Let’s start with the good news:
My husband got home from Europe! Woop! After four hours of screening at the Dublin airport (and none at LAX…!) he’s feeling just fine. So for the most part, everything is all good.
Here’s the bad news: We are now living together again after FIVE! MONTHS! apart, and we can’t, shall we say….ease back into it.
So the million dollar question is: how are we not going to kill each other during the process?
From what I’m gathering, if you’re in a cohabiting relationship, you’re probably wondering the same thing – even though you haven’t spent the last few months apart.
Quarantining and social distancing have been jarring for everyone. I’ve already jotted down a list of tips on how to stay mentally healthy, but I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t totally taking social distancing together into the equation. So many of us aren’t blessed with Texas style 3,000 square foot homes and large backyards. The majority of us are living in apartments or condos with maybe a bedroom or two.
On that note, let’s all take a moment of silence for anyone who is sharing a bathroom with their spouse during this time.
Okay, as we were.
We have to find a way to navigate our relationships during this phase of intense quality time. Here’s how to survive as a couple while quarantining.
Create Physical Distance
I know this is going to be a tough one to maneuver, but we need to create an *illusion* that there’s some physical space between the two for you.
For example, right now as I’m writing this, I’m in my office (which also moonlights as the guest bedroom YAY LA!) with the doors shut. There might be a cat in here (I should probably be aware of that, now that I think about it), and I’m blasting Treacherous by Taylor Swift on repeat because I saw a bracket on Twitter for the best Taylor Swift songs and it wasn’t included and I’ve just been like ?????? ever since.
The point is, I feel like I’m totally alone. In a good way. I don’t feel the pressure to talk to my spouse or like he’s even aware of what I’m doing. In fact if he was, he’d probably have a few comments to add. I don’t feel like I need to play music we both like (but he arguably does like T-Swift more than I do). And I definitely don’t feel the need to entertain him or to stop working because he’s bored. If he is, that’s his problem.
Some of you out there are both still employed under one roof – and to that I say BIG congratulations. Most of us are not in that same boat. So…yeah…I have to give my husband credit for entertaining himself while I vent blog in the other room.
Point is, we all need space to work or not work. We CANNOT be up in each other’s business all day for the foreseeable future.
If you’re in a studio, pick a corner (The Michael Scott Paper Company style!) and create an arrangement for yourself. Put in your headphones. Walk around the block (again, if you’re feeling fine and remain six feet away from humans, you are in line with expert recommendations) and call your mom. Do not include each other in every activity throughout the day. It’s just too much. Pretend like you two are still at work and come together for meals and in the evening.
It will help make this not seem like the date that never ends.
Have Friend Dates that Don’t Include Each Other
On the whole “taking space” note – I think it’s also a good idea to maintain your “outside friendships” that do not correlate with your current relationship.
Way back when, when I first moved to Los Angeles, I was really homesick and barely had any friends. To curb my feelings of intense loserness, I would go out for wine with my best friend from New York.
It was really cute. We call each other on Skype, each get a bottle of red wine, pour to our heart’s content, and catch up on stuff. He even suggested we dim the lights to create “mood lighting” so we felt like we were at an actual wine bar. I started trying this with a few other friends – and it worked.
Try doing this with your friends a few days a week. Get coffee in the morning (play a “Coffeehouse” playlist on Spotify and crank those lights up!), grab some lunch in the afternoon (make sandwiches and use paper napkins), do a group happy hour with quarantinis, and share a nice dinner (if you have enough quarantine snacks you could even have an appetizer!). But do this all without your partner.
I know it sounds like the key to a happy relationship is to never spend time together – but I promise, I will get to that eventually. It’s just so important that you still feel like a complete individual during this time. Without your daily activities and solo commutes to work and separate friendships, you’re going to start feeling like an extension of your spouse. Don’t let that happen.
Keep your independent spirit alive.
And of course, if you want someone a little more *professional* to talk with about your *ahem* annoyances right now – Blush is still up and running. We offer unlimited chat and video sessions, so you won’t be in violation of social distancing. And remember, the video sessions can always be conducted outside if you need some distance to vent to your heart’s content 🙂
Accept Each Other’s Coping Mechanisms
One of my long term clients and I talked yesterday about how so many couples have completely different coping mechanisms in general…and man, oh man are they coming to a head right now.
Specifically, we talked about how she feels like Chicken Little right now. Everything is scary, everything is bad, nothing will ever be okay again. The sky is falling!
I can relate. I’m a future-forward thinker, and the future seems rather….terrifying at the moment. I completely related to her and tried to help her walk through her worries by offering facts, comforts, and suggestions. Did it work? I don’t know, you’d have to ask her. But my gut says yeah, I think we both felt better after our session and will continue to work through this together, because that’s what Blush does.
