By Kim Palchikoff
Note: Several Nevada marriage and family therapists collaborated on this piece.
Stay-at-home orders are proving helpful in the struggle against the fatal coronavirus, but such severe isolation can wreak havoc on marriages and other cohabitational relationships.
Unemployment. Financial uncertainty. Lives upended. All make for a potentially disastrous molotov cocktail for even the best of relationships. Not good for the collective mental health.
Couples used to spending their days apart at work are suddenly required to stay indoors, day after day, night after night, in the same living rooms, the same kitchens during an incredibly stressful time.Like many governors nationwide, Nevada’s Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a “stay at home” order April 1 to combat the deadly coronavirus that has infected more than 2,300 Nevadans and resulted in at least 80 deaths.
Here are suggestions from Nevada therapists and Time magazine to keep your relationship and your moods as positive as can be:
Ditch the criticism.
As the coronavirus wages its war, and families are told to stay home, it’s not the time to inform your spouse of their shortcomings. This is the time for appreciation, to tell your partner what you like and love about them, to thank them often, even if it’s for small things, like doing the dishes or making coffee.
Some experts recommend telling your loved one a few things you appreciated that they did that day, before going to bed.
People will experience the coronavirus crisis in different ways.
Couples aren’t necessarily going to agree about the crisis, its effects, its future, what’s going to happen as a result of it both in a general way or how it will affect their marriage, career or finances. People process things differently. That doesn’t mean anyone is right or wrong. This is when good listening skills and empathy come into play. Try to figure out where your spouse is coming from and what they are feeling and thinking without being judgmental.
Spend some time alone, if possible.
Spending nearly all your time together is not always the best thing for a relationship. Try to find time every day to be solo even if it’s for an hour. This may require bartering with your spouse for some time away, even if it’s alone in a room.
Call a time out if an argument is getting out of hand. Try postponing it until a later, set time. Then do something calming in the meantime. At the designated time, have a more relaxed discussion when you can focus on understanding your spouse’s point of view.
Respect invisible boundaries.
Just because your spouse is constantly in the house with you, don’t assume they always wants to hear your thoughts and feelings. Ask them if now is a good time to talk before you start engaging in conversation.
Be specific about your needs and wants.
Asking someone nicely if they could be in charge of the laundry or making dinner on alternate nights is a lot better than asking them to help out around the house more. Couples have a lot of skills, but mind reading is not one of them.
Keep gratitude notes. Write two or three things you are grateful for every morning and look at the note throughout the day. Focus on the things you are thankful for, rather than on the negativity of this difficult time that you don’t have control over anyway.
Organize a romantic dress-up dinner, with candles, soft music, even if you don’t have the perfect dinner ingredients. Get intimate. Or play a game of online Scrabble, watch your favorite non-Netflix movie, or have a picnic in the living room. If you like to boogie, put some tunes on and have a dance fest in the house. There’s lots of ideas. Find some.
Exercising is a key component to positive mental health and is a solid mood booster. It can be anything from chair yoga and meditation to pushups and situps, stretches, jumping jacks, taking a brisk walk or run outside, if there’s no people, or participating in an online exercise class. Do something. Do anything.
What have you and your significant other been doing while staying at home?
No Stigma Nevada author Kim Palchikoff can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her blog: Nostigmanv.net.