10 Tips For Couples in Quarantine
Sheltered-in-Place? Here Are Some Tips to Relationally Thrive
Shelter-in-place can mean stress for high-conflict couples in quarantine. For others, it can be an opportunity to optimize the relationship. Rather than default to old defense mechanisms that create distance, try out a few key tips that can help you be the Dream Team you’ve always wanted to be. Here is a video where Dr. Jenni Skyler discusses ten tips. You may also read them below. Feel free to use a few, or maybe use all. Enjoy!
- Make a list together of short-term goals to get you through this time. Examples of this might be accumulating two hours of sunshine a day; 30 minutes of movement; and/or eight hours of sleep. The idea is to sit down together and make a list to be the best version of yourselves.
- Create one long-term goal together. This helps the solidify the long-term foundation of your dream team. Couples that dream together, stay together—and feel like they are creating something meaningful the for long-term. An example could be to go on post-pandemic vacation when this is all over. Either set aside money each month, or if finances are a stressor, figure out a free and fun getaway like camping.
- Set a time to do a “Deep-Dive” check-in. If your capacity to chat and hold space for your partner is low, like 5 or lower on a scale of 1-10, then wait until both people have a capacity of 6 or higher. Then, set a timer for 30-60 minutes, again based on capacity. The idea is not to monopolize your day with stress and anxiety. Rather, we want to dive deep once a day for 30-60 minutes. This offers permission and process space for our stress and intense emotions, without these emotions overwhelming our entire day. After the deep dive check-in, think about a closure practice (alone or together) to settle your nervous system. This can be a hot shower, meditation, journaling, having a cup of tea, listening to music, watching a movie, or having sex—with yourself or your partner.
- Understand your team roles. A relationship is like a boat. One person tends to be the anchor—grounding the boat and creating boundaries so it doesn’t crash into the rocks. The other person tends to be the sails—a visionary, dreamer, and risk-taker that supports the boat to sail forward. Most couples have aspects of each trait and can certainly trade roles. But generally speaking, one person tends to be more of the anchor and the other more of the sails. Both are valuable to the boat (or the relationship). Too much of an anchor means the boat stays stuck in the mud; too much of the sails risks the boat crashing into the rocks. Couples in quarantine can use the extra time in their hands to explore their roles and better understand relationship dynamics.
- Understand your team process. Most couples find themselves to be opposite of one another. There is typically an external processor—the one who vents out loud; and an internal processor—the one who marinates quietly within their own mind. No one style is better than than the other; however, conflict can arise if we don’t respect how the other person processes. External people need space to vent and be heard. Internal people need space to be quiet and marinate in their thoughts. External processors can ask questions like, “Help me understand how you arrived that answer?” Internal processors may need to ask for space and time to think.
- Make daily deposits into each other’s love language piggy bank. First, if you don’t know the five love languages, here is a quick review of Gary Chapman’s timeless work. The five are: Touch, Words of Affirmation; Gifts; Quality Time; and Acts of Service/Love. Most of us are competent in all of these, but we tend to have a mother tongue. Figure out your primary language—usually the one you default to for giving. Then, set an alarm 1-3 times a day to make a deposit into your partner’s emotional piggy bank. Don’t know their language? Take the online test. Still don’t know what kinds of deposits would rock their world? Ask them for their top three. Reminder—sex doesn’t count. Touch is affectionate touch—not erotic touch.
- Create a “Culture of Generosity”. My husband, Daniel, came up with this term when we were discussing how to better implement the five love languages. To create a positive feedback loop of giving—go above and beyond to track what you give, not what you get. Giving begets giving, feels really good, and eradicates resentment.
- Name your needs. First, figure out what your own needs are. Sometimes these are so inaccessible to us because we grew up in an environment where there was no permission to have or express needs. Once you identify your needs, name them out loud to yourself and your partner. Lastly, creatively collaborate so your needs don’t feel in competition with your partner. All needs can be collaborative if we drop them to a deeper and more meaningful level. For instance, “My need for safety can be met when we cuddle; while your need to feel desired can be met when we sexually connect.”
- Have the hard conversations. Many couples have a historical or a present struggle with trust and transparency. When sheltered-in-place, couples in quarantine may not be able to avoid hard conversations. Rather than live with the uncomfortable elephant in the room, use this as an opportunity to have the hard conversations. Set a timer for 30-60 minutes and agree to a time of day where you can have privacy to chat with one another. Then try using following the sentence stems: I struggle with trust because… To regain trust, I need… To ensure transparency, may I request… Remember, in rebuilding trust and transparency, make requests, not demands. Demands tend to be met with rebellion and then we stay stuck in our conundrum.
- Have Sex! Sex helps us feel connected, safe, sexy, validated, and de-stressed. Sex can be with yourself and/or your partner (if you have one). It need not be a transactional dance of the genitals. Then again, sex can be a transaction of genital pleasure. Use this as an opportunity to discuss what your sexual needs are and what type of sex you want. Some people may want heart-centered sex to feel emotionally and/or spiritually connected and therefore safe during these higher stress times. Some people may want a quickie to clean the tubes and have the hormone hit after orgasm. Singles, and those couples in quarantine under different roofs, can explore Skype sex. Never had a sex toy, or yours is older and needs an update? Have fun and go shopping!
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