If you’re reading this in April 2020, chances are you and everyone you know are social distancing, quarantining, or self-isolating. Some of us are home with our families, some with a partner, some with roommates, some living on our own. Whatever your situation, we’re all settling into a different way of living.
In the midst of so much change, it can be easy to lash out or pull away from our loved ones.
I tend to do the latter. Whenever I’m feeling anxious or sad or uncertain or afraid, I pull away to tend to my emotions in private, away from the people I love. Some of my loved ones do the exact opposite.
Especially with social distancing, the need for human connection and communication is stronger than ever. So let’s talk about communicating with your partner and your loved ones when something external to both of you wears you down.
First thing, no matter your proximity to your loved one – at home together or geographically apart – make time for regular check-ins with each other. Chances are you’re both dealing with a lot of stressors at once.
Talk to each other. I can’t stress this enough. Even if you both only take 5 minutes a week to check-in, it will help. You can make a list of the heaviest concerns on your mind and share them, or maybe you have one worry outweighing all the rest. Tell your partner about it, or just tell them you’ve been worrying about this thing.
You don’t have to expound in detail if you don’t want to, but don’t feel like you have to swallow the details if you need someone to listen. Use this time to take your relationship to new levels of commitment, communication, and understanding.
The beauty of using the Profound Partnerships couples app is that you can use it sitting on the same couch or sitting many miles away. It's a great way to foster the understanding and compassion we need!
If you’re like me, distraction can also be a big help. I’ve thrown myself into storyboarding for a novel with one of my old college friends. Having this creative project to think about and talk through together really helps me get my mind off the headlines and remind myself how good it feels to learn the contours of a new story. My friend needs the distraction too, so it works out beautifully. Indulge in some productive distraction together.
That’s tip 2. Try to do something fun and creative together. Cook a meal. Maybe a comfort food you love, or a new recipe you can figure out together. Challenge yourselves to make something only using ingredients you already have. Try out a new hobby, learn a dance together, start a new TV show together, rearrange the furniture. Indulge in some fun distractions together, no matter how silly or serious.
If you’re a couple separated by distance, a lot of these ideas still apply. Cook together over a video chat, or try out a streaming service that lets you two share a screen. Make a snap story for each other as you try out a new hobby or paint your nails. Or trade memes back and forth! Anything that gets you both laughing together is a win.
Third, talk about your boundaries. Talk about how you recharge when you feel drained. Talk about coping mechanisms that help you the most. Now more than ever, we can’t just trust our intuition to sense what our partner needs. We have to ask, and we have to communicate. I recharge by spending time alone cuddling my dog, preferably a quiet space that’s unequivocally mine. Some of my friends, however, recharge by spending time with people. Now that we’re social distancing, they want to call and video chat and text and stream movies together a lot more than usual. For them, social interaction helps them relax and regain some equilibrium.
See the challenge? That’s a set of opposing needs. That’s why you need to have honest, loving conversations with the people important to you – partners, friends, family, even coworkers and bosses sometimes – about what you need. If your friend needs someone to talk to but you’ve had an exhausting day and just can’t talk to humans anymore? See if they have someone else they can lean on, but let them know that you love and care for them and set a date soon to connect. Or maybe you’ve had a long day, your friend needs a talk, and you have just enough energy for them. Be there for them, but never be afraid to gently retreat when you need your space.
And the same thing goes the other way around, right? If you need a lot of human interaction, reach out to your friends, your family, your partner. Your introvert friends may love to talk, or maybe your extrovert loved ones are seeking connection at the same time you are. Reach out to an old friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while. Catch up with someone new, or make a new friend (safely!) through a social media site. Other people are craving human connection just as much as you are. Never be ashamed to ask for it.
Be kind to yourself, be gentle to others. Be honest about what you need. Take comfort when you need to wind down, and take hold of your creativity and productivity the rest of the time.
This is a time you can reach for higher expectations for yourself and your loved ones.
Stay safe, everyone.