Maintaining our partnerships while confined
Posted April 2, 2020
With less than two months into our relationship, I moved in with my now-husband, then semi-serious boyfriend. This wasn’t a permanent move; rather, he was displaced during Hurricane Sandy in New York City. We got along great during that time, though we were both on our “best behavior” as we were still getting to know one another.
After a couple of weeks in extremely close quarters, he was able to return home, and I regained my personal space. While I had been living alone for quite a while and considered myself relatively independent, I immediately missed his presence. During this time of high anxiety and uncertainty, we were able to come together and work as a team. Other couples had very different outcomes. For better or for worse, some realized that they were not as compatible as they had hoped or were not able to find comfort in one another and, as a result, split up.
Now that we are dealing with a worldwide pandemic, in which many of us have been given stay-at-home orders, people have asked me what they can do to safeguard their relationships. This is obviously an extremely complex question, as we are facing uncharted territory and a slew of complicated emotional reactions.
Since many of us are now working from home, the barrier between our work lives and romantic lives has eroded. Below I have highlighted some tips for sharing a space with a partner while working from home.
1. Balance time spent alone and time spent as a couple.
Be cognizant of when each member of the couple needs his/her/their space. Each individual has different needs when it comes to alone time. You must respect one another’s boundaries; do not take it personally if your partner leaves to spend time alone.
2. Have open, honest, and caring communication about your feelings and fears.
Be a source of support for one another, realizing that anxiety may be at an all-time high as we face a great deal of uncertainty about the virus and the state of the world. Make yourself available to your partner so that he/she/they can express any emotions and concerns.
3. Validate one another.
This goes a step farther than my previous point, in that people should validate their partner’s feelings and emotional reactions. Provide a sense of security and calm (to whatever extent that is possible). We don’t have to have any answers; we just need to be there to listen, validate, and support.
4. Practice self-care together.
While being informed and up-to-date is important, so is taking a break from the news cycle to recharge and focus your energy elsewhere. Do not shame your partner or feel guilty for wanting to turn off and decompress.
5. Discuss logistics.
If you and your partner are both working from home for an extended period of time (which is likely), you may need to plan out how to use common spaces in a fair and equitable manner. Discuss needs for working in a productive and time-sensitive way.
Overall, rather than focusing on the amount of time you are spending together, consider how you communicate with one another during that time. Difficult situations not only test us as individuals but can affect our relationships as well. Communicating in a compassionate manner and serving as a source of support for one another will make a difference.
Stay home, stay safe, and stay well.