Love in the Time of Covid - 10 Practical Tips to Keep the Romance Alive
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on pretty much every aspect of people’s everyday lives. Millions of Canadians now find themselves with additional stressors in their households, such as working from home, virtual learning, increased isolation, and the looming anxiety of unknown consequences from a rapidly spreading virus. It’s no surprise that many relationships and marriages are feeling the strain.
Is it possible to navigate this new reality and still have a healthy relationship? Absolutely. While stressful times may put your relationship under a microscope, it’s also an excellent time to build a solid foundation for better communication.
How to build a healthy relationship during COVID-19
Putting work into your relationship during times of increased stress and uncertainty can feel impossible. However, with a little patience and effort, you can learn how to better nurture yourself and your relationship even through the most challenging times.
Find your ratio
For many couples, COVID-19 means more time spent together and has increased the number of negative interactions. Negative interactions include criticism, arguments, anger, and dismissive behaviour (i.e. eye-rolling, ignoring). These interactions are normal, but when they take over the number of positive interactions, it can lead your relationship down an unhealthy road.
Research by renowned clinical psychologist and marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman found that happy relationships have more positive interactions than negative interactions. The magical ratio for the happiest relationships was 5 to 1 for positive interactions to negative interactions.
How do I increase the number of positive interactions?
It takes effort to change the dynamics of a relationship, especially with increased household stress. Here are ten tips from relationship experts to help you improve positive communication and build a solid foundation of support with your significant other during COVID-19 and afterwards.
1. Maintain self-care: Stretching yourself too thin leaves you too exhausted to properly fulfil your daily duties. More time at home also means that you are receiving less nurturing through social interactions and hobbies. Therefore, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your relationship is to schedule self-care. This can mean a warm bubble bath, an hour with a book, yoga, or some alone time to focus on a hobby. Reconnecting with yourself is vital for nurturing your own identity and decompressing from the mounting stressors of daily life. Try scheduling a midday break to focus on self-care and encourage your significant other to do the same.
2. Nurture each other: It can be easy to fall into a habit of existing together. You can enhance happiness in your relationship by making a daily effort to vocalize your appreciation for your partner. Each day, you can try to point out the things your significant other does that you appreciate. For instance, ”I appreciate it when you make us coffee in the morning.” To get things started, try sitting down with your loved one other to write down three things you appreciate about each other. Next, read out the list and notice how it makes you feel. This type of nurturing creates a feeling of gratitude and brings meaning to many mundane tasks that tend to feel especially monotonous during daily pandemic life.
3. Keep it real: Many couples feel disappointed by the reality of spending more time together yet not growing closer. A pandemic isn’t exactly a romantic cruise or honeymoon period. Keeping your expectations in check can prevent feelings of disappointment. The additional stressors of life during these uncertain times as well as a blur between home and work life can interfere with romance and sexual desire. Understand that cooling off in the bedroom isn’t always personal, and be patient with one another as you both learn to cope with disrupted routines and anxiety.
4. Open-ended questions: We often ask close-ended questions out of habit, which receive one-word answers. By switching up the way you ask your significant other questions, you can create a more positive interaction and show genuine interest in their responses. For instance, instead of asking “how was your day?” try “what was the best part of your day today?”. Open-ended questions also lead to better conversations, which improves your emotional connection with one another.
5. Try dating: Spending energy on dating might seem futile when you can’t really go out anywhere. However, making a deliberate effort to spend a romantic or fun evening together can significantly increase feelings of warmth and positivity. Try getting dressed up at home and sharing a movie, dinner date, or cocktail hour. It will restore some feelings of normalcy during a pandemic and keep the romance alive. Make an effort to schedule some time each week for a date. You can also get creative and do activities like painting, crafting, or learning a new skill together.
6. Positive Reinforcement: It can feel more natural to focus on negative interactions, our brains are wired for it after all. By making an effort to point out positive behaviours from your partner, you not only make them feel better, you reinforce those behaviours. Make an effort to catch your partner in the act of doing positive actions and let them know you see it. Whether it’s mundane things like taking out the garbage or tidying up the living room, your appreciation is a form of positive communication that makes them feel seen and loved.
7. Seek to understand them before seeking to be understood: When disagreements and conflicts arise you can take steps to put water on the fire. Make an effort to be attuned to your partner’s experience and understand what they are truly saying. Rather than acting on your immediate feelings, take the time to step back, ask questions and attempt to truly understand the underlying issues. It’s normal to feel defensive but you can avoid a great deal of negative interactions by pausing and seeking deeper understanding. Taking time to see the problem from your partner’s perspective fosters an environment of empathy and understanding which feels safe for sharing and opening up.
8. Compromise: You and your significant other are a team, which means sometimes you have to focus on common goals as a couple rather than individual goals. While you should never hold in all of your feelings, you should also avoid venting constantly if it harms the team. Compromise means that when discussions and conflict arise, you are doing it in a way that makes your team healthier and stronger. As a general rule, when you feel irritated or annoyed ask yourself “does this make our team less healthy?” or “will bringing this up help us grow stronger?” Compromise means that sometimes you endure minor discomfort for the team. Healthy compromise should ultimately benefit both partners.
9. Be there: At the end of the day, your significant other is your support system. Learning to lean on each other and opening up about the pain you feel will build a stronger foundation in your relationship. Be patient with one another as you each navigate the new realities of life during a pandemic. Keep in mind that everyone is struggling in their own way and at the end of the day, we each just want to feel safe, secure, and loved. Whether it’s a reassuring hug, a warm smile, or making an effort to engage with them when they seem to be having a rough day– being there for your partner means investing in your support system.
10. Reach out: Sometimes the problems between couples are too big to solve on your own. Seeking professional counselling is an excellent way to improve communication and conflict resolution between you and your significant other.
COVID-19 has added a lot of additional strain to many relationships and households. Taking time for yourself and putting in extra effort to nurture and nourish your romantic relationships is vital during these times. By increasing the number of positive interactions you have each day and maintaining a realistic and understanding outlook, you can foster healthy relationship dynamics– even during a pandemic. If things don’t improve, you can always reach out for professional help to learn tools and techniques for improving your relationship under the guidance of a couples counsellor.
About Us: As the largest counselling service provider in the Woodbridge area in Vaughan, we have had the privilege of working with individuals and families through periods of transition and crisis for the past 15 years. The purpose of our practice isn't simply to help clients "cope with" or "survive crises". While necessary first steps, these are not particularly productive therapeutic goals. Our purpose is to help clients to use challenging moments as a new lens for self-appreciation and as fuel for progress. We offer virtual as well as in-person counselling.
We are a team of independent psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists and counsellors who share the same values, mission, and vision in our practice. Our team offers cutting edge counselling/coaching to individuals, families & couples with presenting issues such as: Anxiety & Panic Attack, Trauma & PTSD, Sexual Trauma, Anger Management, Eating Disorder, Postpartum Depression, Health Anxiety,