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Together Forever: Shelter-in-place Stress on Relationships and How to Fix It

At the beginning of the pandemic, you and your partner were probably both excited at the prospect of spending more time together at home, living and working in the same space, no longer being kept apart by work and other commitments.

Fast forward to a year later, and you’re probably driving each other insane. It’s not unusual. The pandemic has destroyed many things, including relationships, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

There are many factors at play here, but there are ways for your relationship to survive and thrive during the shelter-in-place era.

From more me-time to creating boundaries, improving relationships is sometimes about looking after the individual, too.

Get busy

Before the pandemic broke out, many of us pined for the flexibility of working from home. But when you’re literally forced to stay home with nowhere else to go, the setup quickly turns into some form of prison.

It’s no secret that the past year at home has taken a toll on our mental health, but because the arrangement has become more permanent for some, we need to embrace this reality.

One way to make this work is by taking up a hobby. If your home life has become primarily about work and chores, then it’s no surprise that it’s negatively affected your relationship, too. Engaging in a fun or relaxing activity can help you decompress and channel your energy into something else. This can take the load off of your relationship, which has probably borne the brunt of your anxiety.

Pursue activities that you can enjoy on your own. A solo workout regimen, perhaps? You can take up gardening or join an online book club. If it’s not going to get into your partner’s nerves so much, maybe you can even learn an instrument!

If your partner is interested in joining you as you move along your journey, maybe it can serve as a new bonding activity that can help improve your relationship.

Boundaries can bring you closer

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

That’s not particularly relevant when you and your partner are in the same place together, 24/7. So how do you create distance while technically not apart?

The key is to create space. If you have the physical space, maybe you can build a reading nook in your apartment that’s just for you.

If you have no extra room in your home, then emotional space might just do the trick. Set aside time for yourself. It could be a weekly soak in the tub or a regular Zoom call session with your own friends. Sometimes, mental space is even more important than physical space.

Respect your differences

You are two distinct individuals, and while common ground may have drawn you two together, it’s essential to respect the fact that you two are different in specific ways.

That’s why it’s essential to respect these differences. If one of you is a vegan while the other is not, plan out your grocery shopping and meal plans to accommodate both diets.

Some differences are a bit more challenging to work around, but they’re not impossible. Say one of you always sleeps under a pile of blankets while the other is practically sweating in a tank top. Consider investing in a bed with dual-zone technology that heats and cools different parts of the bed.

Maybe one of you needs the TV on to fall asleep. Both of you can make concessions. The partner who sleeps with the noise can maybe work on improving their sleeping habits, and in the meantime, the other can use an eye mask or earplugs. It’s hard work, but your relationship should be worth it.

Stay together to stay together

After all this talk about creating space and time apart, it seems ridiculous to suddenly suggest that you two spend more time together. But it’s a little different when you reframe quality time and approach it from a place of gratitude.

Perhaps, you have taken for granted the fact that you’re with the person you want to spend time with the most. You’re much too focused on trying to change things up when, in reality, all you need to do is remember how happy you really are with your person.

Imagine how things were before the pandemic, when you couldn’t wait to see each other and spend time together. Recreate that same sense of longing. Maybe you can schedule a big date night in your backyard. Get all gussied up like you used to, and make it special. Go to the movies in your living room, but make a big deal out of it with popcorn and DIY tickets.

It’s important to keep in mind that if you and your partner are struggling at the moment, cut yourselves some slack because we truly are living in unprecedented times. We’re all struggling. So ultimately, you just have to hang in there and take it easy. We’re all in this together, including you and your partner.

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