Quality Time and Communication at Home Is Essential

When you're trapped at home with your partner, good communication is critical.

Posted Oct 01, 2020

When it comes to communication, quality is always more important than quantity. The couple that bickers all day may be communicating a lot, but they're certainly not doing it well. During a pandemic, where you're trapped at home with your partner almost 24/7, good communication becomes even more critical. We should do everything we can to combat the coronavirus, which means social distancing and staying at home as much as possible. But while we're working to keep others and ourselves virus-free, we can also work on keeping our relationships healthy. 

After China lifted its strict lockdown rules, news reports spoke of a spike in divorce rates in the country [1]. Now, six months into the pandemic in the U.S., it seems the trend is continuing here. Legal Templates, a company that offers legal documents, reported a 34% increase in sales of divorce agreement forms [2]. 58% of their users pursuing a divorce in 2020 were married within the last five years, a 16% increase. These statistics prove that what couples need for a healthy relationship isn't more time together, it's quality time. According to Legal Templates, 20% of those seeking a divorce were married this year, while only 5% were married in 2015, suggesting that the longer people have been together, the more resilience they have built up as a couple to get through hard times.

What makes a couple resilient, and what's the difference between quality and quantity of time and communication? 

Resilience is "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change" (Merriam-Webster). In the classic Serenity Prayer, we find an excellent example of what resiliency sounds like in practice.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Resilience means recognizing what you can and cannot change, accepting what is out of your control rather than ruminating, and changing what you can. A resilient person acknowledges that COVID-19 is real and requires lifestyle changes and makes adjustments to meet the challenge. A resilient couple accepts that COVID-19 means spending a lot of time together in close quarters, requiring sacrifices, and then working together to make the difficult situation as positive as it can be for both parties. 

Hard times can bring out the best and worst in people, magnifying problems that once seemed small, including poor communication skills. There are four styles of communication: aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Read the descriptions below to see which type of communicator you are.

Aggressive Communicator: You bluster and bully your way through conversations. You dominate, speak loudly, snap easily, interrupt often, and are quick to blame. For you, discussions are competitions to be won or lost. You may get your needs met, but your partner doesn't. 

Passive Communicator: You prefer to keep your mouth shut. You don't express your needs or stand up for yourself. You ignore violations of your boundaries and apologize even when you've done nothing wrong. When your partner asks you, "What do you want?" you reply, "Whatever you want." You never get your needs met because you don't say what they are. 

Passive-Aggressive Communicator: While the passive communicator may sometimes explode into outward anger, the passive-aggressive one is never honest about their feelings. Instead, you express your anger through criticism and hide behind sarcasm. Tension always simmers below the surface, and neither of your needs gets met. 

Assertive Communicator: You see conversations as a two-way street. To you, communication is constructive and collaborative. You have a strong sense of self-worth and desire to establish boundaries, needs, and rights directly, positively, and clearly while listening and empathizing with your partner.

It should be obvious which communication style is healthiest and most beneficial to both you and your partner. Assertive communication enriches relationships, helps you both understand each other better, and engenders closeness and intimacy. To create a loving relationship, you must approach conflicts with the intention of achieving win-win outcomes in which both of you come away feeling positive about the exchange.

When you have a different "love language" than your partner, showing and accepting love in a way that satisfies both of you can be difficult. If you express your love through actions, and your partner expresses affection through words, you both may believe you're communicating your love while not feeling any in return. It's essential to recognize the difference in your love language and speak to each other about what you want. And it's crucial to positively acknowledge your partner's expression of affection even when their love language is different than yours.

One of the most powerful ways to show your love is by making your partner the focus of your full presence. The difference between quantity time and quality time is whether or not you've made your partner feel important, valued, nurtured, seen, and accepted for who they are. You can be in the same room as them for hours every day and frequently talk while still not making them feel cared for.

For your relationship to survive this pandemic, you'll need to practice assertive communication and spend quality time together every day. You'll need to accept what you cannot change and change what you can and find win-win solutions to conflicts. If you do these things, you will come away from this experience a more loving, more resilient, and more united couple. 

References

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-31/divorces-spike-in-china-after-coronavirus-quarantines

[2] https://legaltemplates.net/resources/personal-family/divorce-rates-covid-19/

[3] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resilienc