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People in essential services have continued working throughout the quarantine, and those who have had the option to work from home have been able to remain on the job as well. Many others have only recently begun returning to work.
Every day we hear reports about new cases of Covid-19, increased rates of positive tests, and speculation about another shut-down. For those venturing out into the world and workplace, they are increasing their exposure to other people and the risk of being infected themselves. Concerns about exposure is leading many to quarantine themselves from their partners and/or families in order to protect them.
As an example, I have a relative who routinely flies for work, stays in hotels, and eats take-out (when sit-down dining is not available). When he returns home, he quarantines himself from his wife for two weeks to ensure he does not have any symptoms.
Quarantining yourself this way may be prudent and responsible, but it can also cause anxiety, stress, and feelings of disconnection from your partner.
Here are some ideas to help you stay connected and reduce anxiety and stress during your time of quarantine:
Build routines as a couple
Find a show that you can binge watch together, cook or eat dinner together virtually, and/or have a nightly ritual where you tell each other the five biggest blessings in your life from the day. What can you do to stay connected and create milestones as a couple that you can incorporate into your life that will last beyond the end of this quarantine?
Schedule regular events with friends
Thursday nights at 5:00 have become a standing virtual happy hour for our friends. We get to look forward to seeing each other’s faces, sharing in our collective worries and collective hopes, and being reminded how funny our partners are. This is a real source of support and connection during these uncertain times.
Date nights with friends don’t have to end because you are physically separated. One of the ways that couples get to appreciate each other is by seeing how they connect with the people in their lives. Hearing someone tell a story about your partner or seeing the way they make people laugh can be a way to feel more attracted and connected with the person who you get to be in a relationship with.
Have a stress reducing conversation for 20 minutes each day
Spend time checking in with your partner about some of the hardest parts of their day, or ask them what is most challenging for them being isolated from the world.
Your job as the person who is checking in with your partner is to just deeply listen. If you are the listener, then find things you can validate for your partner even if you don’t feel the same way. Your job is not to correct them, tell them they should feel differently, or solve their problems for them.
Couples often feel uncomfortable talking about hard or heavy emotions because they feel like they have to fix their partners. The point of a stress-reducing conversation is to let the other person know they are not alone.
You can give your partner a huge gift right now by letting them know you hear them, they are making sense, and it’s reasonable for them to feel the way they do. Let your partner have that space to feel scared, worried, or anxious without trying to get them to clean it up or take it away. We all need to have someone hold that space for us right now.
If it starts to feel like your partner might keep going in circles or repeating the same worries over and over and you are feeling drained, then it is perfectly ok to ask them to help you understand what the biggest fear or catastrophe scenario is for them and then ask them to tell you what they see as their options.
You can also tell them that you don’t know what to say, that you are there for them, and that they are not going through this alone. At the end of the day, that is all true, and you and your partner are both looking for support.
Share what you have learned in life about handling uncertainty
You are in a relationship, and unfortunately this may not be the only time in your life that you experience difficult situations or need to manage stress or worry.
Learning how your partner processes stress and what they learned about how to manage it growing up in their family of origin can lead to deep conversations about how your partner manages life.
Here are some sample fill-in-the-blank questions you can ask your partner to talk with you about:
• My parents taught me stress was…
• I saw my family deal with stress by…
• My earliest memories of uncertainty or chaos were…
• When I am stressed, worried, or anxious, the thing that I need to hear or the thing helps soothe me is…
Taking the time to acknowledge your partner’s responses to stress and worry helps your partner take responsibility for those triggers, and it helps you know how to best support your partner when they are in a heightened state of distress.
Can you as a couple virtually eat ice cream for breakfast, dance around the living room to your favorite 80’s dance tunes, or make funny videos of yourself to send to each other in Marco Polo?
Now is the time to dig out comedies, memes, and gifs that make you laugh and to share them during the day. The more you laugh, the more of the feel-good chemicals such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine will be released that will give you daily doses of the kinds of coping skills you both need to get through this time in your life.
Remember that this is temporary
This time will come to an end. Yes, it’s nerve-racking not knowing exactly when that will be. However, you have both
previously gone through hard times in life. Remind yourselves of those times and how much stronger you each are than you probably give yourself credit for. What did you do during those times that you can call on now to get you through today? Just take this one day at a time.
Looking for more ideas? Contact us today to schedule a consultation!