14 Feb To my Quaran-tine: How can we navigate our relationship during a pandemic?
Due to the restrictions on dating activities that would normally happen during Valentine’s Day, couples may feel like it’s going to be just another day. Which can be disappointing to those who enjoy taking a break from the repetitiveness of everyday life relationships. This is a universal conflict for all couples, new or old, healthy or strained. COVID-19 did not just impact how people meet, but also the exploration of romance and even how much time people spend together. For partners who are living together and are spending more time with each other at home throughout COVID-19, emotional connection has improved; physical connection on the other hand has not.
The amount of time spent with partner(s) does not necessarily equate to “quality time”. For instance, more time together could mean more conversations about things each person isn’t happy with within their relationship or changes they might like to see. Some partners may realize they aren’t as compatible with each other and may be starting to realize that they want different things.
Some relationships may be trying to work through betrayal, such as infidelity, and are finding it difficult to not be able to take space from their partner(s), as they try to figure out what they want. If we layer in those relationships who have children, it’s even more difficult to have privacy and to take time to grieve aspects of the relationship when the kids are around and people are isolated from their support systems, like family, friends, co-workers.
For those who are dating, there is also a lot more communication and negotiations of boundaries during COVID-19. For instance, folks may be asking themselves:
Is it safe to be discussing COVID-19 related precautions with this new person?
How do we discuss and navigate consent?
Should I be isolating after sharing a physical connection, and if so, for how long?
Are relationships that came to fruition during the pandemic going to last past the pandemic?
A list of common challenges people have felt in their relationship during COVID-19 includes:
- Experiencing Low sexual desire and desire discrepancy
- Sharing less physical intimacy or avoiding sex
- Overcoming infidelity
- Finding ways to effectively communicate feelings and listen to alternative perspectives
- Managing erectile dysfunction & rapid ejaculation
- Exploring sexuality
- Reconnecting sexually
- Wanting to open up the relationship
Sometimes when there is a crisis, it can either connect and bring partners closer or it can have the opposite effect. It’s important to remember that relationship bumps are inevitable, pandemic or not, No matter the situation, great new things will come from this, even though it’s hard right now.
At Bliss, we want to help our clients through these challenging times. Navigating relationships during COVID-19 can be hard, but not impossible. Here are some tips from our very own therapists who specialize in sexual health and wellbeing in relationships:
Have separate time
You’re not going to desire someone when you spend all of your time with them. Do what you can to separate yourself. That could mean, self-care, taking up jogging, biking, connecting with friends, and having outdoor hangouts in safe ways. Do not feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
Increasing pleasure and fun
Figure out target specific activities you can do at home, or outside, these can be brainstormed with your therapist. Some activities you can discuss with your partner(s), or date are:
- Board Games
- Movie Marathons
- Planning Future Fun Events
- Cooking Together
- DIY Spa Dates
- Bubble Baths
- Dressing Up For A Date Night In
- Reading To Each Other
- Paint Night
- Online Classes
- Create a Photobook Of Memories
- Long Drives
- Bake Off
- Share Your Favourite Stand-Up Specials
- Streamline a concert together
- Make (chocolate) fondue together
- Make breakfast in bed
- Recreate your first date, from home!
- Make your own valentine
- Ask conversation starters, or quiz yourselves on your love maps!
- Write each other a poem or haiku
- Write each other love or gratitude letters
- Cook a romantic dinner, with candle light and all
(some of these ideas are great for an COVID friendly Valentine’s)
Anxiety about COVID-19 leads to stress and irritability in the relationship. Effective open/transparent communication around what you are going to do is key. Whether it is with your partner(s) or someone you’re dating. If you have the same perspective, it’s okay. If you have two different perspectives, or pre-existing anxiety and OCD, it will affect the relationship. So, discussing boundaries and negotiating “dating terms” should be at the forefront of conversation.
If you find yourself being hypervigilant in managing emotions, minimizing conflict, protecting kids from the tension or outburst, you may be giving yourself additional unnecessary stress. In managing stress levels, remember that you cannot control anyone else’s emotions except your own. You must let your partner(s) regulate themselves. For those in couples or individual therapy, this is something you can talk to your therapist about. Finding ways to regulate your own emotions will help in figuring out how to move forward with your partner(s) with no resentment.
It’s really important to normalize your experience and your partners’ relationship concerns. Our therapists here at Bliss validate client’s emotions and experiences while supporting them in reframing thoughts, changing habits, breaking patterns, and getting out of cycles they may be stuck in. Navigating relationships during a pandemic can be hard. Give yourself more credit, and Happy Valentines Day!
- Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, for desire/arousal in women.
- Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire by Lori Brotto
- Not Always In The Mood by Sarah Hunter Murray, for low desire in men and myths around male sexuality
- Esther Perel – Infidelity
Written By: Raman Dhillon
Raman Dhillon is the office strategist & digital content manager and helps assist our clinic/operations manager Jess. Raman has a background in Psychology & Literature from the University of Waterloo, and more recently a Post Graduate Degree in Mental Health and Addictions from Humber College. Raman has experience with client-centered intervention as well as holistic assessment. She’s very interested and well versed in different therapeutic approaches such as mindfulness, naturopathy, and art therapy. Raman loves merging her two passions, mental health, and art to convey messages, psychoeducation, and awareness to the masses.