Connection, Quarantine and COVID-19

If you are quarantined with your significant other(s) right now, it could be heaven…or it could be hell. Actually, I hope for you that it is somewhere in between. Meaning, you’re having some conflict, but you are working through it within a reasonable time frame and the conflict isn’t having any lasting effects. If that isn’t what you are experiencing, here are some tips to move you away from hell and closer to heaven.

First, this can be hard on relationships. Spending all day, every day together works great in a romcoms and romance novels, but the reality is much more complicated, If one or both (or more if you are in a polyamorous relationship) are used to leaving your home for work or other activities, being together 24×7 is bound to require new relationships skills. Lowering your expectations of each other is the name of the game.

You will get irritated, annoyed, angry, frustrated, and disapointed with each other. Guaranteed.

Second, if you are feeling less than loving toward your partner(s), remind yourself that your feelings come from you, not them. You get to feel whatever you want to feel, but how you feel is NOT THEIR FAULT.

Before I go on, let me state that I’m NOT talking about disrespectful conversations (name calling, swearing, blaming, shaming, etc) or physical aggression. Abusive behavior is not OK and needs to be addressed. If you need help with this, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support and to get connected to resources in your area.

For non-abusive conflict, here’s how it works. Someone does or doesn’t do something. You have thoughts about it. Those thoughts create some feels. You then do something to cope with those feelings. While the action belongs to someone else, your response to it is all your own.

For example, in my house, I make dessert for my family every evening. When we’re done, I don’t take my dishes to the sink, my spouse does. Upon taking my dishes to the sink, they could respond to my behavior in several ways.

One way would be to THINK about how lazy and inconsiderate I am, which would lead to FEELINGS of annoyance and resentment.

Or, they could THINK about how it’s only fair because I make the dessert every night and then FEEL grateful and appreciative. See how this works?

When we accept our thoughts and feelings as our own responsibility, we have control to use skills to manage conflict, rather than giving control to our feelings.

Third, if your negative feelings during disagreement are getting strong, take a time-out. Time-outs go like this:

1. “I am getting upset and need a time-out.”

2. “I am going to go for a walk/read a book/knit/(whatever helps you calm down).”

3. “I will be back at <specific time of day>.” (Never say “in 30 mins.” It tends to get confusing. Give a specific time.)

4. “And we can talk about it then.”

At which point, you leave and nothing else is said by you or the other person. It’s important to get everyone to agree to these rules ahead of time, otherwise people tend to argue with you about leaving the room. You also have to return when you said you would. Otherwise, it’s hard to trust you.

Fourth, look at the person you are upset with. Look at their face, listen to their voice, watch what they are doing. Get outside of your thoughts and feelings and get in touch with what is happening with them. Are they an actual threat to you? Probably not.

And five, when it comes to conflict, talk about your thoughts and feelings. Don’t blame your feelings on the other person. Describe the what they did, the thoughts you had about what they, and the feelings caused by your thoughts.

“When you…I thought…then I felt…”

These tips will not resolve all the conflicts you may be having at home, but chances are they will make things better.

One of the disagreements I am hearing a lot about is different levels of caution around COVID-19 safety, such as whether or not to leave your home, and quarantining packages and groceries. Every household has to come to their own decision about degree of caution, and I am not here to reccomend any specific action. However, I know it can be really hard when partners don’t agree.

Make sure everyone involved understands the thoughts and feelings of everyone else. This means that each person gets a chance to talk with everyone else just listening. Once everyone feels understood, you may be surprised at how much common ground there is between you. Common ground leads to agreements everyone can get behind.

If they don’t help, talking with a therapist could helpful. Each couple has a unique story and while these suggestions are universally helpful, all relationships have their own roadblocks to using them. I am offering telehealth appointments and so are many therapists. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need support.

That’s all for now. Be well. Stay strong.

The Love Desert

You don’t need me to tell you that life happens. People get sick, kids act out, jobs get lost, parents die. It is surprisingly common to have more than one bad thing happen at once or in quick succession. It can feel like a tidal wave about to overtake you.

Sometimes when this happens, it takes all we have to just stay on the board and ride the wave.

Most of the time, when a bad thing happens, it only happens to one of partner in a relationship at a time. Since the other person’s life continues on normally, they can give us extra support, take on extra chores, or just be a listening ear. In other words, they can be there for us when we need them. At other times, they are the ones facing a difficult life event, and we provide the support.

But sometimes, life hits everyone at the same moment. Both of you struggle to take care of yourself and the kids (if kids are part of the equation). At the end of the day, there isn’t anything left for anyone else. When this happens, the support stops flowing and enter a love desert.

I’ve seen many couples freak-out when this happens, especially the first time it happens. We get into relationships for mutual support and when it disappears, no matter how much our brains understand what’s going on, our hearts can get pretty bruised up. We forget that it’s only temporary.

Acknowledging that you are both in a desert, that you don’t have anything to give each other, is an important step in getting through a love desert. By acknowledgingthe reality of the situation, you can adjust your expectations of each other and get on with coping.

When we don’t acknowledge it and pretend it isn’t happening or require that our partner meet our needs regardless of their own reality, we can damage and even kill the relationship.

These deserts are a normal part of long-term relationships. They don’t mean anything, they just happen. So, when they do, focus on taking care of yourself (and your kids) and trust your partner to do the same. Once life returns to normal, so will your relationship.

If it doesn’t, that’s the time to give me a call.

Photo credit Chance Agrella @