As life as we know it has been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve all had to adapt fast, and so too have our relationships. Whether you’ve been with someone for years or have just started dating, self isolation isn’t exactly conducive to love (or lust). Lockdown relationships might be growing chasms wider than the 2-metre rule, but there are a few things you can do to set things back on the right track. With the help of experts, we look at how to solve 10 of the most common relationship problems during lockdown.
1. Quarantine Has Effectively Made You Long Distance
Lockdown has brought a whole new meaning to long distance relationships. If your S.O. lives further than your front door, they might as well be on the other side of the world right now. There’s still no indication of when lockdown will end, and the prospect of not seeing each other for months can be pretty daunting.
However, according to relationship expert and CEO of The Love Collective Global, Sarah Louise Ryan, it can work. “To keep the relationship happy, healthy, and thriving [when you’re not together], it’s important to establish a routine of contact that is consistent, but not constant,” she says. “If you’re texting all day, then you might run out of important points of conversation when it comes to catching up on a video date later. The air of mystery that provokes excitement may become lost if we feel the need to connect within our couples too much.”
With this is mind, ring-fence some time for your relationship, in the same way as if you were seeing each other face to face. Cook and eat together, play games, or watch TV – rather than just jumping on a call, when one of you absorbed in the Playstation and the other is scrolling Instagram, because you’re Whatsapp’d out. It doesn’t have to be non-stop chat, but it’s worth dedicating some quality time to being in each others virtual presence.
2. You’re Quarantined With A New Partner
“Going into quarantine with someone you’re newly dating is a fast way to know someone,” says dating and relationship expert Benjamin Daly. “If you’re in this situation, set boundaries. Discuss how you both like to operate.”
While it might be a little awkward, this isn’t the time to tiptoe around each other. “Have open discussions about what you like and what you don’t like,” says Daly, “eventually you’ll both find a routine that works for you both.”
Sit down together, work out your ground rules and plan a loose schedule that keeps you both happy and mindful of each other. Housework should definitely be one of these talking points – while one of you is technically a guest, that doesn’t mean you should treat this like a hotel stay. Pitching in will help everything run a lot more smoothly and leave more time to enjoy all the early relationship benefits.
“We’re craving closeness and romance in lockdown. It’s comforting and mood lifting in these difficult times,” notes Johanna Rief, head of sexual empowerment at We-Vibe. Yes, the dates might look different, but it’s still worth making an effort – “get dressed up, open your favourite wine, blast some tunes.”
3. You Want To Keep Things Going With A Crush
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Arguably, those early days of dating are some of the best: long evenings at the pub, bumping into their flatmates, walking to get coffee in the morning, getting to know each other… Recreating those feels virtually will take work. “Have virtual happy hours on Fridays via Houseparty, Zoom, or Skype apps. Perhaps have picnic dates on your phone over the weekend; or allocate time for dinner dates where you both eat and catch up together,” Ryan suggests.
Calls might seem more daunting than talking over text as usual, but it’s a good way to take things further. Or make it a group hang – a big virtual pub quiz with everyone’s housemates involved? It’ll make meeting them after lockdown all the more fun.
4. You’re In Lockdown With Your In-Laws
Getting along well with your in-laws over a long weekend can sometimes be tricky, but living with them during a global pandemic is next level intense. But, if that’s the situation you find yourself in, look for the positives and try to communicate as much as possible. “If you feel like your boundaries aren’t being respected by others, politely ask that they are,” Daly advises. Rief adds that “if you are feeling frustrated, take time for yourself and if possible, go for a walk or run.”
Look at this as a good opportunity to build deeper relationships for the long-term with your S.O.’s family, too. “This is a stressful time for everyone, enjoy each other’s company as much as you can and the opportunity to have some quality time together,” says Rief. Whether that’s helping out in the kitchen, gardening together or watching a series on TV – for this lockdown at least, you’re part of the family.
