Navigating Relationships Through Isolation

While we are focusing on being physically distant from the public, we may be getting cozy with those we are in isolation with. Many of us have had to adapt to the changes in our environment, which include working from home, being surrounded by our family more often – if not all the time – and sharing space between partners or roommates. While spending more time with our loved ones can be exciting and enjoyable, it may also become challenging at times. This is understandable and even normal. What should we do to keep our relationships happy and healthy when having to stay home?

Make “you” time (whether it is a walk or reading in the other room)

Under normal circumstances, it is unlikely we spend 24 hours with our significant other, and it is natural and healthy to have time away from one another. It allows us to invest in personal interests and projects, as well as appreciate more the time we do spend with our loved one. 

Separate “home” and “work” life

Create boundaries and show your loved one that you are there for them. An exercise you can try is to have each member living in the home to write down their daily schedule and find areas where there is a disconnect with time. By doing this, you can adjust each of your schedules accordingly to create more harmony in the home. For example, setting quiet times for sensitive meetings, or planning to have meals together. 

Maintain hygiene and intimacy with your partner

Since dressing up for work and nights out aren’t a necessity anymore, it could be simple to live in sweatpants and shower…a little less than you normally would. While you’re isolating with your significant other, maintaining your personal hygiene and intimacy with them is important. You can make it exciting by planning date nights at home or playing games. And, by simply making an effort to take care of yourself, you are signaling to your partner that you care about how they see you, and imply that nice clothes aren’t necessarily reserved for going to work. In addition, getting dressed every day (in clothes that aren’t sweatpants, leggings or pyjamas) can help improve your mood and productivity. 

Reflect on what you’re grateful for in them 

Take this opportunity to remind yourself of what you are grateful for about your loved one. In close quarters, it may be easy to overlook the little things you appreciate about them, and focus on the negatives. If you are experiencing challenges right now, try writing a list of the things you love about them. It can be something they did or said that day you appreciated, or aspects of their character that you admire. 

Practice open communication

What expectations have you created for your new daily routine under the circumstances of social distancing? Have you vocalized these to those living with you? Do the people in your home have similar or different expectations? Creating the space to have these discussions will be beneficial for nurturing understanding and positive relationships, especially these days. By being open and honest about what you expect and need, and allowing your partner to do the same, you can create an environment that helps both of you. 

Rebuild the connection

If you had been experiencing challenges in your relationship with your partner prior to isolation, this may be an opportunity to reconnect with them. Being together more often, you can take the time to put yourself in their shoes, really listen to them, have deeper conversations, and get a better understanding of their opinions and emotions. In doing so, you are focusing less on the behaviours that may irritate you, and more on the person’s being, and your relationship with them.

While having to spend more time together comes with its challenges, it is worth taking the time to reflect on our role in contributing to conflicts or to a negative environment. Without realizing, the way we live in self-isolation, our internal expectations, our focus on certain behaviours, and the fact we don’t actually really listen to, observe, or accept the people we live with as they are, may be factors of conflict. To bring more positivity into our relationships, we need to shift our focus from what we dislike about situations or behaviours, to spending more time acting towards, thinking about, and appreciating the things that make us smile.

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