#Couple’s Crash Course: Keeping the Love Alive During Quarantine - Part 2
Written By: Kacey Wehr, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist & Mental Health & Wellness Specialist.
Over the last several weeks I have heard it joked about that this time of quarantining is going to result in a lot of baby making and/or a lot of divorces and while I am all for increased sexy time I am hoping to help people avoid the latter. Having spent the last twenty-seven months with my husband (24/7) as we traveled the globe, I want to pass along some of the things I learned about being a good partner and how to avoid needing a divorce lawyer or killing each other. Since this is Part 2 of this article let’s just review the tips from last week before we move on to the new stuff:
- Learn to let go - That means no grudge holding or keeping tally of good or bad behavior and pick your battles wisely .
- Repair rifts - This means quickly acknowledging when rifts occur and our part in causing the rift, asking for forgiveness, and then snuggles/hugs/kisses given and forgiveness can commence. When you are together 24/7 holding grudges or stewing on past hurts and/or wrong doings will drive everyone mad.
- Turn towards each other - Refers to the behavior of responding to your partner’s need to connect in some way. We all have needs to connect- we want to feel heard, understood, needed, cared for, thought of, adored, desired- so this is all about learning to recognize your partner’s bids for attention and connection and responding to those (check out Part 1 for some ideas on how to increase those connections) as well as how to create those opportunities and initiate deeper connection.
Okay, and now that we are all caught up, let’s build on these with some new ones!
More Tips For Keeping the Love Alive:
- Be grateful & express your gratitude - Gratitude is so important in a relationship and an element I think gets minimized or forgotten in the humdrum of daily life. Because we know we deserve to be loved, cared for, supported, and nurtured we come to expect it and stop acknowledging the efforts of those around us (especially our significant other). Gratitude as a daily practice in a relationship means you are staying mindfully attuned to all the ways your loved one(s) are showing their love and support and are openly acknowledging them for it. This means thanking whoever made or prepared our meals that day (after more than thirteen years of marriage we still thank whoever prepared the meal we are eating); acknowledging any thoughtful gestures someone may have done for the other (like making my husband a cup of tea while he does his morning work meeting; or me thanking my husband for opening my car door, which he always does); appreciating each other for any contributions and help with household tasks/chores; calling our partner’s out (in a good way) when they help with child care or rescue us when we are obviously in over our head or need a break; and thanking each other for all the other various ways we are loving and supporting each other day by day. It helps us feel seen, loved, appreciated and our efforts acknowledged, which can be a big deal the longer you are together. The last thing you want in a relationship is to begin to feel unappreciated and like your efforts and the ways you are trying to care and show your love are expected and even worse, unnoticed. If daily mutual gratitude isn’t something you and your partner currently do but would like to start doing, chat about it during a meal together or some other time when no one is distracted and let your partner know that you would like both of you to start practicing gratitude throughout the day. You can even start by thinking about something you appreciate your partner doing that day and acknowledge it outloud and ask that they do the same. Start small and the next day, try to begin doing it as it is happening (for example: yesterday my feet were hurting quite a lot and I had just gotten tucked into bed with a heating pad to take a break when I realized I hadn’t refilled my water bottle. When my husband popped into the room to grab something I asked if he could please refill my water bottle for me, which he did. When he returned with it, I gave him a kiss and told him I appreciated him doing that for me even though I know he is busy with work stuff.) Gratitude in a relationship is not a noun, it is a verb.
- Take ‘you time’ when you need it - Although this may sound counterintuitive to maintaining connection and a healthy relationship with your partner, the reality is that we cannot bring the best we have to offer to our loved ones if we are not first taking care of ourselves and our own needs. You may be thinking that this sounds obvious when put like that, but the reality is that this particular topic is one of the tougher ones to practice (especially for us ladies and even more so for those that have little ones to care for). When I first became a step-mom and wife it felt like my world suddenly and abruptly spun out of orbit- all of a sudden, my life wasn’t just about me. I had these two other people who needed me- my time, my love, my attention, my thoughtfulness, my effort, my presence, my everything. Suddenly, not even my thoughts could be my own- I had to think about these two and how everything I did or didn’t do now impacted them too. It was equal parts overwhelming, terrifying, anxiety provoking, and wonderful. I went into wonder-woman mode trying to ‘do it all’ and be what I imagined a perfect wife and mother to be, but between that and trying to go to school and work I kept crashing and burning. Literally. I kept getting sick because I was running myself ragged. We later learned that I had numerous health issues which were exacerbated by these unrealistic expectations I put on myself and I had to learn quickly how to pace myself better- how to say “no” to offers that spread me to thin; how to let my daughter figure some things out for herself, be bored, and even let her just be dissapointed (which sucks when it’s directed at me but I learned as a parent was super critical to her building resilience and build her own skills); how to delegate and share household chores/responsibilities; and how to, you guessed it, take me time. Me time is just another way of saying “Self-Care”, so if you need some pointers on that topic, check out my previous blog for more on that.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
- Make time to reconnect with your partner every day - Do you remember the days when you were first dating your partner? How fun that was- how much you looked forward to seeing each other, to the flirtatious texts and calls, and how you looked at each other (like they were the bees knees- wait! Do bees even have knees? And if they do, are they super sexy or what?!)? Do you remember when those feelings and that energy with which you first pursued each other began to fade or even stop all together? I don’t, and do you know why? Because we never stopped pursuing each other. We knew (and had discussed) that if we were going to make it as a couple and a blended family, that we would need to make our relationship to each other, a priority. This meant that we continued to date each other and found ways to reconnect despite how busy our lives got between my college courses, work, parenting, and my husband’s start ups and hobbies. No matter what, we made time to reconnect- sending flirty texts or messages to each other just to let the other know they were loved or thought of; flirty patts on the butt while getting ready in the morning; thoughtful notes or silly cartoons slipped into books or planners; meeting up for lunch during a busy work day; and regular date-nights were a regular occurrence, and that’s great, but if we’re stuck together in the house 24/7 how does any of this help, you might be wondering. Honestly, it matters even more right now. When you see each other all the time, or in this instance, are stuck together 24/7 it’s important to keep the ‘dating goggles’ (as I will call them) on. This means, mindfully seeing your partner as the best version of themselves (the way you did when you were dating) and making that extra effort to reconnect as a couple (not just as hostages stuck together). This means planning at home date nights (whatever that looks like for you right now) at least once a week if you can swing it, and daily quality time where you can just check-in with each other and connect as a couple. Do something enjoyable together every day- drink a cup of coffee while doing the crossword puzzle; make a meal together; play a game together; watch a movie; snuggle up and read together; drink a glass of wine and reminisce about the crazy things you did when you were dating; spend some time planning out a trip you want to do in the future (after all this craziness is over); put some sexy music on, light some candles, and have some adult play time; just do something everyday that moves you towards your old, dating selves where you put effort into yourselves and each other. You are worth it, and so is your relationship.
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” - Mignon McLaughlin
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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.