Quarantine and social distancing have done a number on every relationship (romantic or otherwise)—but more than ever, couples who just started dating, or who didn’t necessarily plan on living together just yet, have been put to the test. Suddenly, many people are quarantining with their significant other, and they may not have have even met their partner’s closest friends yet.
When lockdown demands first came into play, not only were people quick to cohabitate unexpectedly, but even longtime couples were given their own set of hurdles. Adapting to being with someone literally 24/7 is challenging for anyone, especially depending on the demands of work, allotted living space and individual lifestyle.
More than three months into social distancing, and people are reflecting on where their relationship stands. Is how you deal with your partner amid quarantine an indicator of where you stand longterm? We reached out to Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®). The professor at Oakland University in Michigan explains what quarantine could mean for your relationship.
How to Thrive While Quarantining With Your Significant Other
The state of your relationship going into the pandemic can play a big role in the outcome once it’s over.
“When already distressed relationships are stressed from things outside the relationship—like the coronavirus pandemic—this stress can exacerbate the issues and problems,” Dr. Orbuch explains. “Also, when distressed relationships are stressed, the stress makes it more difficult to connect with each other, less likely to see the positives in each other and the relationship, and less likely have empathy and understanding for the other partner. However, with people who were in relationships that weren’t already distressed, those relationships can survive and even thrive if they do some simple strategies.”
Keys to Cohabitating Effectively in Close Quarters
- Share your anxieties, concerns and fears with each other. “Whether you’re living together or not, you can share your concerns with each other, because otherwise, the anxieties fester inside of you, and then impact your physical health,” Dr. Orbuch explains. “Don’t talk about the fears nonstop 24/7, but instead set a specific time to share.”
- Accept that you and your partner may have different reactions to the situation. “One of you may watch the news all the time, the other partner may not,” the expert shares. “These differences in how you handle or react to the situation don’t mean that your relationship is in trouble or should end. These differences are common to all romantic relationships.”
- Find fun activities to do together. “These are very challenging times, but couples who do fun things together are more likely to thrive,” Dr. Orbuch suggests. “Take a virtual cooking class online together, start a puzzle together, play board games, do an exercise class together online. Or you can even do virtual group dates if you need to liven things up. You can take a virtual tour of a foreign city, play virtual Pictionary, watch a movie ‘together’ on Netflix.”
- Give each other space. “It’s important in any romantic relationship that each of you have time, space and privacy from one another, particularly now,” Dr. Orbuch advises. “Don’t say ‘I need space,’ because it sends confusing signals. Instead: “I need some time to do X this afternoon”. Enjoy your space and don’t feel guilty.
What It Says About Your Relationship Longterm If You Struggle Amid Quarantine
Regardless of how strong a couple may be, changing up their entire routine and lifestyle overnight is going to affect them in some way. It’s ok if you and your partner have ups and downs while navigating this new way of life.
“It’s challenging to live with your partner 24/7 amid quarantine,” the doctor shares. “Most couples have never spent this much time together, just the two of you, with no other distractions or people. This is a very different time. It takes great patience, understanding, empathy and understanding that relationship challenges are inevitable, no matter how much you truly love each other! Remember to share, accept, find fun activities to do together, and give each other space.”
Even though our activities are limited, Dr. Orbuch encourages people to “walk outside separately, read a book in your room or on a couch. You can listen to a podcast, watch a movie, exercise, do an online course, or FaceTime with your friend—separately. It’s okay to take a break from each other, even if you’re living in a small space.”
One writer was against quarantining with her significant other, and HERE‘s how the couple is dealing.