Just because we’re together all the time, doesn’t mean we feel closer. Before the stay at home order, Jason and I made it a point to go on dates together. That’s out. We would get lunch or have a day date while the kiddos were in school. That’s out. The kids are constantly vying for our attention, so our relationship is stressed as well. Which is totally understandable! I came up with a couple of ideas if you are in the same boat. This list is not necessarily for those who are still working outside of the home or for a family touched by the virus. That’s a whole other situation that I have zero input on. This is for those couples who are staying at home together all day everyday trying to stay sane. Emotional connectivity is an important component in a strong relationship and the key to resilience.
- Look each other in the eyes
This may sound silly. Yet, I know that we can get so caught up in doing and delegating or working as a team to get the kids to bed or to do their chores that the other person can become a person that’s managed instead of our favorite person. Make it a point to set down your phone and give them your full attention at least once a day. This is not an exercise with a five minute time limit of eye contact, It’s however long. In your mind you are saying, “I see you.” “I’m fully present and here with you in all this chaos.” It might feel cheesy, but it gives you a moment of reconnection.
- Take your time in bed
You likely aren’t commuting or really even spending that much time getting ready in the morning. When it comes to sexy time, there is less of a rush or need to check sex off the list and get the required 8 hours before speeding off to work in the morning. If nighttime isn’t y’all’s time, perhaps being a little bit lazy in the morning can be your thing.
- Allow the other some alone time
Hopefully you have space in your relationship to say, “I love you. I’m gonna watch Twilight downstairs tonight by myself.” It’s not hurtful, it’s stating a need for alone time. You aren’t rejecting your partner, you’re taking care of yourself and will come back to them refilled and refreshed. If it’s a bath alone, a walk alone, whatever will allow you to destress – take the time. If your partner is the one asking, graciously say, “of course, babe!” “I’ll watch the kiddos or entertain myself.” If this is a difficult thing for you to be able to ask of your partner, you aren’t doing him or her any favors by staying silent. Ask for what you need, you will all benefit.
- Be courteous and generous
It’s hard to spend this much time with people. Be intentional about how you talk to each other. Mind your manners. If one of you is snippy, try to be empathetic, but take no sh*t. This is a great opportunity to learn to use “I” statements. I feel disrespected when you talk to me like that. I would really like it if we cleaned the kitchen together at night. The other person may be huffy. Let them be huffy and say thank you once you’re done. If you can, speak their love language. For acts of service, take the garbage out or do something for them they normally do themselves. If gifts make them smile, while filling up that Instacart, grab their favorite Oreo’s. Words of affirmation? Tell them their quarantine outfit is on point or you love that they’ve perfected the messy bun. These are small things that will make a big impact in your day to day interactions.
- Be kind to yourself
Did you see my post on masking? That’s just one way I’ve been trying to take care of myself. I also take that extra few minutes of sleep if I need it. Have you taught the kids to make their own breakfast yet? (We’re all becoming ’80’s moms!) Listen to your body, we’re stress eating for sure, but let’s try to make some good choices if you can and give yourself grace if not. If you take care of yourself, you are much better able to take care of others. The house is gonna be dirtier because being in crisis and under stress makes us shut down.
- Make a night special or a new routine
Perhaps you order dinner and after feeding the kids, you have them skedaddle to their rooms and eat adult food by candlelight or out on the porch or patio. We made our night special by getting dressed up, putting flowers on the table and moving the Google mini to the dining room for music. Whatever would make it a special night and not just another night of take out. Perhaps like many other Americans you’ve discovered the art of the 5 o’clock cocktail hour. Whatever gives you and your significant other an activity to do together, take that time and do it! Board games, Xbox, cornhole, murder mystery, tiktok dances or watching the Harry Potter series for the 100th time. Routines will help you connect and give you something to look forward to during the day or week.
- Table Topics
This one is for the kiddos too. There is so much time for talking! Except, if I have to hear one more Minecraft story I might scream. We make it a point to have dinner together every night. However, we’ve run out of things to talk about and now it’s just replays of video games or trivia about reptiles. I purchased TableTopics Family Infomania I chose this box because the topics need to be interesting enough for a sixteen year old, but also understandable for a six year old too. They have a variety of boxes. Couples, work meetings, road trips, and so on so you can pick your pleasure. Dinners were a little awkward at first, but we’ve learned new things about each other and I’m finding that they bring up memories to share with my two older kiddos from when I was a teenager or married to their father. It has made that time much more bearable and curbed the Minecraft replays.
These are just ideas I have that we’ve tried and by no means encompass every couple or family’s dynamics. I’m hoping, however, it gets you brainstorming or noticing where you can be kind to yourself or that special bunkmate your stuck with for a little while longer. This is a crazy time for everyone.