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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected relationships in many different ways, and this has been the reality for many couples in Singapore since circuit breaker rules have been set in place. As couples spend more time away during circuit breaker, the fear of drifting apart from one another coupled with the constant worry whether the relationship be able to withstand this period of time could possibly lead to tensions between couples.

 

Furthermore, anxiety about one’s job security, disrupted routines, lack of social connections, cabin fever, and the struggles to be productive at home may lead couples to vent their frustrations on each other (Rickey, 2020). And, if two people in a relationship are stressed at the same time, it may sometimes become a battle to prove who is suffering more which can easily escalate into a tit-for-tat fight. Therefore, pressure of the enforced circuit breaker measures has not only forced couples into a long-distance relationship, but also strained many to the breaking point (Tam, 2020).

 

On the bright side, dating during COVID-19 serves a good opportunity for couples to use the time to foster lasting intimacy that transcends the physical. When we discover ways to keep the intimacy alive despite the circuit breaker measures, we draw ourselves closer to our partners in an enduring way we imagined possible. But remember, fostering lasting intimacy requires both parties to take proactive steps to keep their relationship healthy during this period of time.

 

So, here are some of those proactive steps that you can start using today to help you and your partner foster lasting intimacy through this circuit breaker.

 

Carve out Time Apart

 

You probably might be thinking that this is absurd. How is being apart supposed to bring you closer to your partner?

 

With circuit breaker in place, couples constantly send text messages to make up for the fact that they cannot see each other as often. With the lack of one another’s physical presence, partners may begin to notice that they are a little frustrated, irritated and more impatient with each other.

 

Couples thrive when there is a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart (Boissiere, 2020). Especially with circuit breaker measures in place, finding the right mix of independence and togetherness is more vital than ever.

 

One way that you can do so would be to converse to your partner. Acknowledge to them the importance of alone time and the desire to help each other get that. Then, decide on maybe designating an alone time where you agree to not interrupt each other unless it’s important, that way you can do things you personally enjoy, such as reading, journal writing or working out.

 

Prioritising moments away from each other will actually strengthen your relationship by giving it space to breathe.

 

Go Deeper

The quality of your conversations determines the quality of your relationship (Perel, 2018). And with COVID-19, this is a unique opportunity for some quality discussions. Crisis has a way of shifting our perspective. It reorganises our priorities and forces us to pay attention to what’s truly important.

 

Take this opportunity to reflect on your life and your relationship on a big picture level.

 

Here are a few conversation starters you can use to strengthen your relationship during circuit breaker (Gray, 2020):

  1. How can I help you feel more comfortable or loved?
  2. Was there anything that we have done in the past week that may have unknowingly hurt one another?
  3. Do either of us need more closeness or more alone time over the next couple of days?
  4. Was there any argument that we had this past week that we did not full address?
  5. What are the main stressors in our life, and is there any way we can alleviate each other’s stress?

 

For a more light-hearted approach, personality tests such as the Five Love Languages are a fun way to know more about yourself and your partner. Share and discuss the results with each other and see what you both felt was accurate and which ones were way off. Better yet, if you love language is different, discuss how you can meet in the middle.

 

By doing so you’ll come out with a deeper understanding of one another and an even richer emotional connection.

 

Make Future Plans

 

There’s no denying that being separated right now is tough. And for many people, in moments of stress, the mind can spiral into a series of “what ifs” (Boissiere, 2020). When trying to clear the clouds of anxiety, it is helpful to periodically remind ourself to take things one day at a time while simultaneously creating future plans with your partner by jointly daydreaming about what you’ll do together once circuit breaker is over.

 

You can start by making a list of restaurants or places that both of you would want to visit, or even plan a dream vacation. By doing so this would give both of you something to look forward to and needless to say, a little hope can keep the spark alive (Marin, 2020).

 

Remember That No One Is Perfect

 

 

Misunderstandings and conflict are part of every relationship, even the best of them. Now problems are worsened as everyone is experiencing the extra stress because of COVID-19 (Schwebel,2020). However, yelling or snapping at your partner will not only solve anything but it will also erode your relationship.

 

One suggestion is to designate an “escape space” in the house where you can get away, relax, calm down, and think. If an argument gets too heated and you feel irritated, frustrated that you feel like shouting or criticizing, take a deep breath and go into the escape space. The person leaving should express a need to isolate and offer a reasonable time frame to come back in a better state of mind. For example, “I’m too worked up. I need about half an hour to calm myself down and then I can come back to talk with you.” (Schwebel, 2020).

 

And, while you are in the escape space, take the time remind yourself that your partner is doing their best amid the chaos, just as you are and that taking it out on your partner is not a helpful coping mechanism. Instead, try to remember what first attracted you to your partner. Think about everything you like and admire about your partner and the most wonderful times you had together (Schwebel,2020). It also won’t hurt to say please or thank you to each other, even for the littlest things every now and then (Boissiere, 2020). And remember, no one is perfect. (Schwebel, 2020).

 

No one knows when life will get back to normal but that does not mean you have to put your relationship aside. If there is one thing that we can learn from this COVID-19 experience it is that being close to someone is not always a matter of having to be physically close to them. It is about the effort we make to feel close to them; to be more present in their lives, caring and genuine in the relationships.

 

It’s also important to remember that you are not alone. However, it’s crucial not to let your emotions control how you treat, or how you respond to, your partner. This is a time for pulling together and to continue to nurture, grow and form a long-lasting emotional connection with your partner during this circuit breaker.

 

Authors: Demi Ng, Camellia Wong (MA)

 

References

 

Boissiere, E. (2020, March 19). COVID-19 Lock Down: How To Manage Your Relationships In Tight Quarters. Retrieved from

https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaboissiere/2020/03/19/covid-19-lock-down-how-to-manage-your-relationships-in-tight-quarters/#3ad4820910b9

 

Gray, J. (2020, April 13). 10 Questions To Ask To Go Deep in Your Relationship. Retrieved from

https://www.jordangrayconsulting.com/questions-to-ask-to-go-deep-in-your-relationship/

 

Marin, V. (2020, April 30). How to Feel Together When You Are Apart. Retrieved from

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/smarter-living/coronavirus-long-distance-relationships.html

 

Perel, E. (2019, February 13). Famed Relationship Therapist Ester Perel Gives Advice on Intimacy, Careers, and Self-Improvement. Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFwWvr1YUjA

 

Rickey, B. (2020, April 13). Relationship During COVID-19 Lockdown. Retrieved from

https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/healthnow/tips-for-strengthening-your-relationship-during-covid-19-lockdown

 

Schwebel, R. (2020, May 7). 7 Relationship Survival Strategies During COVID-19. Retrieved from

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/leap-power/202005/7-relationship-survival-strategies-during-covid-19

 

Tam, L. (2020, May 3). How is the coronavirus affecting your relationship? Expert advice on growing stronger together or calling it a day. Retrieved from

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/family-relationships/article/3082406/how-coronavirus-affecting-your-relationship-expert

 

 

 

 

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