How your relationship can not just survive, but thrive in self-isolation. During uncertain times, our worry and anxiety can trigger all kinds of defensive responses, and when coupled with the loss of freedom through isolation, we may end up with partners on the edge and with high irritability. However, couples can use this time to manifest closeness, intimacy and a connection they’ve never had before.
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1. Manage expectations.
Have a safe conversation about expectations, needs, plans and responsibilities to help you focus, regulate anxiety, and minimise conflict. Being in self-isolation together means a change in the unspoken contract between you. Talk about household responsibilities, sharing work space, alone time and so on. Remember it’s not what you say, but the way you say it that will affect your relationship. Safe conversation happens when we talk as equals, from a place of love and respect that doesn’t just focus on what you want to get out of the conversation.
2. Stay Positive.
Ask yourself, what new possibilities/opportunities we can gleam from this situation. What story do I want to tell about this time when I look back on it in years to come? Your answer will become your vision, and your actions and behaviour going forward should be in line with it. Extreme situations like this can offer us clarity. As the regular day-to-day routine is pulled from under our feet, we realise our own humanity – longing to survive and connect, which reminds us of what is really important. Have honest conversations with your partner to strengthen their (and your) resilience, cognitive flexibility and connection.
3. Find the fun!
Tensions are probably running high, so investing in romance is a good idea. Leave your partner a note to find, introduce role-play to intimate scenarios, send them a thoughtful text. This is as hard for them as it is for you and you both want to come out the other side happy and healthy, so be patient and kind. Talk about exciting future plans, reminisce about past experiences, delve into deep conversation. Remember to keep moving – dance together, get into the bedroom! Movement helps regulate your nervous system and clear your mind. Commit daily time for pleasure and high energy fun and your brain will naturally associate your partner with happiness!
4. Practice letting go and self-soothing.
Everyone is stressed, and the behaviour of those closest to us will often demonstrate how they’re regulating their anxiety. This is not the time to raise challenging topics in your relationship. Instead, ask your partner what they need from you and offer that with love and compassion. Express daily appreciation for something they do. Don’t add unnecessary stress by criticising their way of coping and managing things. This is the time to practice emotional flexibility, letting go, bringing the best version of ourselves to the table and being there for others regardless of their behaviour. Above all else – be kind, compassionate and loving.
5. Work towards a joint goal.
Having a project together is a great way to connect. It might be the photo album you’ve been meaning to put together or planning next year’s holiday. For those in need of some healing, an online relationship course could be life-changing. Think about the hobby or skill you’ve wanted to learn together but never had the time. Now is the time. A project gives purpose and will keep you positive and active, making this time easier during self-isolation.
6. Start and end the day with gratitude.
Every morning, start your day with a hug (for one minute if you can). Take full, deep breaths in sync with your partner to feel the connection and think about the things you’re grateful for. Maybe it’s your health, your family, clean running water – appreciate the basics. Think about your intentions for the relationship that day and how you can show up for your partner. At the end of the day, hug again with deep breaths and express appreciation again. Make it specific with something new each day. This will not only fill your partner full of love, it will focus your awareness during the day on the positive aspects of your life together.
Wishing you all the best with your time in self-isolation, we hope these six steps make it easier and happier for your relationship.
Words: Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari
The Ready for Love courses by Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari are available at www.readyforlove.today