Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Times have shifted since my last post and we're all trying to find our new normal. It's been stressful to say the least. Maybe you've decided to quarantine with your partner or maybe you already lived with bae. Either way, let's talk about some things that can help your relationship to survive this time and continue to focus on the love rather than the irritation that can arise through being captive together.
Before I jump right in, there are a few reasons why I feel equipped to discuss this
topic. The most obvious being that I'm a marriage and relationship therapist. I work with couples on a regular basis, discussing healthy and unhealthy behaviors that contribute to their relationship dynamics. It's now one of my specialties. But beyond that, I have personal reasons for why I believe that I know a little something about being in the house with bae. My husband and I hadn't been married long when we found out that he was ill and not long after that would lead to regular health issues including a few hospital stays. I will never fully know what it felt on his side but on my side I could see that him trying to keep a job through this was becoming impossible as well as potentially exacerbating the situation. Early in 2019, we decided that he would not be returning to work until his health was stabilized through medication or surgery. And then in June of 2019, I resigned from my job to focus on starting my own teletherapy business from our NYC 1 bedroom apartment. His surgery didn't happen until October followed by recovery and then followed by the challenging job search. So when social distancing was declared a state of emergency, we had already been in the house together for about 8 months... And, honey, believe me when I tell you all of that time wasn't magic and gazing longingly into each other's eyes. We hit some really rough moments while trying to keep our relationship intact all while dealing with the stress of health, finances, shared space, and the normal annoyances. By the time shelter-in-place started, we were almost pros at this dealing with stress and being in each other's space all the time. I feel like we got a jump start at what many other couples are dealing with now and, despite my preference to keep my private life somewhat private, I felt it may be helpful to share some tips.
"Marcelle... really?! Did you forget that we're stuck at home?"
Yes, I'm aware. And I still believe there are ways to take space even in small quarters. As I mentioned, my partner and I live in NYC, known for it's closet apartments. And a one bedroom at that! So we've had to get creative at times with how to take space. With that being said, it's okay to not always be spending time together just because you two are in the same house. You don't even have to spend time together if you're in the same room. I encourage you to find times when you are in separate areas of your living space. My partner and I have mastered him being in the living room playing video games while I'm catching up on Netflix, reading, or having my own music party in the bedroom. Sharing an even smaller space? We've also been in the same room with one or both of us using headphones on or doing separate activites in the same proximity. I love him and enjoy our time together but I also enjoy my alone time. No need for you to feel guilty for taking some space.
Dating is an important part of relationships even if you've been together for a long time. But with being in the house, you'll need to get creative. Maybe a picnic in the middle of the living room floor. Turn on your favorite songs and get a dance party started.
Make some snacks and cuddle on the couch for a Netflix and chill evening. Or even do a "cooking class" in your own kitchen. Don't shy away from dressing up too if you want. Go ahead, dress to impress can be for you and your partner. A few things my partner and I enjoy doing are playing video games together (more so because I know he enjoys it and it's a good way to be a team), pulling out a game like Jenga, watching one of our favorite cringe-worthy shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, or even doing our own brunch at "Cafe Craig". Just because you two are around one another on a regular basis, doesn't mean that qualifies as quality time. I encourage you to find times to be intentional with the time spent together.
In-House Support and Boundaries-
Sometimes it's nice to be able to go into the next room and check in. It can be a check in as small as a drive-by kiss and "love you". Or it could be sitting down to take some time to have conversations focused on what's been happening. You're probably not just with this person because they're attractive and they smell nice. You also like this person because they're there for you and support you during tough times. And hopefully it goes both ways. This is probably one of those tough times for both of you. And it's great to have a close friend be just a few feet away. With that being said, it's okay to say that you need a break from the real life talk for a while. Since my job is about listening to others and their struggles, there are times when I can be there for my partner and times (just like any other person) when I need a short break from the drama of the world. I do a lot towards my self care to not burn out or experience compassion fatigue. Sometimes that means that I have to tell my husband that I can't talk about the worries of what's to come at that moment. Luckily, he
also understands that we can't be each other's everything and that it's important to have other supports outside of one another as well. I can then check back in with him at a later time to discuss the topic or he can get needs met through a friend, one of his family members, one of my family members, or even someone online- keeping in mind our relationship agreements and boundaries, of course.
Learn More About One Another-
You may think you know but you have no idea... Everything about your partner that is. Even if you two have been together for some time, there's always more to explore. In addition, I believe that we are always growing and if that's true, we always have more to learn about ourselves and our partners. Learn more about their hobbies and interests. Or take this time to start a joint hobby. Maybe you or your partner has some area that you'd like to explore but haven't jumped into yet. This could be a chance for you two to learn about this and support their interest or them support your's. There is always more to learn. Adventure doesn't have to just be through traveling.
How many times can we say that things are tough right now. Even before this, you each were probably dealing with your own stressors. And when that happens, it's easy to get into arguments. Easy may be an understatement. Guaranteed to get into arguments or, possibly worst, a silent resentment. Then there's the fact that you are two different people even with how alike you may be. So before you react into an argument for what might just be a misunderstanding or poor coping strategies, I encourage you to try giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. Take a breath and potentially some space before reacting. Practice some of your own coping skills. And when you're ready, try to consider their perspective. I have found trying to take myself out of my own shoes, putting them into my husband's, and practicing a little empathy even if I don't fully agree helpful in understanding what may have led to the undesirable behavior. And then I'm ready to talk about it if there are some things we need to discuss. Not an easy task at all but so helpful!
These strategies can feel a little overwhelming and there's no shame in asking for some additional support when sorting through all of this. If you happen to be in California, feel free to reach out to me for couples or individual therapy. If you are in another state, there are many directories with qualified therapists that can get you two back into each other's arms. Some that I'm on include Psychology Today, Black Female Therapists, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, Therapy Den, Black Therapy Love App, and Therapy Roots to name a few.
Photo 4 found on Media from Wix, photographer unknown
Photo 5 found on Media from Wix, photographer unknown