Arguments are a healthy part of any relationship, but you may find them a bit more frequent in the current social and health climate. Stay-at-home and shelter orders due to COVID-19 have caused many people to work from home, making it a 24/7 life with your partner. For many, it's the first time in your relationship that you’re spending this much time with significant other without any time to yourself, and the added anxieties and stress factors involved with the coronavirus crisis can make for some extra tension in your relationship. So how do you avoid fighting with your partner while self-isolating?
“Isolation can bring any issues that you have been avoiding on the surface," says Beverly-Hills, California-based therapist Elizabeth D. Winkler. "Due to the loss of leaving our homes, we are left at home with it all. If there are a lot of unmet needs within you or your relationship, they will likely bubble up during this time. From my perspective, this isn’t a problem. It is an opportunity to slow down, heal and grow together.”
So how do you go about navigating this uncertain time with your partner and allow it make you stronger and closer (as opposed to prone to constant bickering)? Ahead, Winkler and some other relationship experts offer practical tips for self-isolating peacefully with your significant other.
How To Avoid Fighting With Your Partner: Create New Habits
As you spend most of your time at home, creating new habits with your partner can help you adapt better. Even though spending time at home isn’t exactly novel, working, entertaining, exercising, and basically doing everything at home is.
Dating coach, Emyli Lovz, suggests creating new habits as a couple and as individuals to adjust accordingly. “You definitely need to find things to do together such as couples yoga, cooking, playing games, or whatever brings you tandem joy, but it is also equally important to set time for yourselves as individuals,” says Lovz. “You can designate a time to do your own thing separately like taking walks in the opposite directions or meditating in separate rooms. The trick here is to take your alone time separately. Couples isolating doesn’t mean you need to completely relinquish your freedom, you just need to find creative ways to express it.”
Lovz highly encourages, especially during this time, creating set times to Zoom or FaceTime with friends and family. ”There’s a sense of fulfillment when you reach out to people that are struggling with self-isolation. Connecting with friends also means decreasing the social burden you place on your partner to satisfy emotional and social needs,” says Lovz.
How To Avoid Fighting With Your Partner: Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries for work/life balance can be one of the hardest things to implement as you adapt to life in self-isolation especially if you and your partner live in a small space. Winkler compares this to when you first moved in with your partner and you had to learn how to organize your space and time together. Boundaries for when and where to work can help you implement that work/life balance.
“Besides designating work hours from your home, limit the amount of time common areas can be used for work purposes," explains Lovz. "For instance, my boyfriend and I set a 5:30 p.m. hard stop time for working in the living room so we can use that space for relaxation throughout the evening." Other boundaries Lovz finds helpful at this time is figuring out cell-phone-free time, setting designated date nights, and individual time.
How To Avoid Fighting With Your Partner: Mitigate Before It Escalates
Most fights start with an argument or bickering before they escalate into a larger disagreement. You have the power to mitigate that escalation. Winkler has taught her clients to pause, notice, settle when they feel a fight beginning to arise. “As humans, we must interrupt our patterned reactivity with a pause," says Winkler. "We can either pause or we can replicate the past. I created a practice: Pause, Notice, Settle. This practice gets you out of your head and into your body and heart so that you can connect to the calm amidst the storm. When you feel the weather inside you change, pause what you are doing, close your eyes, and bring your focus to your breath. Without judgment, notice what is happening internally. Connect with your breath and allow your breath to move the weather within you. With every breath, simply notice the changes until the weather has passed and you remain settled.”
Similarly, Lovz suggests recognizing why you’re feeling the way you do. What did you or your partner do to create tension? Is it something that can be easily solved? If so, try and halt the argument. “Tell your partner you want to take a second to take a few deep breaths," explains Lovz. "This will help you get out of your head and into your body."
How To Avoid Fighting With Your Partner: Communicate How You Feel
Lastly, and most importantly, you have to communicate with your partner. If the communication lines aren’t open between both of you, any of the above strategies are null and void. Sharing the feelings, ideas, concerns or emotions that you typically wouldn’t share in the past is crucial in self-isolation. Your partner can’t read your mind and you can’t read theirs. Piling up those emotions and feelings can escalate into a fight very quickly. Lovz emphasizes creating a transparent communication line with your partner where when one person is sharing, the other is intently listening, vice versa. Establishing that open and honest dialogue early on will make setting boundaries or creating new habits much easier.
Another great tip that can be established early on during self-isolation is communicating compromise to prevent arguments around needs not being met. “You can each make a list of your top five needs and then each member of the couple can pick one need that they are willing to meet for the other," explains Winkler. "Learning new ways to love and care for each other at this time will bring a new depth of understanding and compassion in your relationship. We need to be gentle with ourselves and forgive more easily. This is how we live with greater grace and ease during this time of turbulence."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.