The coronavirus pandemic is seeing lots of people stuck at home, self-isolating in a bid to help stop the spread. But a relationship expert has warned that it could mean potential issues for some couples who aren’t used to spending so much time together.
This week Prime Minister Scott Morrison implemented stricter social distancing rules and tough new measures which saw the closure of restaurants, gyms, cinemas and non-essential businesses right across the country.
This is just stage two of the government’s plan to tackle the coronavirus, with stage three expected to be enforced if the situation doesn’t improve. While Aussies are currently still allowed to leave their homes for work, to buy groceries and to carry out essential activities, people are being encouraged to stay at home to help flatten the curve.
For some, this can be seen as a time to spend some quality time with their loved ones, but for others, the thought of being stuck under the same roof as their partner 24/7 could be a nightmare.
So, how do you survive self-isolation with your partner, and what actions should you take to ensure you maintain a healthy relationship during this difficult time? Relationships Australia NSW Chief Executive Officer Elisabeth Shaw said now’s the time to problem-solve for future issues that may arise.
While some couples will cope better than others, Shaw said ultimately, everyone will bring their own stress to the situation which they’re likely to take out on those closest to them.
“Adults don’t surrender their autonomy easily,” she said. “So being blocked from the gym, socialising, ducking out for a coffee, will all mean that couples are thrown more strongly back into their own resources. A high-functioning couple will be able to manage this better than a couple who might have already been struggling.”
And while Shaw said it’s tempting to think that now is the time to get those home projects done or to have more sex, couples may not always be in the same boat.
“Indeed, in these circumstances being unhinged from routines we can find suffocating but also reassuring, the pressure can make us take that stress out on those nearest and dearest to us,” she said.
To help keep the peace during this uncertain time, Shaw said being accountable for your own stress and reactivity is a helpful practice, and may encourage others to talk about their own. For example, saying ‘I think I’m going to struggle with tension and sleeping well without my daily exercise,’ or ‘I don’t usually mind doing more of the cooking but if we’re both at home, I’m going to want to share that’.
But amid all of the Covid-19 panic and potential relationship hiccups, Shaw said it’s important to try to keep the “spark” alive by doing things you both love. However, Shaw said if it works better to have alone time, allow for that rather than pushing different styles of interaction.
“If [your partner] would rather go alone on a walk and you know that’s their style, don’t take it personally,” she said.