Although in theory you choose your partner to spend your entire life together, in theory that life also involves working, going out to eat with friends and basically making plans that do not always include that one person in the same household.
But the coronavirus changed the rules of the game and now many couples are forced to spend day and night locked in their homes for weeks, perhaps months, without seeing anyone else. Even in situations of love and mutual care, patience can be exhausted.
“Fifth day of quarantine. My husband told me: “Let’s set times to talk to each other,” says a tweet that went viral.
And on WhatsApp a text circulates that invites singles and divorced people to clap on their balconies at a certain time to “recognize the effort that married people are making.”
Beyond the jokes mandatory quarantine or self-isolation injects big pressure.
In China, where cities are slowly returning to normal after the critical moment of the coronavirus crisis has passed, several civil registry offices are reaching record numbers of divorce applications, reported the official Chinese newspaper Global Times.
5th day of quarantine: my husband told me “let’s set times to talk” .🙄
– Karina Micieli (@KarinaMicieli) March 21, 2020
“Couples are subjected to a double or triple stress situation due to the confinement derived from the coronavirus pandemic”, explains to BBC Mundo Cecilia Martín Sánchez, a psychologist specializing in couples therapy and director of the Institute of Psychode Psychology in Spain.
“Being locked up at home is more difficult to relativize the little things that happen on a daily basis. The ‘backpack is being loaded’ and there are no walks or outings to empty the luggage ”, he says.
In other words, “Quarantine prevents tensions from being released“.
Noemí Díaz Marroquín, a family and couples therapist, as well as a professor at the Faculty of Psychology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), agrees that the “Forced coexistence 24 hours a day” it inhibits “exhaust, disconnection spaces”.
This exacerbates previous relationship problems, which “tend to express themselves loaded with high emotion, which makes their solution very difficult,” he tells BBC Mundo.
As if this were not enough, he adds, it also generates new conflicts of a daily nature.
The coronavirus has already brought enough alterations, anguish and pain to our lives to also become a factor of separations. So below, 6 practical tips from both psychologists to cope with the confinement as a couple.
1. Work for harmony at home
“In these days where we are all anxious and worried, it is normal for us to increased irritability“says Martín.
For this reason, he explains, it is important “have patience towards the irritability of our partner and our children. If they also have it with us, we can maintain harmony at home. “
Díaz, for his part, speaks of the importance of “concentrating on maintaining personal and partner stability every day”: “You have to maintain positive thoughts, because the crisis is going to pass.”
In this sense, he affirms that it is not necessary to “pretend to solve old problems in these circumstances and realize that the most important thing at this time is to maintain harmony in daily coexistence ”.
Part of this balance, says the Mexican, is achieved by maintaining contact “with your family and social support network.”
2. Limit the topic of coronavirus
The two psychologists emphasize that it is good stay informed about the coronavirus, but not obsess.
In this sense, Díaz speaks of “staying informed of the pandemic only from reliable sources and not being saturated with information.”
The same happens with conversations about covid-19, which Martín recommends limiting to a maximum of 1 hour per day.
“It is necessary to be able to vent and feel heard when we express our complaints, our concern or our anger at everything related to this pandemic, but we must not let it become the monothem at home 24 hours a day, “says the Spanish psychologist.
And he recommends taking advantage of the situation to have more interesting conversations. This ranges from asking about personal development goals to what animal you would like to be.
3. Equitable distribution of tasks
Being in quarantine or self-isolation implies having extra chores at home (such as cooking and washing more) and, in the case of having children or dependents, assuming more active roles of care, well-being and even education.
Díaz acknowledges that this “can help the attention to be distributed” and lower the potential tension in the couple.
“But, on the other hand, especially when there are children, they demand a lot of care, which exhausts the parents,” says the Mexican psychologist, clarifying that in these circumstances it is women who tend to be more overloaded and at risk to their physical health and mental.
That’s why you think it’s important “distribute housework and care for others equitably“.
4. Do things we like (and for which we never have time)
“The higher the stress level, the more leisure time is necessary to combat it”, says Martín.
“Find your daily time to play sports at home and have each one propose a game as a couple or as a family to play: board games, dressing up, doing a play together or sketches in the mood to record and send to the family ”, he exemplifies.
Díaz, for his part, also mentions the importance of “doing pleasant activities without feeling guilty”, such as watching movies, reading, playing, exercising or meditating.
5. Preserve moments of privacy
“Don’t feel obligated to interact all the time“says Díaz.
In his opinion, privacy spaces must be respected, allowing “everyone to have moments alone and dedicate themselves to personal activities.”
For that it is good “to agree on a daily routine as a couple and individually,” he recommends.
Martin poses “Agree with your partner at least 1 hour a day alone to be able to do what you want ”.
“This space alone is necessary to relax, disconnect with your partner and children, think about your things, listen to your music or simply lie down to rest,” says the psychologist.
And he explains: “If we respect those individual spaces and alone we will avoid the overload and tension that is generated in this abnormal situation of spending 24 hours together in a closed space.”
6. Find intimate spaces for the couple
According to Martín, being locked up does not imply killing romanticism.
“It can be used when children sleep to set certain ‘dating dates’, in which you can have a romantic dinner for two handsome dresses, with romantic music in the background, or a relaxing bath with bubbles for two ”, he exemplifies.
He also proposes “to play strangers and that one has to seduce the other, give a naked massage or anything that helps to get out of the routine and regain passion in times of coronavirus.”
To which he adds: “It is the ideal time to be able to do it without leaving home“.