Spending 3 weeks in lockdown with a known partner either fills the heart with forgotten butterflies or dread. It could also mean moving in with a new person as partners who do not live together cannot see each other in person . You choose this over 3 weeks of separation . Perhaps your long distance lover decides to come stay whom you only see weekends or every few weeks, comes home to live with you in lock down.
Can your relationship stand this test? How do you rate your chances of coming out of this in 3 weeks time ? Better? Worse?
Perhaps you are a health care worker and your partner is scared to touch you for fear of infection? Do you miss this touch and connection or are you just too exhausted to care ?
Maybe your partner is in panic mode, has TV news on 24/7, catastrophising, stockpiling food, And every conversation is about corona virus. You want to run .. bu there is nowhere to run.
Perhaps you’re a person /couple who are looking forward to sneaky day time sex, lots more sex ..You might be a couple facing the reality of your sexless marriage . And how to live without your skelm, that other person who you get to see every few days or weeks! ?
What happens if you have a break up with your new beau on day 14 ??
These, and many other scenarios face South Africans as we hunker down into our bunks for the next 3 weeks.
Consider what makes a happy or unhappy relationship . For each person it will be different. And these differences will emerge strongly during this time of lock down , or “forced proximity” as Eli Finkel calls it. He advocates that we be realistic about what our marriages can realistically provide in these times.
I bring you actionable tips that you can begin using today to assist your partnership through this stressful , unnatural time : Make agreements about these and other ideas and I hope it will prompt you to be patient and kind to yourself and each other, so that you emerge more knowledged about yourself and your marriage.
- Ensure you each have time alone.
Physically remove yourself from each other. An hour-or more- each day.. If your space is too small for this, carve out a zone in the one space, for each one of you , and retreat there . It is imperative that you do this. It is also imperative that you let the other person know that you are taking time out, so that the person does not personalise it. Potential conflict area so communicate effectively about this.
2. Attachment styles.
Now is the time to really “know ” each other. By this I mean to know what makes your partner feel emotionally safe and secure .. and ensure you offer this to them. Each one of us has a different way of attaching , and this style is heightened during crisis and fear.
For people who are secure in their intimate attachments, they are able to manage separate spaces and close spaces. For people with ambivalent /anxious attachment styles, stepping away from them to get your own space may feel terrifying and threatening. It is important to hug them and give them a time when you will meet up again. For people with avoidant attachment, partner lockdown may feel claustrophobic. Give this person more space with kindness . And then people who attach in a disorganised way may really suffer with wanting closeness and distance – all at the same time. Knowing this about each other goes a long way to avoid conflict.
3. Routines , routines , routines.
Anxiety and panic, which happens with living in radical uncertainty, and in lock down with a partner, fires up the brain. This leads to irrational thinking, and less emotional presence as you both go into survival mode. Routines really help ground you. Maintain regular routines or create new ones This is an incredible opportunity for expanding familiar routines as the old ones may not be useful at this intense couple time. . Remember novelty leads to more sexual interest.#justsaying.
Set up couple routines , like meals together, fun couple activities, like reading to each other, playing games , Netflix, sharing podcasts, music. Chatting with friends /family on Zoom ,
Individual routines include work time , a set exercise time, meal time, engaging on social media, face to face chats with friends and families.And keep regular sleeping hours to ensure good sleep hygiene.
4. Focus on the here-and -now.: division of tasks
Have daily plans and definitely discuss dreams .. individual, partner and family dreams for the future. Daily short -term plans means taking care of the essentials. These include agreements on how will each of you work from home, manage medical needs if they arise, tackle grocery and pharmacy shopping.and how to set routines for your children. And most importantly agree on domestic chores- just get this out of the way as often times this becomes a reason to avoid a partner. Locked in does not give you this luxury Im afraid. There is nothing like teamwork to get a couple to feel connected through a common purpose.
During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents. Discuss COVID-19 with your children in an honest and age-appropriate way. If your children have concerns, addressing them together may ease their anxiety. Once your children are less anxious, your relationship has opportunity to thrive.
5. Conflict management
Accept that locked down is a breeding ground for conflict. So get that out of the way too: acknowledge that with heightened alertness, fear, anxiety, you will each be moody, distant or overly needing attention and irritating. Differences around values and morals will appear, like going for a drive/walk/run when this is disallowed. Time spent online potentially can be huge area of conflict. Make sure that when you are face to face in couple time, all devices are shut down. Decide on how much time to be consuming news .
Advice from the WHO :
Minimize watching, reading or listening to neAn hour – or more- each day ws about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly so that you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not rumours and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals from the WHO website and local health authority platforms in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours. Facts can help to minimize fears.
6. Personal grooming
Daily I follow my same personal grooming routine. Even if it is only beloveds I get to see , I wear makeup as usual and dress in clothes that are comfortable and make me feel good. Every morning when I exercise I wear exercise gear. And then I change into my day clothes. I suggest you do the same. Hanging around all day in pyjamas and dirty hair will bring down your mood. And although I don’t believe that dressing to please a partner is ever a good idea, I do know that self respect and regard go a long way to keep inttmacy going.
7. Cyber Infidelity/Consensual Non Monogamy.
Oh dear , what to do with that skelm?! Turning to an online lover, or a dating site is a tremendous soother in this time of high stress. Rather than adding cheating to the mix and tension of lock down, I suggest that up front you both discuss consensual non monogamy. Even if it is just a Corona Virus hall pass.
8. Domestic Violence.
Listen up. Being trapped in your house with your abuser is going to be your worst nightmare come true. Accept that you are more powerless than usual, more afraid and more at risk. Know you are not alone. Call these numbers just to chat and get support . Stay connected, tell trustworthy people when you feel afraid and that you may now need a daily chat or text message to check in on you.
Call these resources:
Lifeline : STOP GENDER VIOLENCE HELPLINE : 0800-150-150
As yet, we do not know what the impact of global lock down on your marriage/partnership will be . It has never happened before in history. What is known is that in times of crisis, relationships that are healthy , turn out healthier. Each person offers the other empathy, compassion and kindness. And relationships that are strained may well find this is a deal breaker for them .
I urge self care, self compassion , compassion for the other and gratitude for whatever is personally humbling to you. In South Africa the majority of people do not have the privilege of isolation as a hassle of depriving them of daily activities. Add on the fear of unemployment, further poverty, lack of space, higher risk of infection , less chance of educating their children . And go and give your partner a hug.
To receive information from me on relationships, sexuality, loneliness and dating during the Corona Virus , email me and I’ll add you to the list.