One of the perks of all this staying-at-home business is that some celebrity relationship drama is coming to light (I’m still not over Hannah B and Tyler’s TikTok). However, one of the downfalls is the toll it could take on your own relationship. Remove exciting date nights out, and add in 24/7 togetherness and lack of connection to the outside world: things are going to get real.
It’s like you’re Rapunzel stuck in a tower, but instead of the prince coming to rescue you and galloping off into the sunset, the prince is stuck in the tower with you. Oh, and there’s limited toilet paper, you’re eating frozen pizzas for most meals, and you can’t agree on which true-crime series to watch. The only difference, of course, is that we’re not “stuck” at home; we’re safe at home. And let’s be real, who would save who here?
Fairy tales aside, it’s true: not all relationships can handle the tension of close proximately (without a known light at the end of the tunnel). So how do you not ruin your relationship while spending all day, every day with just each other? Romance might be the last thing on your mind during a time like this, but it’s crucial to your mental health that you feel connected and satisfied with the one person you’re not distanced from. Here are eight ways to keep your relationship happy while you’re indefinitely cooped up under one roof (and maybe even make your connection better than before).
1. Have regular alone time
Even if you’re enjoying the 24/7 togetherness, you still need time for yourself. Take walks on your own to get a change of environment (especially if you’re in a smaller space), and make sure you’re caring for yourself every day. Take a long, luxurious bath or do a yoga flow alone, remembering that looking out for yourself isn’t just for you; it’s so you can show up as your best possible self in your relationship.
You might also be struggling with overlapping workdays if you’re both working from home (maybe their phone calls are distracting while you’re in a Zoom meeting, or it’s hard to focus because they keep asking you questions). Make the work-from-home situation work for both of you by keeping up your regular morning routines, kissing each other goodbye like you normally would, and going to separate spaces in your home where you’re unable to talk to each other during designated “work hours.”
2. Set some new ground rules and chore schedules
Typically, you probably have your routine figured out. In a normal routine, you knew whose job it was to take out the trash, whose turn it was to make dinner, and who had time to walk the dog (and when). Since we’re not going to the gym, the office, or anywhere else for that matter, all bets are off. Daily routines are destroyed, and that means basic ground rules and chore schedules are destroyed with them.
Routine rituals like daily chores are not just crucial for your sanity (so you don’t wake up to a full sink of dirty dishes every morning), but the mundane chores and routines stitch together the idea that the two of you are in this together. Each time one of you picks up the slack, starts the coffee pot, or takes a turn cooking, it’s enforcing the idea that you’re a partnership. Since rituals and needs likely look different in this new routine, set a new chore schedule and discuss ground rules that will help you both function best (not disturbing you while Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is on counts!).
3. Communicate instead of fight
Any drastic change that alters life as we know it is tough (I mean, duh). The entire world is scared, stressed, and emotional. Odds are you both will say things you don’t mean, get mad for no reason, or bring out the worst versions of yourselves. Try your best to give your partner (and yourself) some grace to make a few extra mistakes during this time. If you find that you’re still fighting excessively, try a reconciliation ritual, where you work through problems and create a blank slate moving forward.
For example, take a walk after your workday to talk through big issues or minor annoyances that came up during the day, and hit reset for the evening. One of the perks of having nowhere to go is that neither of you will have to rush out the door after a stressful morning argument to get to work, and you can’t take much space or alone time after a disagreement. You have the extra time, so work on communicating instead of fighting when you’re feeling angry, annoyed, or sad.
4. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself
So you’ve been in sweatpants for approximately four weeks straight, eaten mostly boxed mac n’ cheese, and given up on taking regular showers. Needless to say, the “spark” in your relationship may not be in full force these days. It certainly does not need to be, but if you feel your relationship slipping into a romantic rut, try to spice things up by doing something that makes you feel good.
Whether it’s putting on self-tanner, curling your hair, spraying perfume, putting on pretty underwear, using a luxurious body scrub, or listening to a feel-good playlist (I’m biased, but I highly recommend our “Get Sexy” playlist), put in a little extra effort now and then. You’re not trying to impress your significant other (if they’re worth keeping, they’ll look at you the same whether you’re wearing makeup or not. Also, showered or not). It’s simply about keeping up your mojo: the extra care you give yourself that makes you feel confident. Trust me, if you feel good about yourself, “the relationship rut” will resolve itself.
5. Give purpose to the extra time together
Odds are a lot of your time together will be spent mindlessly bingeing Tiger King on Netflix. While wildly entertaining and culturally relevant, make sure that some of your time is spent purposefully as well. Make the extra togetherness good for the relationship, instead of just “not damaging.” Spend the time learning a new skill or starting a new hobby together, and plan fun activities that you wouldn’t normally do like a competitive game night, a drive to go see the sunset, or a themed happy hour (dear boyfriend, if you’re reading this, I would like a French 75 tonight).
Learn new things about each other, make new memories, and boost your connection and communication. No matter how ~flawless~ your relationship is, there’s always room to improve. Give purpose to this time by learning new ways to be together: not just be together as in cohabitate, but be together as in connecting more.
6. Express gratitude every day
I can (and sometimes do) preach the benefits of gratitude until I’m blue in the face, but gratitude, especially during the toughest of times, can save your relationship. The negativity effect (or the negativity bias) explains that our brains are innately wired to focus on the bad more than the good. Unpleasant thoughts or memories have a greater effect on our psychology than positive thoughts and memories.
While it was helpful to avoid getting eaten by tigers back in the good old cavemen days, it’s not always helpful in ensuring relationships last (or thrive). We can convince ourselves that our partners are not right for us or that we’re unhappy in relationships because we don’t notice the good. Reverse the negativity effect by making an effort to notice your significant other’s traits that you’re grateful for, and express them out loud so they feel appreciated.
7. Go through old photos, videos, or messages
You can spend the extra time together rehashing old fights and mistakes (like how your partner forgot to run the dishwasher again), or you can spend the extra time reliving the happy memories and the good moments (like your wedding day, that really fun trip you took a few years ago, or the sweet texts they sent you when you first started dating).
To feel completely happy in your relationship during a time where emotions are running extra high, try to find four good memories for every annoyance or recurring fight (remember that negativity effect?). Nostalgia can be good for a relationship because it helps you remember falling in love (as long as you’re fondly reminiscing and not wishing for the past).
8. Think of your relationship as your “safe space”
There’s enough conflict in the world right now; you don’t need conflict in your relationship too. Everyone is likely grieving in one way or another (grieving normalcy counts!), so remember that fights, annoyances, and the occasional bickering will happen. Instead of feeling bummed that you’re “stuck” together, appreciate that you get to go through this terrifying time with someone by your side. Grow together (instead of growing apart) by seeing your relationship as your safe space. Frequently check in with each other, offer support, and above all, make each other laugh more than you make each other mad.