Locked-down lovers: Six ways to look after your relationship

Toyota Believe logoYou’ve heard it said one million times by now – “We’re all in this together”.  We sure are, but what if things between ourselves and our locked-down lover are beginning to wear a bit thin? For those of us locked down in love, this is both a serious challenge and an opportunity. On the upside we get to spend every waking moment with the love of our life; and on the downside, well – you guessed it – we get to spend every waking moment with the love of our life. No use trying to sugar coat it. It is what it is, and it’s going to take some effort.

A month ago, if I had told you that you would be locked in your home with your lover (and whoever else) for weeks on end, most of you would have said I was stark raving mad. Yet this, ladies and gentleman, is our new and most sobering reality. Living in our bubble – a stripped back and sanitised version of life as we knew it – without all the distractions and the comforts that would usually spice up our relationships (like the office, the gym, the café, the shops, the sports field and the social life – remember that concept?).  Whichever way you look at it, this Covid life presents some very special challenges for locked-down lovers.

Bursting the bubble

So, let’s talk about the challenges of lockdown in love. If you are anything like the majority, you will have shacked up with your equal and opposite other. Your partner might be transfixed by the news and you might be intentionally avoiding the media; your partner might be logical, practical and love structure and routine, while you might be a free spirit who prefers to live in the moment. Don’t worry, it’s a biological thing – we are drawn to people who possess the skills and abilities that we don’t, therefore securing our survival as a species. Those differences keep things interesting between us, they also create the ideal platform for personal growth and diversity. Your partner might want to stockpile loo paper and flour and you might want to take things a day at a time. Your partner might relish the chance to spring clean the garage, while you might want to curl up with a good book. Our differences work well when we can pepper our lives with little mini-breaks that mean we can take a breather from one another. But right now, against a backdrop of all day every day; our differences can become the very thing that potentially drive us craaaaaazy, like fingernails down a chalkboard.

Spending one month of solid time together in the same house – this is going to be interesting. I’ve heard it mentioned more than once, just how many of us are amazed as we witness our partner in full work mode. Who knew that our ‘man of few words’ at home is actually Mister ‘let’s make it happen’ at work. Who even is that guy anyway? There are many other minor irritations that are beginning to surface. Is it just me or is the sound of your partner chewing getting right on your nerves these days? As we speak, there is a large chunk of the population suffering through every last mouthful that hits their partner’s lips.

Before lockdown, most relationships had co-created their very special blend of time together and time apart. We traded on that ‘space between’ work, home, the gym, the pub, the shops and the sport field to create a certain kind of mystery, energy and interest, as well as – importantly – space from one another. But in the current COVID-19 climate, we have entirely different ways of coping with the stresses we are facing right now. Whatever the differences between you and your partner, it’s going to be an enormous waste of time and energy to try and get them to see the world just like you see it right now – basically that is never going to happen. However, it is worthwhile taking the time to fine tune some of our communication so we can take care of our mental and relational health, as much as we are taking care of our physical health.

Six ways to take care of your relationships in lockdown

1. Give yourself the stress test

It’s totally normal and understandable that we are kind of stressed right now, but the way that we manage our stress is pivotal. Everyone has the capacity to tolerate different degrees of stress, but if we take our stress out on our partner and make it their fault, I am pretty sure they won’t respond that warmly (what a surprise!). Ultimately, we’re responsible for how we manage our own stress. Imagine your stress on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 not at all stressed and 10 you are about to blow your fuse). Try and notice where you are on the stress scale, if you are getting higher and higher try and catch yourself before you blow.

2. If you need space – just ask for it

We all need some time-out to reset in this season. Instead of just disappearing to the garage for some alone time, let your partner know what you need and where you’re heading. Just a few simple words gives them a ‘heads up’ that you are needing some space and will save them from taking it personally (eg “Hey babe, just give me half an hour to clear my head”). We all have a different capacity for being around others – when you feel your limit approaching, just gently let your partner know so they can help you take a break.

3. Hug it out 

Hugs are just the business, especially if your love language is physical touch! With all this uncertainty in the air, our poor brains have soaked up so much change and new information lately that we’re all pretty darn exhausted. There is nothing as comforting as a good hug to reset our nervous system. So if the word count is waning and the body is tired, it’s time to hug it out – you’ll be surprised how powerfully it lifts your spirit.

4. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

In my humble opinion, a cup of tea is the international language of love. Okay, so you might not be a tea drinker so make it coffee, tonic or whatever is your jam. It’s the smallest of acts but the words “Would you like a cup of tea?” represent the idea that our partner is thinking of us, cares for us and has our back. If your love language is quality time, sitting down together for a cup of tea is like date night in the middle of the day and can work wonders to help us feel close and connected.

 

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5. “Do you need some help?”

If your partner’s love language is Acts of Service, then they will love this. Just bust out this phrase when you have a spare half hour and I can guarantee you that the good vibes will be flowing between you. Most of us love to be on the receiving end of “How can I help?” question, especially those of us with Acts of Service as our love language. A lot of the time your partner does not need the help, but the fact that you asked creates a warm glow on the inside and strengthens the relationship.

6. Send a text

You’ve been working separately all day and the pressure is getting to you… and then a text rolls in from your beloved at the other end of the house. Awwwww!! If your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, your words will lift their spirits and remind them that even though the circumstances are less than ideal, they are still the centre of your world. Words of affection and affirmation are like putting fuel in the tank for someone with this love language.

Loved up silver linings

Lockdown brings out both the best and worst in all of us. However, alongside the challenges, lockdown also provides us with some brilliant opportunities to enjoy the everydayness of being together. This is a time to get your creativity on and grab a moment to enjoy the little things; go for a walk, sit outside and watch the sun set, dress up for date night in the lounge (use the kids as waiters), send each other texts from the other side of the room, snuggle up for a Netflix series – because up until now most of us have complained that there was never enough quality time to spend with the love of our life.

 

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About Author

Jo Batts

For Jo, relationships are at the heart of whānau. Jo is our Family, Relationships and Marriage coach at Parenting Place working with family, sibling and relational dynamics. She’s a counsellor, a strengths coach, a parent, a partner, and the leader of our relationships and marriage programme. Jo's down-to-earth approach helps people to develop the practical tools to build healthy relationships for everyday life.

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