Couples: 5 Tips for Surviving Self-Isolation Together

Jay Gershman |

The stresses of self-isolation are wearying everyone as we shelter in place to beat back the coronavirus. Here are some tips on how to manage better, especially in protecting the relationship with your spouse or partner.

Battling coronavirus has put most of us into self-isolation for weeks now. And it may feel like years.

For many that means living with our spouse or partner 24-7. (Not to mention the other members of the family, but here we are concentrating on that primary couple. Of course, these ideas can be applied throughout the family as well.) The close quarters, abnormal anxiety, and unfamiliarity of constant chatter or long periods of silence can be unnerving, and bothersome. As a result, tempers may rise, impatience flares, and negative comments can slip out.

So how can we successfully navigate this ongoing situation, which is queued up to last a while longer?

Let’s step back and think about our relationship with a partner or spouse before the coronavirus pandemic began. The
average couple normally doesn’t spend a lot of time together. As partners, we are busy making a living, raising a family and fixing up a home. In a recent survey, it was found the average married couple spends only three or four hours a week
together, without the children, and that may be collapsing on the couch and watching T.V.

Due to today’s hectic pace, each partner tends to develop their own schedule and routine around work, family and home demands. Then an experience like the pandemic comes, and we’re forced into close proximity with those we love.

We want to make this enforced togetherness the best it can be, but a guaranteed good time will not just happen. Like all other aspects of life, handling these new living arrangements requires planning and effort.

1. Respect and plan for privacy
As part of your plan, it’s important to recognize that you and your partner have built up your own space and privacy needs. Each of you needs time to pursue your interests, hobbies, tasks and just ‘chill out alone.’

One train of thought is if you were apart from your partner eight hours a day during your regular working days, you should plan to be apart approximately four hours a day when in self-isolation. This enables each partner to have their own time and space. Be sure to talk with each other about your individual needs and agree on how those needs can be successfully fulfilled.

2. Establish roles and responsibilities
You and your spouse need to tell each other what living together round-the-clock means in terms of roles and responsibilities. By doing this, you create a mini job description; it can outline dates, duties, responsibilities, and authorities. Let it be as loose or detailed as suits your personalities, but make sure it gives you both a clear understanding of what to expect from each other.

3. Don’t let lack of communication derail your relationship
For some couples, however, there has been no discussion about what self-isolation means to them and who will take care of life’s numerous household tasks. This often leads to disastrous results.

Don’t let this be you! Communication is the roadway to a strengthened relationship. Now more than ever is the time to
let your partner know how much you care.

4. Don’t take each other for granted
The essential elements of a happy relationship are (1) feeling valued, (2) feeling appreciated and (3) feeling loved. When a couple lacks any one of these positive feedbacks, the relationship suffers and the partners drift apart. Accepting the status quo wears away at a couple’s intimacy and bond.

In good times, it is easy to take each other for granted. In difficult times, that can be an even bigger mistake. Deliberately
planning for this long period together provides you and your spouse an opportunity to assess and enhance your relationship. Are you thoughtful? Do you express appreciation? Have you got a sense of fun and adventure? These traits can add to the quality of your relationship and the satisfaction level between you and your partner.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing if your partner isn’t complaining; everything must be OK. Keep the communication
lines open and take the time to listen to your spouse. Encourage discussion about each other’s issues and concerns with
the mindset of finding solutions.

And take note: If you tend to be indifferent about your appearance thinking it’s not a big deal, take the time and make an
effort to look good—even when you’re just lounging around the house.

5. Be proactively kind and generous
To add spice to your relationship, do the little things. Say ‘thank you’ to recognize what your partner does for you and your relationship. Spend planned time together sharing fun activities. Relationships are like a garden. They require regular care and feeding—especially in a tough environment—if they are to continue to grow and be fruitful.

Try this now
Take some time now to list a few acts of kindness and appreciation you can do to let your spouse know how much you love them. It could be something like getting up first to make the coffee or tea in the morning, helping with meal preparation, or washing the car. Taking the time to offer a thoughtful gesture tailored for the other person in this time of duress and anxiety will help them individually, help you individually, and add strength to your relationship as well.