#Couple’s Crash Course: Keeping the Love Alive During Quarantine - Part 1
Written By: Kacey Wehr, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist & Mental Health & Wellness Specialist.
What is the longest consecutive time you have spent with your significant other?
Pre-pandemic I think most couples would say the longest they spent with their partner was a week or two while on vacation once or twice a year, which I think with the 9-5 grind and juggling family is pretty typical. For years when my husband and I first got married we were like two ships passing in the night- between me going to school and working, him working in various start-ups some of which required him to go out of town for business, and raising our daughter, it felt like we hardly ever got quality time alone together. On weekends we would try to reconnect and maybe do a date night here-and-there and then family time on Sundays but it never felt like enough. Does this sound familiar to any of you? I am guessing if not all of the details, then certainly the main part is pretty relatable. Busy life = not feeling like you’re getting that quality time together and wishing you could - but here’s where my story takes a significant detour and becomes completely unrelatable and rather fantastical!
After raising our daughter and helping her launch into adulthood I quit my job as a counselor, we sold and got rid of almost all of our possessions, left our friends, family, hobbies, everything and decided to spend two years traveling around the world. In our twenty-two months of traveling we visited twenty-seven countries and stayed in more than fifty cities all over the gobe! “Well that’s pretty awesome” you might be thinking, “but what does that have to do with the quarantine?”. More than you might think, actually.
We went from our normal life and routine where we saw each other a few hours a day (usually in the evening after a long day when we were both exhausted) to being each other's traveling pants 24/7 for two years straight (and counting) - that’s more than 17,520 hours together non-stop! In the last two years I have learned a lot about what it means to be a good partner, how to deal with constant change and transition, how to deal with grumpy days without taking it out on my partner, and how to honor my feelings and communicate my needs. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect all the time and we definitely still have bad days, but I want to share with you the things I learned that helped us not only keep our love alive while traveling together, but deepened our relationship even more.
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” - Audrey Hepburn
Tips For Keeping the Love Alive:
- Learn to let go - Every time I see or hear this phrase the song from Frozen comes up for me and I get the urge to burst into song. But in all seriousness, learning to let go is a must if you want marital and/or partnered bliss. That means no grudge holding or keeping tally of good or bad behavior. It means picking your battles and picking them wisely - when you are already mentally and emotionally depleted or on edge it can be oh, so tempting to pick fights (if for no other reason than you want to vent out all those overflowing feelings and are extra irritable) but fight that urge and really step back and ask yourself, “is this something that really needs to be addressed and dealt with or can I just let it go?”. When you’re stuck together (pandemic style) this may mean taking a lot of deep breaths and just putting the toilet seat down yourself; or wiping up the messy kitchen counters after your partnered “helped do the dishes” but basically flooded the counters and floors with dirty dish water; or picking up your partner’s stinky, sweaty clothes off the floor and depositing them in the laundry basket adjacent their laundry pile; or letting the snide remarks go; or letting your partner help with bath time with the kids even if that means you’ll be mopping up the bathroom floor afterwards… Just, let it all go… Right now, during this stressful time we have to recognize that nit picking, picking fights, and bearing grudges or keeping tally of all the wrong-doings is going to help no one and will do more harm than anything. Just take lots of deep breaths and if it helps to sing the song (it does for me), do it- “let it go”...
- Repair rifts - In any relationship, rifts are bound to happen, especially when emotions are running high and when life is extra stressful. I know, for me, when we were traveling, there were just days when one or both of us woke up on the proverbial “wrong side of the bed” and it didn’t matter what either of us did or said. On those days, nothing was going to feel ‘right’ and I was likely to end up in tears and he was likely to end up sulking or irritated. What we learned pretty early on in our travels though was that we couldn’t let those rifts go without sorting them out. If someone’s feelings got hurt, or one of us felt wronged, unsupported, disrespected, or otherwise wounded in some way, we needed to personally identify what caused the rift, share how we were feeling and amends needed to be made as soon as possible. For us, that usually meant someone or both of us needed to acknowledge our part in causing the rift, ask for forgiveness, and then snuggles/hugs/kisses needed to be given and forgiveness could commence. When you are together 24/7 holding grudges or stewing on past hurts or wrong doings would drive us both mad- there was just no room for that. In order to be a good partner and traveling companion we had to heal and repair rifts quickly and then let them go and in a lock-down quarantine situation like the one we are in, the same holds true. And if you are just having a “bad day” and find yourself unreasonably irritated, emotional, fragile or whatever, let your partner know what's coming up for you and let them know what you need. (for example: “Honey, I am just super irritated today for some reason. If I snap at you, I am sorry, it’s not you, it’s me, and I may need some extra hugs and check-ins today because I am just having a bad one”).
“Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.” - Carroll Bryant
Turn towards each other - This concept is based on the science and over 40 years experience of working with couples and conducting research by Dr. John Gottman. Although he shares many principles that are worth looking looking at, the concept of “turning towards” is one I think is particularly important, especially during a difficult time, like the one we are all currently experiencing. “Turning towards” refers to the behavior of responding to your partner’s need to connect in some way. This can be as simple as putting down your phone when your partner comes in the room and shares something about a conversation they just had with a colleague; or when you share something your child did while they were playing that day that made you laugh and your significant other asks laughs with you about it. It’s those small interactions where you feel heard, cared about, valued, engaged with, connected, desired, loved, cherished, and seen that make all the difference in the world. After 40 years of conducting research, Gottman says it’s not the grand gestures that determine the success of a relationship- it is all the little moments in between that matter. Here are a few ideas of things you can do to “turn towards” your partner and strengthen that bond during this difficult time (maybe see if you can come up with a few of you own too):
- You see that your partner looks stressed. Let them know you’ve noticed, and ask them if they’d like to talk about how they are feeling. If not, just let them know you are there for them.
- Compliment your partner about something they did (it can be anything!). Thank them for something they’ve recently done that you appreciate.
- Your partner is back from an errand (maybe they did the grocery shopping or picked up some supplies to do a house project during quarantine) and is doing some housework now. Jump in and ask how you can help.
- Your partner walks into the room where you are watching your favorite show and starts going off about a situation they are having to deal with with their boss- turn off the TV, give your partner your full attention, and reflect back how what you are hearing and validate their feelings. (for example: “That sounds like it would be so frustrating! I am so sorry you have to deal with that.”)
- Can you think of your own?
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love.” - Sophocles
Although there are more tips I am going to share with you next week, that is it for now, because let’s face it, we can only handle so much information coming at us at once right now! On a positive note to all you mommas out there, you can still enter for your chance to win a brand new Minuet Breastpump here ! And if you want to get access to even more premium content you can become a M.O.M. Member and start reaping the rewards! Till next week my friends, stay safe and keep the love alive…
Kacey Wehr is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with degrees in Child Development, Psychology, and Marriage & Family Therapy. She has six years experience providing therapy, psychoeducation, developing trainings and workshops, leading support groups, and has over seven years experience in Education having taught Early Education for preschoolers, High School, and Undergraduate Psychology. She has extensive training and experience in Trauma Informed Care, Crisis Intervention, Grief & Bereavement, Complex Trauma, Child Development, and is a Certified Crisis Counselor for victims of relationship abuse/violence and sexual exploitation. She has devoted the majority of her therapeutic experience to working with and empowering young adults, new parents, couples, and families with complex trauma history. She believes in integrating holistic health approaches in her work and attained a Certification as a Wellness Clinician which enables her to utilize aromatherapy in her mental health support. She also is trained in acupressure for labor and has assisted in the labors and births of several of her closest friends as they brought their littles ones into the world. In her free time she enjoys singing, all things crafty, watching movies with her daughter, nesting and home decorating, cooking and eating yummy foods, and traveling the world with her husband (so far they have been to 27 countries and over 40 cities around the globe!). She is here to help other mothers navigate the crazy journey that is parenthood, relationships, challenges with mental health, sex and intimacy, and walk this journey with you, sharing her experience and expertise.