9 Relationship Tips for Couples in Quarantine, According to an Expert
A relationship expert gives advice on how to keep your union healthy while on lockdown.
If you live with a romantic partner, the prospect of spending a few weeks alone together may sound like a blessing under normal circumstances. But there's a difference between not leaving the house for days on end because you don't want to and not leaving because you can't, as is the current situation with Americans in self-isolation due to coronavirus. The truth is, quarantine can put a real strain on a relationship. In fact, China—which is slowly emerging from a lengthy lockdown due to COVID-19—recently experienced a sudden spike in divorce rates, and experts say coronavirus is to blame.
"This can really go one of two ways," says Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, of the quarantine. "It can bring you closer, or it can make you want to strangle the living daylights out of your significant other." So, to make sure you fall into the former category, we asked Trombetti for her best relationship tips to help your union survive and thrive during the quarantine.
Spend some time apart.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, relationship experts say spending too much time together can be just as detrimental as not spending enough time together. As a result, Trombetti says it's crucial to "state your boundaries" and respect them, even in close quarters.
And set "alone time."
If you're sharing the same living space as your partner, it's normal to feel like you should be able to walk into a room and ask them a question about dinner or your taxes whenever you feel like it. But if the other person is trying to concentrate on something, that can be disruptive and cause conflict.
Trombetti suggests setting time frames when your partner has to essentially pretend you're not there—like while you're doing your online yoga class or watching your favorite show, for example—and diligently respecting that time. Since experts say that keeping a routine is critical to maintaining your mental health while self-isolating, you can also set hours every day—like 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.—when you're each doing your own thing unless there's an emergency.
Respect working from home.
The coronavirus has left many people without a paycheck, and forced others to work from home. For people who work better in an office, working from home can be a difficult adjustment, and not having any work to do at all can cause anxiety—both of which are recipes for disaster.
If your partner is working from home, it's important to treat the situation as if they are at the office, and only disrupt them if it's essential. And if you still have a job and your partner doesn't, this is a time to exercise a little extra compassion.
Ask your partner what they need.
The quarantine "can really be an opportunity for you to deepen your communication," Trombetti says—if you ask the right questions, of course. She suggests asking your partner, "What can I do to make this period easier for you?"
Have serious talks.
This might also be a good time to talk about other big picture topics and make sure you and your partner are aligned.
"This is a great time to have a 'State of the Union' style discussion and confront things you might have swept under the rug," Trombetti says. "It's also a good time to discuss your hopes and dreams." These are the kinds of important issues that often get put on the back burner amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday domestic life, and now is the perfect opportunity to address them.
Don't take your stress out on your partner.
This is a tough one. This pandemic is, of course, an extremely stressful time, and your partner is probably usually your sounding board for all of your daily fears and concerns. But, since you're stuck together, this is a time when it's important to be mindful and try to reel back your emotions a little bit.
"No matter how frustrated you get, you have to agree not to take it out on the other person," Trombetti says.
Make a plan
The fact is, spending so much time in one place with the same people is a difficult thing to handle. "One way or another, you're going to go stir-crazy," Trombetti says. "So you have to agree on that and say, 'Well, what are we going to do about that?'" Rather than just taking every day as it comes and being reactive, it's better to make an emotional contingency plan and decide on how you're going to deal with tension and conflict as it inevitably arises.
Make your time together quality time.
As every co-habitating couple knows, being in the same room together doesn't necessarily equate to spending quality time together. It's better to spend some time apart and then come together to actually do a bonding activity—like cooking or watching a movie—than to just hang out in the same room all day with little meaningful interaction.
Make time for fun.
"We're so used to going out and having our house be our place to recharge, now we have to bring that fun back into our homes," Trombetti says. "My husband and I start our happy hour at 5 p.m.—it's become an inside joke."
There are also plenty of other things you can do together: go for a walk in an isolated area, play games at home, or do a workout together. Hopefully, a situation like this will never happen again, so you might as well make the most of it!