4 tips to help maintain a good lockdown relationship:
Routine – Talk about what your lockdown relationship needs for isolation together to work:
- Each person needs time alone for themselves.
- Plan time as a couple. Daily coffee together. A walk. Start a shared project.
- In a lockdown relationship, existing inequalities are magnified. They will produce tension. Is one of you being expected to take care of all the childrearing while the other engages in paid work? How can you ensure each of you gets a break from the stresses those things entail?
- Make sure both get a say. All needs should be addressed equally. It helps if neither feels like they are being told what to do, or are grudgingly appeasing and later resentful.
Criticism – If you’re used to spending most days apart, you’re likely to get on each other’s nerves occasionally. It’s normal:
- Find space to do your own thing. Nip out for a walk. Read a book. If irritations arise put aside time to talk about them.
- It really helps to avoid criticism.
- Criticism can be a shield. The critical person masks their own fear, hurt, sadness, shame by lashing out.
- Criticism doesn’t usually result in a behaviour change. It makes the other person defensive.
- Try a big preamble. Clearly state the positive thing you’re trying to achieve… ‘I know I’ve been distant and I don’t want to be like that, so I want to talk to you about something that’s bugging me… But I don’t want you to feel attacked…I’m asking you to change something but it’s not because you’re wrong. It’s just that I’m not dealing with it very well…’
Conflict resolution in lockdown relationships – Many couples swear by a regular check-in. Grievances can be aired and worked through when everyone’s feeling up to it.
- When arguments do happen, it’s important to find ways to disengage. Avoid escalation. People operate from a primitive [limbic] part of the brain when they feel trapped.
- Move to separate spaces to let the brain calm down.
- Have a bath/ shower. Listen to calming music. Do a sudoku. Watch something neutral on TV. Go for a walk/ run. Movement reminds the limbic system it has choices.
- Come back together once you are both calm and try again.
Physical intimacy/sex – The relationship between stress and sexual intimacy is complicated. For some, stress causes their sex drive to shut down. For others, sex is a way to destress and find comfort.
- You probably already know if your sexual responses to stress aren’t matched. This will be exacerbated in a lockdown relationship.
- Talk about what makes you feel close to the other. Maybe talking, or doing something together. Perhaps a cuddle. For others having sex. There is no right or wrong way. It’s helpful to accept what is, then a way forward can be found.
- Generally speaking, shutting down verbally or physically is not that helpful in a lockdown relationship. Staying connected as a tight team is wise.
- You may prefer one way of connecting over another. It is worth considering the one that feels less natural.
- Connecting physically is very helpful. It doesn’t have to be about intercourse and orgasm. A bath/ shower together. A massage. A cuddle on the sofa.
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