How to ensure you don’t get into each other’s nerves as a couple during lockdown

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Couple dealing with conflict
Couple dealing with conflict

I have a live-in partner with-whom I’m on lockdown. We keep butting heads over the stupidest of things. I love spending time with him, and before this lockdown, I actually used to pick bones with him for not being with me enough.

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But now, I often feel smothered and wish that he would just give me a break for a day or two. The fact that we are not allowed to visit friends or go out even frustrates me more. Can you give us some tips on how can we ensure we’re not always on each other’s face while on lockdown without breaking the law?

Avoiding marital suffocation during the Covid-19 Lockdown

While we hopefully relish round-the-clock time with our partners when we are on vacation, the current situation caused by Covid-19 is radically different. It is unplanned and open-ended. It is filled with uncertainty and fears about what lies ahead as news report more negative stories each day about Covid-19.

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Being in each other’s face day and night without a break because of the restrictions that come with coronavirus, often unearths underlying challenges that were never resolved in the first place. The situation also brings up new challenges you may have never known to exist as they were hidden by your rhythm of being together at night and apart by day owing to work situation.

Furthermore, with kids around, whose playtime by the way is more indoors than outside, and parents forced to be together 24/7, there are more chances of getting in each other’s face.

There are couple of options we’d recommend as coping mechanisms to protect your marriage while you’re locked down.

Create new routines

Be creative. The reason you may be getting on each other’s nerves now more than before is that your routines are disrupted and you’re all stressed out.

We suggest a daily routine for the whole family, which can include book reading, academic studies (for the kids), house chores, out/indoor family games, exercising, television, family picnics/braais as well as devotionals.

Depending on the ages of your kids, you could help them bake, or even let them help you cook. It’s more important to have fun and develop new routines that may outlast this coronavirus season than being a drill-sergeant. You’ll also be amazed at a new level of discipline your family will enjoy after all this.

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Be apart together

You can both love someone and need space from them simultaneously. The notion that if you don’t spend this time in a perpetual snuggle you are doomed, is a farce. Take space when you need it. Being interdependent doesn’t mean losing your own identity.

That’s co-dependency. Accept that you both might need space at different times. You might find it helpful to make a plan for when you’ll be in different parts of your home and when you’ll spend time hanging out together.

When we are not intentional about taking space when we need it, we risk growing irritation that leads us to take space by snapping at our partner and storming off.

Maintain a healthy level of intimacy

Irrespective of how much you enjoy being physical with one another, being on lockdown under such a negative climate, is likely to affect your intimacy. The threat of coronavirus is particularly unnerving because it represents so much more than just one danger. Our physical health, financial security, employment situations, and childcare coverage are all changing and/or are newly at risk.

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If fears around coronavirus are triggering your anxiety, it's likely spilling over into how you relate to your spouse emotionally. Fear is likely a huge contributor to couples butting heads during this time. In a state of fear, we tend to act from an emotional place, ie. from a place of reacting rather than from a connected and conscious place. Unguarded, this condition will kill the intimacy of your relationship even when you physically engage.

Connect emotionally. Increase your prayer life and devotions as a couple. Make it your mission to learn new things about each other and connect at a deeper level. Let each other know you’re there for one another and are in the same team.

Don’t be caught up in familiarity. Create fresh romantic dates around the house, and connect intimately. Importantly, be available for one another sexually. Remember that while sex forms a very minimal percentage of your relationship, its absence however, can actually be the cause of most of the challenges in your marriage.

Validate one another’s feelings

Coronavirus and the lockdown are stressful enough, but for many families and couples, those fears are further compounded by financial insecurity in the wake of the increasing statistics of the pandemic.

It’s important to recognize one another’s feelings and make one another feel heard. When your spouse is feeling anxious, it is important for you to validate their feelings and show support. Often, the sense of being heard and supported is what they need most.

Develop better negotiation skills

You’ll be surprised that you may fight over which television show to view. If you’re privileged enough, you may consume Netflix or Showmax through your phone or laptop while your spouse enjoys their favourite show on DSTV for instance.

You may also choose to watch together even though you may personally not like your spouse’s pick necessarily. But don’t do so while dragging your feet and making an issue out of it. You’ll be amazed at the level of intimacy this often brings in your marriage.

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