5. You’re Quarantined With Your S.O.’s Friends
They say when you start dating someone you also date their friends – and while you might have a good evening at the pub together, that doesn’t mean you’d all want to live in the same house. But, if you’ve moved in with your partner and their mates, it’s time to make it work.
Ryan suggests focusing on your own happiness first, which will have a knock-on-effect on the rest of your living arrangements. Create a routine for yourself that includes work, creative activities, exercise, and down time separate from the people you’re isolating with. That way, it’ll be easier to overlook the little annoyances and find common ground in the time you do spend as a group.
6. You’re Losing The Spark In Lockdown
The stress of not being able to see your friends, family, and adapting to working from home can all be a strain on your relationship. “While the weight of the world might seem on our shoulders at the moment,” Ryan says, “if we let go and surrender to the positive opportunities that we can create, we will be able to make the most of dating differently and connecting in our couples on a whole new level.”
Relationships take work, but the rewards will be so much greater during this time. “Simple fun activities will keep the romance alive,” Daly says. Whether that’s bringing the cinema experience into your front room, recreating a restaurant in your kitchen, dressing up – in anything other than your tracksuit bottoms – it can all make a difference, if only to show you’re making the effort, which is what means the most.
7. Your Partner Isn’t Taking Lockdown Seriously
Government guidelines have been explicitly clear on social distancing and isolation, so there should be mutual trust that those you’re living with are respecting the rules. Anyone who isn’t taking things seriously – perhaps not washing their hands after being outside, or spending time with people outside of your house – will make the situation much worse. The solution? Tell them how it makes you feel.
Right now, open and free communication is the best way to get through lockdown. If your partner is making you uncomfortable and putting themselves and you at unnecessary risk, raise it with them – calmly and at the right time. Hopefully, you can discuss it and get back on the same page (the government’s COVID-19 advice page, ideally).
8. You’re Missing Alone Time
No matter how much you adore your other half, sometimes you just need some space. “It’s ok if you need time alone,” says Daly, “it’s important that your partner understands this too. Let them know why it’s important, so it doesn’t feel like a rejection.”
“How we communicate is really important, not just the words we say. Explain kindly, rather than from a place of frustration or despair, that investing in time for yourself is something you need right now, and your partner should understand,” says Ryan.
You’ll likely both benefit from a solo walk listening to a podcast, reading a chapter of your book, doing some exercise separately, or even staring into space while your mind wanders – alone. “Keep it simple,” says Rief. “Take a bath to unwind at the end of the day, or sit in the sunshine in the garden for an hour.”
Similarly, spending every night with your partner can be intense. Watching Netflix in bed while your partner does something in the other room will help break up the time you spend together.
9. You’re In Lockdown With Your Ex
This situation is peak awkward, and probably the last thing you’d choose if circumstances were different. “You may need to stick this one out,” says Daly. “Find a rhythm that keeps things civil and pleasant. There’s no point making it any more uncomfortable than it needs to be.”
Try to foster some respect for each other. “Creating clear physical boundaries around the home, so the two of you have space to grieve the relationship, is really important,” says Ryan.
Offering a practical coping method, she continues: “Make a list of things that are in your control and things that are out of your control in two separate columns. The, focus your routine and day around the things that are in your control; and be mindful to let things go that land in the ‘out of your control’ column. Because if it isn’t growing you, serving you, or making you happy, you have to let it go.”
If there’s any chance of a post-relationship friendship, now’s the time. “Try and keep the peace, so you can at least rub along together for the time being, remember it won’t be forever,” says Rief. “And if you are on good terms, it could be a good opportunity to cement a new friendship.”
10. Your Post-Break Up Sadness Has Been Magnified By Lockdown
While lockdown has gifted most of us with more time, if you’ve just gone through a break up, this leaves you more vulnerable to dwelling on things. Use this to your advantage as much as possible. Sit with the feelings and process them – journalling can help, or reaching out to talk things through with a close friend. It’s super healthy to feel your way through a break up.
It’s also a good time to put some plans in place. Research that retreat you’ve always wanted to go on, or the job you’re thinking of applying for. Focusing on the future will help bring some positivity in.