Human beings are social by nature, and we are inherently happier and healthier when we maintain positive social relationships. The pandemic has introduced new challenges to building and maintaining intimate relationships. For example, stress, conflict, and worries about health, parenting, or finances can all have an impact on a sense of connection.
For those that are partnered, sheltering at home and having less personal space has made some couples feel more tense. Significant changes to daily routines, activities, hobbies, and lifestyle might have added new challenges for couples to overcome. For many, limited access to diverse social networks due to social distancing, closure of schools, businesses, or other public spaces formerly used for connection—and less travel overall—has put greater pressure on intimate relationships to meet all of your emotional connection needs. Increased parenting responsibilities with less access to childcare options has also put a strain on many couples and families.
Those who are not already in established, committed, or long-term relationships may face the struggle of trying to meet a new partner or maintain a newer relationship with limited options for face-to-face connection.
While we won’t always be in a pandemic state of mind, it’s possible that the way we interact with others may always be altered. It’s important to be flexible and creative as you find new ways to keep connecting safely with people both now, and in the future.
While you cannot control how your partner behaves or reacts, you can set goals and intentions to be present in your relationship. Here are some things you can try that can help reduce tension and stress, while building or maintaining a healthy connection with your partner:
Make time for your partner when you can. It’s possible that they are also feeling isolated and could benefit from spending quality time with you. Being intentional about setting aside uninterrupted time with each other can help foster intimacy and a deeper, more meaningful connection.
Your time and undivided attention are the most valuable resources you have to offer your partner. When you are together and truly trying to connect, minimize distractions (like phone and tv) so you can enjoy each other’s company.
Practice active listening
Active listening is a great way to show your partner that you’re listening, and increase the chance that they will respond to you similarly. Doing your best to understand your partner’s needs in the moment is easier when you truly hear them first, then respond. When both of you feel heard and understood, it’s easier to let defenses down and build connections up.
Create some certainties
Prioritizing time with your partner reaffirms that they are important to you. Schedule regular time to check in with one another or establish daily routines and communicate with each other ahead of time about who will be in charge of planning each time. Make time to reminisce, exercise or do other activities you both enjoy, or try something different, even if it’s just taking a day trip or ordering takeout from a new restaurant.
Rediscover your partner’s love language
Use this time as an opportunity to better understand how to show love and affection to your partner. Some people connect with verbal affirmation, some prioritize physical touch, and others feel loved when their partner gives gifts, shares quality time, or performs acts of service. If you aren’t in touch with what makes your partner feel the most loved by you—ask them! Then go out of your way to indulge in that love language for them.