The interesting part was that her partner has a *completely* different coping mechanism than her. To him, it’s easier to assume everything is going to be okay, remain calm, and take things day by day.
Okay, so while I will admit on the surface, it seems like his take is healthier. Sure. I get it. But what happens when he tells her this? What happens if he’s egregiously underplaying this and is mentally and physically ill-prepared for the next few months????
She has a right to feel like everything is spiraling out of control. This is COMPLETELY unprecedented. No one knows what next week or next month is going to look like, and our phones keep blowing up with updates that frankly we’d be better off not reading since the vast majority of us are already well-informed enough.
But he has a right to stay calm and try to take things day by day, because other than practicing social distancing, there’s really not much any of us can do. And panicking doesn’t help much.
So what do they do?
They accept that none of this is personal.
Neither coping mechanism is the “right” one. Both of their brains are trying to grasp any straw of control during this exceptionally bananas time. And how that manifests is going to look different for everyone. So instead, they can try to learn from each other.
She can prepare him for what’s next and make sure the house is prepped. He can teach her how to breathe through it.
Together, they’re stronger.
Be Intentional With Your Time Together
This is going to sound weird…but don’t just hang out to hang out.
Create quality time with your excess time.
Pretend like you’re back in that time of your relationship when the two of you were just dating. What would you do when you hung out? You’d talk about interesting topics, watch a new movie, maybe play a game, and YES YOU WOULD GO OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT RIGHT NOW so.
Be intentional. Grab a deck of cards and Google the rules to Gin Rummy or whatever people play when they play cards. See if you own a puzzle or order one online (delivery!) and get that up and running. Twister seems like an interesting game to whip out right now. Maybe do an exercise date together where you scroll through Yoga videos on YouTube and find one you like. Read a book together. Pretend like you’re cooking a nice meal together even if it’s just macaroni and cheese.
When you’re not in the mood to “do something” – have quiet time alone. Don’t force yourself to spend time with your spouse because you feel like you have to. You don’t. Put your headphones in and meditate. Listen to a podcast. Take a bath. Take a nap for all I care. Just don’t FORCE yourself into spending time with your spouse, because you will grow resentful.
Everyone gets sick of each other. Feeling indifferent about time with your partner right now is not a sign that you two aren’t suited for each other. It’s a sign that you are stir-crazy.
The key is to find something that doesn’t involve sitting on your butt and worrying about what the economy is going to look like a month from now or whether or not we are going to be stuck in this stupid condo for the next six weeks. That’s not helping. Instead, use this as an opportunity to reconnect with your relationship. If you throw this time away, you’ll regret it…and maybe come out of this weaker than you were when you entered. Don’t do that. That would be such a shame. Focus on playing. That’s going to help you survive this.
Create a New System Together
You’re wigging out. I’m wigging out. She’s wigging out. He’s wigging out. They’re wigging out. We are all FREAKING wigging out.
So to feel like a unified front, you’re going to have to come up with a new system. Together.
Y’all might have had separate finances before….and that might pose to be a little tricky right now if one of you, or both of you, is unemployed. (Moment of recognition for Andrew Yang whose bold policies may actually save our economy’s ass – let’s do this UBI!) Some of you might have forgiving landlords, and…..some might have the typical kind. One of you might have been in charge of the cooking or cleaning while the other spent more time working, and that’s going to seem a bit out of touch at the moment if you ask me! One of you might be an introvert, and one of you might be an extrovert.
The old system isn’t going to work anymore. The rules have changed and our behavior has altered. So you two have to adjust. And instead of just assuming things will fall into place (lol ya right) – y’all are going to need to talk about it.
It may be uncomfortable, but if you two have already decided to cohabitate, then you’ve already intertwined your lives to the point where these types of conversations should be invited.
Ask for what you need, and be ready to compromise for what your partner needs. Understand that these changes will probably not be permanent – but they will be your lifeline for the next few weeks (or longer).
This is what strong foundations are made out of – tough conversations in order to adapt to uncertain times.
Don’t shy away from it. Give your relationship the tools it needs in order to survive.
I know this time is stressful for so many reasons – mind, body and spirit – but we’re still here for you.
As I mentioned earlier, Blush Online Life Coaching is releasing a new app which features unlimited chat with a personal masters level life coach, and due to these unforeseen circumstances, you can begin using it today. We know this is a tough time, and we are here to offer our support, guidance, commiseration, and short-term, personal solutions.
Stay safe everyone, and please don’t kill each other!