They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. So what happens when you and your partner are imprisoned in your home together, with no clear of when you’ll be able to head back out into the wider world and resurrect your regular routines?
The quarantine period we’re all going through right now has the potential to put a strain on some relationships, as we’re forced to spend virtually every waking minute with one another, and get to experience first hand what the other one does when boredom inevitably sets in.
We reached out to Heidi Gee, a relationship and sex therapist based in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, to find out what couples can do to make the quarantine period as stress-free as possible and how to avoid any major arguments.
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We first asked Heidi if she had a set of ‘go-to’ rules, not just for couples in quarantine, but for couples who live together and spend most of their day around each other, too. However, with regards to couples who both need to work from home during lockdown, she recommends, “if the place is big enough, you should definitely work in separate rooms.”
“If not, then it’s best to stick to a routine and respect each other’s ‘work space’. Get up early as if you were actually going to work, get dressed, have breaks and set work times.”
“The sudden change and not having the space you might usually have from your partner can cause stress and tension in the relationship.”
”I think it’s important to talk to your partner about setting up a routine, talk about how and what you need to work effectively without getting in each others’ way.”
“The change can be hard initially but in these uncertain times, it’s important to be supportive and accommodate each other.”
Heidi adds that you should still try and find ways to find your own space during the quarantine period. Not just for the relationship, but for your own piece of mind, too.
“Make sure you go outside for fresh air (within govt. restrictions, obviously), read, meditate, listen to podcasts and set boundaries/ground rules together that work for each of you.”
“It’s important to be flexible and to compromise.”
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Couples who live together will likely already be aware that things such as the TV can cause arguments, with one person choosing to watch something the other isn’t interested in. During the lockdown, this could be amplified.
With regards to these situations, Heidi says, “If you watch different shows, then maybe you need to compromise and perhaps record one show and come to an agreement. It’s so important to communicate effectively and be supportive. We don’t know how long the isolation period will last so this will be a test on relationships.”
She reiterates how important it is to have your own space.
“Take a break or a time-out. Go to a different room, or do a different activity such as reading a book, yoga in the lounge, writing in a journal, or gardening.”
“It might be hard but it’s important you try and have a bit of space otherwise you risk getting annoyed at each other.”
“It’s hard when you’re so used to having space and suddenly you’re working from home together and you’re with each other all day, and not sure how long the isolation will last.”
But thinking more positively, Heidi says the isolation period can also be a chance to reconnect with your partner.
“It’s a good time to do couple things, such as playing board games or video games, completing puzzles. We get so caught up in life we barely have time to slow down.
“A lot of couples talk about how they don’t have time for date nights, why not make the most of the isolation period and have them on a regular basis?”
Finally, Heidi adds, “Dating isn’t just about dating anymore. You are picking your potential apocalypse partner. Choose wisely folks”. How appropriate.
We can all agree we’re going to need to get inventive over the next few weeks and months, but with Heidi’s advice, we’re sure you’ll be able to come out on the other side a much stronger couple.
Just as long as you haven’t killed each other.