First, let me say that the pandemic is challenging on so many different levels, and may absolutely impact your relationship. Numerous stressors may arise at any moment, and there has been, and continues to be, a lot of information that you need to process through to try and make some sort of sense of what is happening – whether in world news, in your city, or in your personal life. Stressors are not always something we prepare for, and they can certainly throw us off our orbit or for a loop when they arise.
Therefore, try to filter out the stressor: is this a pandemic related stressor, or would this stressor still be present regardless of the pandemic? Having this filter system can change the way you look at, or think about the stressor, and begin thinking of strategies to solve the problem.
These stressors may arise for you, your partner, and/or your relationship. When they do arise, how do you cope with it? How do you problem solve together? How can you find ways to maintain your healthy relationship? Here are some strategies you and your partner may implement to help your relationship cope through the pandemic.
Ever heard of a WRAP Plans? WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and there are many steps in creating your own, personalized WRAP plan, however two of these steps I want to highlight are the “Me Well vs Me Unwell” step and the “Daily Maintenance” step. “Me Well vs Me Unwell” means what do you look like emotionally/mentally at your absolute best and what do you look like emotionally/mentally at your absolute worst and need support. “Daily Maintenance” comes in where you create a list of things you need to maintain your wellness. Things in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Partners can have this discussion about what this looks like for them, while sharing what they have observed in each other when well and when not well. Creating your daily maintenance lists together, allows for your partner to know what they may do for you when you are in need of support to help you maintain wellness, and vice versa. For example, if you are a coffee drinker, and that is definitely on your morning maintenance list, your partner can make a cup for you. It is important for partners to know what each other looks like when “well” and when “not well” to then look at your maintenance list and see what they may do to provide you with support.
You and your partner may feel that you know each other well, which is fantastic! However, it is important to not make assumptions about what your partner may be thinking, feeling, or acting in a certain way that is not typical for them. Assumption making often leads to negative thoughts and emotions about a situation or can escalate a minor problem into a much bigger problem. When in doubt, ask! It is always better to ask your partner; “Hey I feel like you are less talkative tonight than usual, and I just want to check-in with you, is everything okay?” Asking questions is better than making assumptions about how or why your partner said something a certain way, how they might be feeling about a certain event or conversation, or what must be going through their mind right now. Similarly, ask or tell your partner what you need as well! Don’t wait for your partner to assume you are okay, if you need something from them, or require support, ask them. Asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page, and to problem-solve through a stressor together as a team!
Create shared meaning experiences! Shared meaning experiences are those experiences that you and your partner experience together. Even if the experience was absolutely horrible (such as a date night gone wrong because there was a problem with your food delivery, or a plan didn’t work out the way you wanted it to), at the end of the day, this was an experience that both you and your partner encountered together, and can bond over the experience.
During the pandemic, it can be challenging to maintain your relationship rituals that were present prior to the pandemic. So use your creativity skills and design new rituals! Whether this includes going for a drive and having a picnic in your car while looking over Lake Michigan, or engage in different cultural activities such as having a foreign country experience over a weekend, where you order that country’s food, listen to that country’s music, and/or travel through that country using Google Maps or Google Earth. This can be one way to still have your travel plans honored, while remaining safe at home together.