This blog was written by Yana Bachynsky, LMFT
Is your relationship struggling during COVID-19?Just like everything else during this time, marital relationships have not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. Unfortunately, arguing and domestic violence have increased among couples. For life partners who already have poor communication skills, holing up together only magnifies their stress.
Some of the common things that couples have shared include an increase in depression, fear, frustration, feelings of isolation, resentfulness and confusion. The purpose of this blog is to help marital couples love each other and maintain a healthy relationship as we are navigating the new reality of pandemic. At Family Guidance and Therapy Center, we are here to support you especially through these tough times.
Below are some ways that you and your partner can use in order to cope and get through this time. We encourage you to try out any or all of these techniques and be curious in the process of growth.
- Create rituals of connection: Try to spend time together on things that truly matter to you as a couple. You likely find yourself spending more time together these days, so it’s important that rituals of connection are maintained and celebrated. An example of a ritual of connection is to share a meal with your partner at least once a day. During a meal you can discuss things that came up for you and connect about any challenges or successes you’ve experienced.
- Practice active listening skills: Practice checking in with your partner about their day, every day! Listen attentively to what your partner is communicating without jumping in to problem-solve. Create a safe space by reflecting back on what your partner said. It is important to connect with your partner by expressing empathy towards any feelings that your partner communicates.
- Ask open-ended questions: It is important to keep growing together and learning about each other. Try asking open-ended questions that prompt your partner to share more. An open-ended question is any question that cannot be answered with a “YES” or a “NO”. Practice by starting your sentences with a “where?” “why?” or “how” instead of “do you?” This could be an opportunity to learn about your spouse’s childhood or anything else you want to know more about. Try it out and see a difference!
- Spend time together learning new skills: If you find that you have more time with your partner, think of ways in which both of you can learn something new. Examples of activities can include cooking a new meal together, watching a documentary and discussing it, or trying out an artistic activity such as painting on a canvas or rocks.
- Stay courageous in not going to bed angry: Perhaps your day was overwhelming as you had to juggle working from home and taking care of other things such as caring for a child or running your household. Such stressors can lead to miscommunication or negative dialogue with your partner. If this is the case, spend some time expressing your feelings and taking responsibility for negative communication. Specifically, spend some time connecting about the feelings as well as talking about the miscommunication. Say what you feel and try to avoid blaming your partner.
- Continue developing a sense of interdependence: Discuss ways in which you can be connected with your spouse as well as having some time for yourself. It is very important to maintain a sense of healthy self-esteem and space as well as having time with your partner. Discuss ways that both of you can take time connecting with friends or extended family, reading books and doing whatever you need to keep yourself healthy.
- Try exercise, it has been linked to positive mental health: Brainstorm together about a fun way to exercise together. The internet has countless workout videos you can try. Remember, you don’t have to follow this exercise routine perfectly, just have fun with your spouse!
- Practice Deep Breathing together: Find 10 minutes in your day to sit together and practice deep breathing. You can close your eyes and practice 4-4-8 Breathing. The way to do this is to breathe in on a count of 4 through your nose, hold your breath for a count of 4 and release it on a count of 8. Focus on counting and repeat multiple times. Talk with each other about how deep breathing makes you feel.
- Make a list of things you are grateful for about your day and share it before going to bed: For example: “It was a sunny day and I enjoyed seeing the sun while being on my balcony” or “I am grateful for having you as my spouse” or “I am thankful for our time together.” If the day has been challenging and it is hard to think of anything, it can be as simple as “I got through the day!”
- Volunteer together to do an act of kindness for a friend: Perhaps there is a friend who has lost their job or a relative that has been affected by COVID-19. Think of some way you can help them out. It could be something as simple as preparing a meal and leaving it at their door or just showing them support with a voice or video call.
- Maintain a physical connection with your spouse: If you have lotion or massage oils, you can put on romantic music and give each other a massage. You can focus on a specific area such as head and shoulders or feet and hands if you only have 15 minutes. If you have an hour, you can give your partner a full body massage. Then you can switch roles and receive a massage the next day!
- Small love gestures go a long way: Smile at your partner when you see them, gaze directly into their eyes, stroke their back when you pass them by, give them a compliment, bring them a glass of water, or ask them how you can be of support when they look tired.
We can Help
Remember, we are here to support you and are only a phone call away. Couples therapy can be a beneficial way to deal with stress during a pandemic. Please reach out and let us know if you would like support from a mental health clinician. We have Telehealth options available to you during this time. At Family Guidance and Therapy Center, we are here to support you with the issues that may have presented challenges for you during the pandemic.