The majority of couples aren’t used to being in the same space 24/7, yet with the COVID-19 lockdown, this is the situation that most households find themselves in. We’re not long into it, and many couples are already struggling to be civil to each other. Having worked with my husband since our son was born a year and a half ago, I feel I’m a pro at spending a significantly more than ‘normal’ amount of time with my partner. Here are my top tips for how not to hate each other by the end of lockdown:
1) Work in different rooms if you can
If you live in a one bedroom flat this is still possible - take it in turns to work at the kitchen table and the bedroom if necessary, but make the effort to work in separate spaces so that you have some time apart every day.
2) Stick to your routine
As tempting as it may be to spend the day in your PJs, establishing a modified version of your old routine helps to feel more ‘normal’. Wake at the same time, wash, and get dressed each day. If you usually start off with a run or gym class, make sure you do that too. Consider sleeping an hour or so earlier - it makes the day feel shorter, you’ll feel better for it, and quality sleep naturally helps boost your immune system. If you’re well rested, you’re less likely to snipe at each other as well.
3) Share the domestic workload / parenting
This seems to be the trigger point for most couples where both work outside the home. In many families, the running of the home and much of the childcare still falls to the woman and this leads to resentment and arguments. We are all at home now, so there’s no excuse for one person to carry the domestic load if you both have to work as well.
Plan to give each other a few hours a day to focus on work where the other takes care of domestic chores and / or the children. You may also have to catch up on work in the evenings if you have to homeschool, but by being efficient and focused during the time you have you’ll get more done than you’d have thought possible in a short space of time.
4) Pick your battles
As tempting as it might be to point out everything your partner is doing to annoy you, it’s really not worth it. Nobody likes being constantly criticised and the likelihood of it causing friction is high. Raise the issues that bother you the most and use language to relay that information in a way that isn’t triggering. “I’d really appreciate it if you could….” will always go down better than an angry confrontation.
5) Give each other personal time & keep your living space tidy
Tidy home, tidy mind. A messy environment can add to stress, and as many of us aren’t used to spending much time at home, it’s not something we usually notice, but making our living space as nice to be in as possible makes all the difference to our mental state. Create a new version of your old routine where you had time apart by working in different rooms, exercising separately, and taking time to do things solo.
6) Create new rituals
Sit down together at the table to eat your evening meal and make it special. Light candles or cook new dishes to make dinner feel a bit more like a date rather than routine - it’s the closest you’ll get to going out for a while. And while Netflix is everyone’s best friend right now, consider dusting off the board games and playing them together as a couple in the evenings.
Schedule virtual get-togethers with your own friends - contact with other people helps us feel connected with life before lockdown and is something to look forward to.
Use your old commute time to exercise - try an online yoga or gym class, and if you have kids you can workout together for free using Joe Wick’s PE With Joe class every weekday morning. Exercise, even if it’s just some gentle stretching, is essential to let off steam, boost your mood and stay fit.
Make time to pamper youself in the evenings by creating a home spa - treat yourself to a bath with candles and use relaxing bath salts or a face mask.
Lastly, try to have patience with yourself and with each other. This new way of living isn’t going to click straight away and can be frustrating for everybody. At different times during this lockdown, each of you may need more time to yourself to either work or have a mental break, so try to be supportive of each other’s needs. This won’t last forever, and the way you manage through this period may even help improve your relationship for the long term.
If you liked this article, you might like How to protect your mental health when you’re self isolating alone.