So, the COVID-19 pandemic has left you hunkered down in close quarters with your significant other. Sure, on paper, it seems sexy: You and your S.O. can finally see what ‘afternoon delight’ is all about, and make time for those role-play scenarios that require lots of free hours and old Halloween costumes. But after a few days of bickering in your jammies about your boyfriend’s annoying conference call voice—and then not having sex because of said conference call voice— you’re probably thinking: Is there any way to get out of this nightmare with my relationship still intact?
‘It may seem that we’re fighting or experiencing tension because we’re living in close quarters, which could be part of the problem, but the distress of the pandemic itself is also taking its toll — physically, emotionally, and financially on almost everyone across the globe,’ says Jess O’Reilly, PhD, Astroglide’s resident sexologist.
But hey, just because the world might feel like it’s erupting all around you doesn’t mean your relationship has to go to shit. ‘Smaller arguments may help to relieve tension and ward off bigger conflicts,’ O’Reilly says. But there’s a right way to argue and a wrong way to argue. So here’s how you and your S.O. can weather out this hellish storm, without completely wanting to murder each other:
Tell your partner how you’re feeling…calmly
Repeat after me: Just because you’re scared and emotional about what’s happening doesn’t give you permission to project your feelings onto your partner for no reason. ‘It’s important to name your emotions,’ she says. ‘Acknowledge them and give yourself permission to validate what you’re feeling.’
Instead of pushing those feelings into the corner, sit your person down and let them know how you’re feeling about everything. ‘Go easy on yourself and your partner,’ she says. And if you know you’re taking your feelings out on them? It’s time to own up to it and apologise.
Carve out alone time respectfully
You’re probably thinking, How the hell am I supposed to be alone in a 300 square foot flat with my partner? Good question. ‘Set a schedule that allows time for time alone, time together, and time spent with friends online,’ she says. If you have a living room and a bedroom, decide on certain times where you each get a room — and stick to it. No need to hide under the bed or coop up in the tub of your shower, mmk?
If you can’t get physical distance, try to figure out other ways to get space. Pop on your headphones and watch separate movies. Or have a solo spa night in your tub while they’re in the bedroom. Who knows what could happen after?
Offer support, if you can…
While arguments about who ate the last strawberry yoghurt seem petty, the underlying stress about money is serious—and it’s one of the bigger points of angst during this uncertain time, especially with so many people losing their jobs. ‘This is a good time to reach out and ask for help or offer help,’ O’Reilly says. Money is a tricky topic to begin with. Throw in layoffs and a global pandemic, and it’s even more brutal.
If your partner is freaking out about losing their job, or has already been laid off and is unsure of what they’re going to do next, it’s your job to listen and offer support. There should be zero judgment in the conversation. Help them figure out how to file for unemployment, or reach out to people you know who may be in need of remote freelance work. Or just give them some space if that’s what they ask for. If you keep separate finances and you have the money to help support them, you can offer it up. Just make sure you both have a plan for if and how you’ll get paid back once they find work again.
…but don’t rely on your partner as your only form of support
Since your partner is literally chillin’ on the couch next to you, it’s super easy to turn to them and just vomit your emotions all over them. But your S.O. cannot and should not be your only source of support. ‘Be sure to stay connected to your friends and family via text, phone, and/or video chat,’ O’Reilly says. ‘By spending time with other people, you’ll alleviate the pressure on the relationship and likely strengthen other relationships at the same time.’
She also stresses the importance of caring for your own mental health. ‘Engage in daily rituals that put your mind a tease,’ O’Reilly says. So do what you gotta do to chill out: colour-in, paint, masturbate, do yoga. Find your ‘zen’ any way you can.
Invest in your relationship in different ways
Don’t wait until this bout of self-isolation is over to re-invest in your relationship. ‘Do it now,’ she says. ‘You could start by simply checking in with one another each morning to get a sense of your partner’s mood.’ Make sure you’re snuggling. If the stress hasn’t shot your libido, make sure you’re putting in some time in the bedroom. And instead of just scarfing your takeout on the couch, set up a sweet little picnic on the floor and have a quarantine date night.
Look, the world may feel like shit. But making time for your partner can be the one bright spot in an otherwise dark moment.
This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com
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