Being stuck at home with your significant other can be lovely for a night or two. For many weeks on end? Even the healthiest relationships might hit some bumpy moments.
During these stressful times, your partnership can be a wonderful source of strength and comfort. It can also create challenges and bring additional stress. This is true if you were already struggling. But it’s also true for couples who usually get along well. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Here are a few tips that can move you from bickering to back-rubbing in no time.
When routines are suddenly changed, the ground on which your relationship is rooted shifts and tensions rise. If this happens, do not despair! It’s normal. It doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.
In the heat of the moment, we react to the person in front of us. Decades of science show us how much people tend to underestimate the importance of context.
If you’re at each other’s throats, start with reminding yourself of the reality of the situation. This has never happened before. You need to cut yourself — and your partner — some slack.
1. Understand Your Current Baseline
- Think of a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is completely calm and 10 is completely overwhelmed with your emotions. What’s your usual rating? What has it been for the past week?
- For most people, stress has gone up a lot. If your regular life is like running a marathon, you’re now running the same marathon while carrying massive weights.
2. Insert a Reasonable Thought
- For example, you may find yourself thinking, “I’m so frustrated she’s not respecting my needs!”
- Your next thought might ordinarily be, “This is so typical! She never cares about what I WANT. This is the problem we’ve been having for years!”
- Instead, see if you can add in a thought like this before that one: “This is a stressful situation. We’re all trying to do our best. I’m probably more irritable because of the situation we’re in.”
- It’s not that your concern isn’t valid. It may be something that really does need to be addressed. However, it’s worth doing a quick check to remind yourself of the context of this moment.
3. Give It a Breath
- When you feel anger or frustration rising, instead of blowing your gasket, try to remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes. Give yourself a moment to take a breath. Allow yourself to calm down. Do or think about something else for a few minutes. You can count, doodle, or distract yourself in any way that works.
- When you notice that your heat level has gone back down, return to the room and return to the topic at hand.
- Having big blowout fights is never productive. It just ends in hurt feelings. Often, you’ll find yourself saying things you wish you could take back.
Communicate With Skill
Sharing information and experiences provides common ground and helps the relationship. Start any conversation using two important rules.
- Speak from your own perspective.
- Listen to your partner.
It’s so easy to assume we know what our partner is thinking. Use “I statements” to share how you’re feeling with direct language. “I want...” “I need…” “I noticed...” Talk about what you want, and why.
And then listen with an open mind to what your partner thinks and feels. Listen for things to agree with. Listen for things that would be easy to adjust.
You may be surprised how much easier life gets when you feel that you are being heard, and when you’re able to learn new things about what’s going on for your partner.
Give Each Other Space
It may be a challenge in close quarters, but try to find ways to give each other some alone time. Maybe you’ll let your partner watch a TV show while you hang out in the other room. When your spouse is on the phone, you might put on earphones to give them privacy.
It’s healthy to find activities that you enjoy doing separately, as well as together. For some people, it may make sense to designate periods of time where you don’t talk to each other for an hour or so, just to create some breathing room.
Be There for Each Other
The two of you may experience emotions differently, and at different times. If you notice that your partner is feeling down or worried, make the effort to try to lift them up.
This can often simply mean listening. Ask them how they’re feeling. Validate what they’re going through. Don’t look to poke holes in their story, or try to solve the problem right away. Just be there with your emotional support as best you can.
Even challenging times like the COVID-19 outbreak can have silver linings. See if you can take advantage of the opportunity of being together more than usual. Connect with each other in new ways. Play games, do puzzles, and watch movies you never had time for before.
Build intimacy and positivity between you by making the effort to spend time focused on each other. Try feeling gratitude that you are lucky to have someone to share this time with.
There may be stressful times ahead, but you can get through anything if you work together as a team.