How to Keep a Healthy Relationship During “Shelter in Place”

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Here in California, we’ve been on what I call “lock down” for 5 days now. But who’s counting? 

I am.I totally am. 

The whole coronavirus is scary business and I completely understand the need for social distancing. 

However.

Right now my biggest fear isn’t wrapped around contracting the virus.

 No.

My biggest fear is what’s going to happen to families.To relationships. 

I took a walk this afternoon and within a 2 block radius, I heard four homes with families yelling at each other. Not discussing things loudly. Yelling. With name calling and all. And it’s only been 5 days. 

Honestly, it’s a bit heartbreaking, though not at all unexpected. 

What’s happening right now is a fascinating social experiment: We’re taking people who are terrified of catching a life threatening virus, amplifying that by putting them at risk of bankruptcy, then throwing them into a confined space with other humans. Who they’re not supposed to kill. 

It’s a natural breeding ground for toxic behaviors

But we can fight it. We have to fight it. Society is crumbling into itty bitty pieces and right now the only thing we have to cling to is our dignity and kindness. And those sweet humans we are stuck in confinement with. 

I’ll admit, I’m struggling- I’m not going to fake that everything is fine. My husband and I have entered dark murky, stressful waters that we haven’t yet encountered in our entire 7 years of marriage. But I’m turning to every helpful piece of relationship advice I’ve received, clinging onto those tried and true techniques and hoping for a miracle. 

This is my battle plan to save my relationship. I hope you’ll join me and work to keep your relationships healthy too. 

** the examples I use are for romantic relationships but you could use the ideas for any of the relationships in your life

How to Keep a Healthy Relationship During "Shelter in Place"

  • Breathe.

Not just in and out, because we’re doing that fantastically right now. I’m talking about slow, deep, lower abdominal breaths. Breaths that steady the heart-rate and calm down emotions. That’s what we need if our relationships are going to survive. 

  • Take time to be grateful for what that person does for you

If you asked me right now, I could give you a novel-size list of all the things I’ve seen my husband do wrong today. (That sounds absolutely awful doesn’t it? Stress and exhaustion really morph me.) But the truth is, he’s done so many things that have actually saved me today. I just wasn’t paying attention. If I took a moment, I could probably write down an even bigger novel-size-list of all the things he’s done right. I just have to take the time to notice the ‘right’ actions. 

  • Actively choose to see the other person’s perspective

A ton has fallen onto my shoulders in the last few days, as I’m sure it has for you.

My kids are running around the house like maniacs and my husband has practically locked himself in his study. 24/7. When he has come out, he’s been fuming in a very ‘big bad wolf’ kind of way. It’s been driving me bonkers. But, yesterday, we took a long walk together (thank goodness we can still take walks) and I asked him how he was doing. He then unloaded the mountainous stress he’s had to deal with in his company. He told me everything. Every frustration, negative emotion, strained conversation. It made me realize, his huffy, puffy-ness is his way of dealing with all the craziness he’s been having to shift through. It made me more sympathetic and more willing to help out. 

** The important thing to note, after he finished venting, he asked me how I was doing and listened as I unloaded everything. Understanding is best accomplished when it’s a two way street. 

  • Small acts of kindness 

The other day, my husband braved the germs in the store and brought me a pack of Coke Zero to help me stay awake during study time. The day after, I made him a sugar-free, gluten free peanut butter pie. Kindness breeds kindness. It also helps intensify those fuzzy feelings of admiration which can cushion those really frustrating moments. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be a love note, a text of something you like about them, or a quick “thank you for ___.” 

  •  Don’t take offense

My husband is stressed right now. I’m stressed right now. We both have been saying things in ways that come across waaaaaaay harsher than we’ve intended. What’s really helped, though, is the understanding we have for each other. We’ve both made it a goal not to take offense and to instead, ask more questions. Unless we’re emotionally and physically tapped out. Then we just walk away. But we’ll ask questions later. 

*** This does not mean allow someone to consistently treat you terribly. If someone is habitually mean to you, it’s possibly a sign of something more serious.  

  • Take time to enjoy each other

We have to be creative with this one. Before the virus, we made a commitment to have date night once a week. That’s a little hard right now with shelter in place. Now we focus more on the micro-moments. A hand squeeze here a lingering hug there. On top of that, we take moments to put work down and just talk. This week I want to level up and try to include other activities together like surveys to get to know each other, Pictionary, and moments outside looking at the stars. 

  • Forgive at a faster rate than before

This includes not holding grudges and not harboring ill feelings. I definitely need to work on this. I love to let things fester. But that doesn’t help me. That doesn’t help keep my relationship healthy. I’m going to work on forgiving faster and moving on to those things I enjoy about the people around me. 

  • Proceed with extreme caution when having difficult conversations

I’m honestly trying to avoid these as much as possible at the moment. As I’ve already said, I’m stressed and exhausted and those two things usually equate to many grievances and unhealthy feelings. However, things have come up that needed to be talked about. That’s when I proceed with extreme caution. 

If something angers me, I hold off on talking about it for a bit. I figure out exactly what it is that’s bothering me and what I wish to accomplish by bringing it up. In other words, I’m making a huge effort to argue in a healthy way right now. And I’m making a point to eat food before the actual discussion. Food makes everyone less cranky. 

That’s my list so far. I’m going to keep pondering this to see what other tools I can add to my artillery to save my relationship. 

Do you have anything else you would add to this list? Any techniques you’re employing to help save your romance?

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