appreciation for your partner.
When you're together all day, it can be easy to start taking your partner for granted. However, if you want to keep your relationship healthy, it pays to identify the things you love and value about them.
"Take turns saying one to three things that you each really appreciate about one another," recommends Strah. "It could be something [they] did in the past week that made you feel good, [their] sense of humor, or something that makes [them] unique from other people you know." Need some inspiration? Start with these 23 Little Compliments You're Not Saying That Go a Long Way.
Make your boundaries clear.
Prioritizing your own mental health and wellbeing by enforcing clear boundaries may sound harsh, but it can actually improve your relationship over time.
"Sometimes, we feel guilty setting boundaries, but if we don't set them, we will ultimately end up feeling resentful or bitter towards our partner when they do cross the undiscussed boundary, and they won't know why," explains associate marriage and family therapist Jennifer Pepper. Pepper explains that this can be as simple as telling your partner that when you have your headphones in, it's important that they don't interrupt you, or just letting them know that you want some personal space.
Create new rituals together.
Just because you can't necessarily venture out for a hike or try a new restaurant right now doesn't mean you can't do something new with your partner.
According to Los Angeles-based licensed marriage and family therapist Saba Lurie, creating a new ritual with your partner could be just the thing you need to keep your relationship healthy while you're isolating together.
"If you're needing your spirits boosted, it could be a nightly review of one thing from that day that made you laugh. If you're missing having date nights out, you could plan to cook dinner together once a week," she suggests.
Ask for what you want.
Instead of hoping that your partner will know that you want and getting frustrated when your needs aren't met, there's no time like the present to adopt a more assertive communication style.
"Let your partner know what you would like them to do, now or in the future, that would give you more of what you want," says therapeutic relationship coach Nikki Loscalzo of Savvy Strategies Relational Life Therapy. "You have no right to complain about what you never asked for."
Limit your reliance on news.
While staying attuned to what's happening in the world can feel helpful and necessary amid the pandemic, tuning out the doom and gloom from time to time can do a world of good for your relationship.
"Too much consumption of upsetting news can ramp up anxiety, turn the mind inward, and lead to a sense of isolation from your partner," explains licensed clinical psychologist Pria Alpern, PhD. To combat this, Alpern recommends scheduling a break from the news during which you share a meal or listen to music, agreeing to exclusively discuss subjects other than the news during your date.
Be engaged when you're together.
Just because you're in the same room as your partner doesn't mean you're actually connecting.
"Binge-watching Netflix and cruising social media is the norm right now," explains Heather Sexton, MEd, LPC, but it's not true quality time.
That said, Sexton notes that you don't have to plan something elaborate to make the most of your time together. "Being engaged with your partner may be having a conversation, being intentional [about] the time you're spending together, and taking time to connect," she says.
Keep things light.
The world may feel scary right now, but employing a little humor with your partner can go a long way toward making your relationship happier.
"You know what type of humor pleases your partner—make an effort to bring that humor into the relationship," suggests clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, PhD. "Empathic and loving humor bonds relationships and is needed more than ever in this time of quarantine."
Surprise your partner.
Breaking up the monotony of your day-to-day routine with a few small surprises for your partner can make all the difference in terms of your overall relationship satisfaction.
"Perhaps you leave a note hidden somewhere that your partner discovers at some unpredicted time. Perhaps you do something special for your partner, [like] bake a cake, wash a car, [or] write a card," suggests Sultanoff.
Even if your relationship isn't at its romantic apex at the moment, try to make an effort to be physically affectionate to keep your bond strong.
"Oxytocin is known as the 'cuddle hormone,' and it gives a mood boost while assisting bonding," explains psychiatry resident Patricia Celan, MD. "Plan ahead to intentionally cuddle with your partner for at least 15 minutes every day to make this quarantine go easier for each of you and for your relationship."