This article has been adapted from the original article ‘More conflict but more sex: relationship advice for couples living together amid coronavirus’
Most of us have been homebound over the last few months in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Working, eating, exercising, sometimes teaching our children all in the same space.
And when this comes to our romantic relationships - this can have a huge impact. It’s no surprise really, all of our everyday stressors are now all in the same space.
Lover co-founder and clinical psychologist Dr. Britney Blair says, “For all of us, this time is quite stressful. And I think when we're stressed out, our coping skills are taxed. And so the normal kind of frustrations that come up in relationships, and with children, and with taking care of a home… they're exacerbated by this kind of underlying stress we have about what's happening in the world.” The differences couples typically navigate in a healthy way are “coming to the fore,” she notes.
If you or your partner is out of work, or you have kids to teach while you're trying to juggle your job, “It's just a recipe for both frustration, irritation, as well as resentment,” Blair says.
So we've pulled together some pointers to help you navigate lockdown with a partner.
Create space, and be compassionate
“The first thing I would recommend is for all of us to hold ourselves and our partners with compassion. I think it's important, even in really small spaces, to create separateness and distance. Every partnership needs a certain amount of connection and closeness, and needs a certain amount of distance,” Dr. Blair says.
Blair suggests finding a specific spot in your home which can be your private area. Don't worry if you don't have space, instead, make an effort to do an activity alone once a day, or week. Give your partner the freedom to do so as well.
Do the same for your workspace, “If you're working from home, one spot in the kitchen or dining room table, that is your office. And you do not take your office into your bedroom or into the kids’ room. I think this helps us demarcate - now is work time, versus family time, versus playtime, versus sleep time, or connecting with your partner time.” Blair says.
If you’re struggling with managing the kids, then take turns in who is watching over the kids. Partner A might do the mornings, and then after lunch you swap and partner B can take over.
The benefit of being closed off to the world for an extended period of time means that you and your partner have more time alone! Make the most of it and reconnect physically - it will also bring a heap of other benefits.
“One great way to get out of your mind, and the stress with the current state of affairs is to actually engage with yourself and your partner erotically. For 85% of people, stress actually causes their libido to go through the floor like this. And for 15% of people, it increases libido. But for 100% of people, sex can be a great way to reduce stress,” Blair says.
If you’re one of the 85%, “Start engaging with your partner, see if desire follows. We call this responsive desire. Engaging, making out, maybe cuddling a bit, and then see if you can tune into any kind of sexual desire there.”
Get your sleep!
“When we don't have work and school schedules, it's easy for folks to get off with their sleep schedule. But getting up at the same time every day is going to be by far the best thing you can do for your sleep. And it’ll also help structure your day,” Blair says.
Handling conflict and domestic violence
This period of high stress, combined with the reduced ability to leave home and see friends and family has led to an increase in domestic violence. In the U.S., the National Domestic Violence Hotline is receiving high volumes of calls.
In these situations, Dr. Britney Blair says “An underlying feeling of helplessness and impotence is a delicate trigger for shame. And what often happens when people feel helpless or shame or incompetent or impotent - is they get angry,” explains Blair. “And I think that's when we can see an increased rate in both high conflict between partners, as well as unfortunately, domestic violence”.
If people can sense or feel a potential escalation of frustration, sadness or anxiety, give your partner space, and maybe listen to some music and exercise.
“Cardio burn is great -- to give yourself a little bit of time for that emotion to dissipate and calm down. And I think that's when you can kind of go back and have a productive conversation. And certainly, if things escalate, calling the authorities and doing what it takes to protect yourself and your family,” she says.
Home is not a safe space for everyone. If you ever feel unsafe call: 1-800-799-7233 or if you are unable to speak safely, log into thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474 (National Domestic Violence Hotline)
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