Esther Perel has done a lot of work with couples and looked at how to ‘want what you have’ long term. In her book, “Mating in Captivity,” she wrote:
“Love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.”"Mating in Captivity; Unlocking Erotic Intelligence" - Esther Perel
For some people, they believed or hoped that being isolated with their partner and/or family would bring them closer and for some it has. But for many, the mystery and romance has vanished. And worse still, for some it has made it difficult to ignore pre-COVID existing problems.
Get a little creative
It may take a little more imagination and effort than before but there is absolutely not reason you can’t go on dates. Maybe instead of dinner at a nice restaurant you fix of the dinning room or spot outside and cook a nice dinner or get take out. Treat it like a date, set a time, put on non-athleisure wear, no TV or phones. Instead of a movie at a theater, rent something online or find a virtual show/concert. There are plenty of fun things to do and your partner will appreciate the effort and time you put into making it a nice experience and not just any other dinner or movie on the couch.
One of my favorite stories… A friend of mine loves, “The Grinch” one night last summer her husband set up a Christmas in June in their back patio with the TV outside, popcorn blankets, etc so that they could have a date night at home and she loved it.
Your partner is not the enemy
It is so easy to see your partner as the problem in conflict. While they may be part of the problem, it is critical that you ask yourself what your part is in any conflict. Perhaps it is difficult for your to truly listen and hear them about because you are under added stress and anxiety. Perhaps you don't feel as though they are listening to you. If you want your relationship to work in or out of quarantine, it is critical that you be willing to accept responsibility for your part in the relationship both good and bad.
When we focus on what we are doing right and what our partner is doing wrong, we are setting ourselves up for a crash.
Get in the solution
It is easy to point fingers and assign blame but it really isn't all that productive.
Think about when you get a review or evaluation from your boss. If they sat you down and spent an hour giving you a detailed list of each mistake you have made in the last couple of months but no idea how to improve or what they need instead, you would likely want to quit. Your relationship is the exact same way. Do not just tell your partner what they are doing wrong, tell them what you need (and want) instead. It is so much more constructive.
Take breaks from each other
Go for a bike ride, play cards with your friends online, work on a personal project in another room. Do not fall into the trap of feeling like if you are not working and at home that you must being int eh same room or engaging in the same things, that's waaayyyy too much intensity and together time.
Part of what your partner likely enjoyed about you when you met is that you had your own life and interests that made you interesting to begin with. Get back to those or even try some new ones, reach out to your friends and family, do something for a struggling neighbor or your community. There is so much about you that makes you who you are outside of your partner it is really important not to lose touch with those things - especially now.
Don't hold a town meeting
It is important to have one (maybe two) people to share your hurts and frustrations in your relationship but it is really important to run around and tell everyone in your network how awful your partner is and how badly they treat you. You would hate it if your partner told each person in their life about each and every mistake you made so don't do it to them.
And be careful who you seek support from on those issues. You know you have some friends and family members that don't give good advice and/or who are already not keen on your partner. If you want your relationship to work, seek out people who will listen to you and support you but also help challenge you to own your part and see it from your partner's perspective.
I do not know a single person who has not had stress related to COVID. Kids, business, friends, uncertainty... All of use could use a little extra grace, yourself included. It's ok to make mistakes. What's important is that we take ownership of them when we do make them.
Your partner deserves the same compassion. Maybe they aren't talking about it as much as other people in your world but their life has changed just as much as yours so it's worth cutting your partner a bit of slack as well.
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!