Is the Cabin Fever setting in? Here are some basic tips to help you move through this time with your beloved:
Check in with your partner: How are you feeling? What have I done in the past week that has been helpful? What have I done that was unhelpful? Do you need more or less of something from me in the following days? Reflectively listen and validate. Afterwards, if you’re the listening partner talk about what you can and can’t do – try to meet your partners needs as much as you can and stop when you know what you will give will breed resentment (or in other words know you’re giving too much). This requires checking in with yourself :).
Balance togetherness and separateness – COVID 19 or not, this is something that is important to a relationship, every relationship will have a different ratio of individual “me time” and “us time” at different times dependent on internal and external factors including stress levels, shifting psychological needs, life curveballs etc. Learning to create moments of space in a relationship can help make together time even more special and cherished. It also serves as a sense of independence and remember that there are parts of yourself that don’t involve your intimate partner.
Reach out beyond your couple bubble – Speaking of separateness – go on virtual friend dates, virtual family catch up, etc.
Express appreciation – In my clinical experience, this is the most underrated behavior that can make a huge impact. Catch your partner doing something good, no matter how big or small! For some, it is a vulnerable thing to express positive feelings. If that is the case, you can start with sticky notes, texts, personal IG story, write something on a whiteboard (if you have one), and work your way up to in-person comments.
Keep the communication as emotionally safe as possible- John Gottman, world’s leading couples researcher found there are 4 ways to escalate conflict and bring up our defenses: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Learn how to change a criticism into language that includes your needs and feelings. Give your partner’s behavior the benefit of the doubt and avoid judgment of character. Practice empathy – connecting to the emotion behind a behavior/experience instead of the trying to connect to experience. Remember you often have to give to get when it comes to compromising on our needs. Some will be core and non-negotiable while most of our needs are flexible and can be negotiated.
Get intimate! – Haven’t had the time to have sex as a priority? With the extra time one may have, it could be a great way to reaquaint yourself with you and your partner’s sex life. It’s also a great stress reliever as it combines bonding with your partner with exercise, two known stress relievers. Talk about preferences and new things you may want to try. Pleasure mapping is a way to improve your sex life via experiential learning. How do you do it?
- Do some things to “get you in the mood” – things you already do with your partner to signal it is “sexy time” ex. Massage
- Try exploring different techniques on your partner’s body in efforts to create pleasure, you might gather ideas from a movie you’ve seen, books you’ve read on sex, or the internet. Examples: gentle bite on the neck, a caress on a certain area of the body, etc
- Your partner rates the pleasure on a 1-10 scale, this a no-shame zone, remember lower numbers don’t reflect your ability as a lover it just means it the rating of technique efficacy on your partner’s mind and body
- Switch partners
You’ve got your pleasure map of your partner you can use in future sexual encounters!
Build the “friendship” part of your relationship – here are activities you can do to bond and build your friendship (even if it’s strong already):
Love Maps (using the free Gottman card decks app – https://www.gottman.com/couples/apps/)
Accept and Make Bids for Connection (which is fancy way of saying – recognize and say yes to your partner’s requests for bonding, humor, and attention as much as you can and communicate your own) Some ideas:
- Create a list of things you haven’t done together and want to do when COVID 19 is over
- Watch a movie together
- Get your favorite take out together and make an at home date night
- Take a virtual work out class together
- Read a book in the same room
- If your partner shares a funny meme/video, take a moment to look at it
- Watch your favorite show’s bloopers on Youtube, or type in bloopers into Youtube and have a laugh at all the videos
- Take a walk outside together (with the pups if you have them)
Reach out to a therapist if nothing else!
There is a wealth of knowledge on the Gottman Blog: https://www.gottman.com/blog/
Search for Gottman Institute on Instagram too – they’ve got some great daily content!
The Gottmans also have a podcast they recently started consisting of 5 min episodes for couples to listen to on tips to help improve their relationship. It’s called “Small Things Often”.
Take Care everyone!
Written by: Elizabeth Weber, LPC, LMFT – Therapist – San Marcos location
The Gottman Institute https://www.gottman.com