My initial plan for this post was to give cutesy ideas on how to keep your relationship alive during this gawd-awful stay-at-home order. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this situation is just plain hard. No amount of cute love notes, or pasta dinners by candlelight is going to make a world-wide pandemic better. I get the notion that we all need some normalcy in our lives right now, but we also need to be realistic. Some of us are facing the most difficult times we have ever experienced. Many people have lost their jobs, careers, savings, businesses, and that doesn’t even count the number of people that are sick or have family that is sick or even have passed away. I decided that maybe this would be a better time to focus on how to better communicate your needs, and in turn, how you can better support your loved ones.
One of the first things I think we all need to understand is that we are all handling this situation differently. Some of us are grieving what we have lost, some of us are overwhelmed with new responsibilities, some of us are just bored out of our minds, and all of these can impact how we feel and act toward our loved ones. Personally, one of the best things I have done is try to identify what I am feeling, what is triggering, and what I think would help me the most. For example, I am working full time at home while homeschooling my 4th grader and preschooler. On top of that, I am working with my preschooler on his therapies for ADHD. I still have to cook more meals than usual, do normal chores, and take care of our pets. I am on the overwhelmed side of things, and until I actually thought about what I needed to cope, I would get really upset if someone needed anything from me at all. I literally felt like I could not handle one more thing without losing my mind.
What I had to do was ask my SO was stay home one day (he’s essential) and help me catch up and get my bearings. I needed time to let my brain rest with some movie time. I needed time to write, and I needed to go to bed earlier than usual. I also needed to explain to him how I was feeling and that I understood he was under a lot of stress too. He told me he needs time to play video games with this friends and he needs a a little bit of time to decompress when he comes home from work. Obviously, nothing is perfect, but we both have done a really our best to try and do the things that help keep us feeling normal and healthy.
Here is my top 10 things to do to manage your relationships during this pandemic.
- Listen and respect their needs to help them cope, even if you don’t like them. For example, people are going to withdraw a little bit. Give them their space, but let them know you would like to spend some time with them too. It’s important that both of you are getting what you need to cope so that feelings of resentment don’t pop up. Relationships are a give and take not a take and take some more.
- Don’t do the blame game. It is no one’s fault on who has a job and who does not. Or who has to stay home and who has to go to work. Neither are good situations to deal with. So, no matter your current situation, try to be understanding of their perspective and their needs. You’re not going to get through this if you are making their job logistics about you, even if your feelings are coming from a good place, like not wanting them to put their safety at risk.
- Try to do something new together. Doing or learning something can create a new bond when you are sick of everything else. It can give you a different topic to discuss. If your normal nights together involved dinner and movies, try going on a hike or bike ride. Or like we have started a garden in the back yard. We’ve always talked about doing it, but we never had the time to invest in it. Now we do, and honestly it’s been a positive change for us.
- Do things together, but also make time for yourself. If you are like me, then sweatpants and messy buns have become my normal attire for the day. Even so, you should make sure you are making time to do the things that make you feel more human, like shower, write, paint, or exercise. Put make-up on if that is what you are used to or paint your nails. Don’t get to the point where you are depressed about yourself. We are going to come out of this eventually. Keeping good personal hygiene and healthy habits will make it an easier transition.
- Talk about things other than the freaking virus! I think this is the most important thing. I know it everywhere on the news and internet. I know we are all worried and confused. BUT you need to talk about other things. It will consume you and your relationships if you don’t. Talk about books and movies. Talk about your future plans. Talk about your hobbies. Play games. Make sure you focus on something other than Covid-19 in your daily lives. It will make a difference in your happiness.
- Understand that your living space will not be as clean, especially if multiple people are there 24/7. For the first week, I was losing my mind because the house was a train wreck. I couldn’t keep up. Then I realized, well we are normally only awake at home for 4-6 hours on a normal day, not 12-16! Allow yourself and your SO a little bit of slack when it comes to these things especially if everyone is still working full-time. It’s impossible to clean when you are sitting on a zoom call, and then switching to google classroom to help your kid with her math, and then reading the therapy email to work with your 4 year-old on sorting blocks for focus. Then going back to work on a chat with your co-workers. It’s important to have grace and understanding about chores. They aren’t a top priority.
- Find a cause to support together. Whether that is donating canned goods, or supporting your favorite local businesses, or sharing your local animal shelters listings for foster homes, do something positive. It will bring you some peace to know you are doing something good for the community. It doesn’t have to be big, and I know many people have limited means, but do what you can to help during this time. Positivity is contagious, and helping others gives you a purpose when everything else is so uncertain.
- Create a plan of attack. What type of schedule would allow time for you both? What can you do to get back what was lost? What does your life look like in six months? A year? Do you plan to stay in your industry? Have you decided to pursue something else or go back to school? Do you have a plan to handle your bills and finances? Who do you need to contact if you are struggling financially? Talk about it and make a plan so you both are on the same page and your SO isn’t in the dark about your thoughts on a career change!
- Make this a memorable experience that you look back on with fondness. Do things together. Make dinner together. Take pictures. Play games. Dance in the kitchen. Cuddle on the couch. Surprise each other will little thoughtful gifts or letters. Go outside and enjoy each other’s company. You may never get an opportunity like this again. Make the most of it.
- Rest. Take this time to recuperate while you can, when you can. Be understanding if your SO is too tired to do something. This situation is mentally exhausting for many of us. If you or your SO needs to rest, let that happen. It does not make you or them weak or incompetent. This goes back to understanding people have different coping mechanisms. I need more sleep, when I am stressed, and my SO gets insomnia. Be supportive and understanding of those particular needs because that is how we get through this healthy and intact.
Take care of yourself and each other. We will get through this and come out stronger on the other side.