Health & Well-Being

Pandemic Claustrophobia

Surviving the coronavirus lockdown with your partner

The pandemic has forced couples to spend much more time with each other, for better or worse. And shelter in place rules were thrust upon us with little or no warning, so there was no time to adjust our attitude. We’re working from home or furloughed from our jobs, schools are closed and the kids need to be educated and entertained, and we can’t see our friends or relatives.

There are couples out there who are coping well. But even the best relationships can buckle under such strains and more than a few might have their patience stretched to the limit. Here are some thoughts to consider if and when things get out of hand:

  • Give each other space. Designate separate areas in your home for each of you and use that as your as base of operations, for work and other things. That allows for physical distance and time alone and reduces opportunity for bumping into each other.
  • But make time to connect. Staying emotionally close to your partner is especially important when dealing with difficult times. Block out some time to chat each night, or set up an evening to watch a movie, cook an elaborate meal, or plan future trips on-line. Who knows, this might be a tradition you will carry forward into better days.
  • Be supportive. With prolonged stress, emotional swings are common. Pay attention to your partner’s behavior and mood, and step in when you feel they need some help. If you’re concerned you’re the reason for their mood, ask what you can do to improve the situation. Even the simplest gestures of support can make a difference.
  • Have a news-free period. Avoid news reports about an hour or so before bed. The news right now can be stressful and stress can disturb your sleep patterns. Instead, talk about topics other than coronavirus, watch TV programming that’s light, or listen to soothing music. You’ll go to bed feeling more relaxed.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. If your partner is getting on your nerves, take a breath and a step back. Easing up on your expectations during these weeks can help. Don’t look to attack or criticize, but instead put your anger and disappointments aside. Offer and accept apologies easily and focus on things you can appreciate about your partner. In other words, put in your best efforts to control your emotions.
  • Don’t forget about sex. Sex can be relaxing and help to reduce stress, and lets you feel more connected to each other. Now, that said, we should point out that lots of people have a hard time feeling sexual in stressful times, while others need sex to release their stress. It’s important for partners to take into account each other’s feelings and perspectives, So, if one doesn’t feel intimate, putting pressure on them only makes the situation worse, not better.
  • Maintain structure. Following a regular schedule of daily activities will provide a sense of normalcy, and keep you focused on what to do rather than what’s happened to you. You and your partner should approach tasks as a team, setting up a calendar that lays out each of your responsibilities — working closely with each other on scheduling means fewer surprises and less stress, and at the same time you will feel more closely bonded. 
  • Take care of yourself. A regular schedule of exercise can help to keep stress levels under control, improve your mood, and even strengthen your immune system. Or take a break from the world by meditating – there are lots of websites that lay out the basics on how to do it. And keep yourself connected with friends and relatives through phone and emails. They will make you feel like you’re connected to the outside world and not going through this alone, and that’s comforting.
  • Share the load. The lockdown should make everyone realize that managing a household is a lot of work and that equal contributions are needed from both partners. If your partner has not chipped in equally in the past, they may now understand that more effort is needed on their part. In one sense, the lockdown offers a blessing in disguise: the perfect opportunity to build balance into the workload — that, hopefully, will turn into a habit.

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