There are, broadly speaking, two possible scenarios: one in which the couple is well and another in which they are going through a crisis. Here are 10 tips for each situation.
If the couple is well, one could think of confinement as an opportunity to reflect on the relationship and strengthen it:
- Establish routines to maintain the bond by taking advantage of video calls, during which you can see and hear each other. You can define and plan couple moments together. For example, if you are in the same country or the time difference is not very large, you can share meals remotely, communicating while eating. You can also schedule leisure activities, such as watching a series or a movie or reading a book separately and then discussing it together.
- Develop the ritual of commenting on how the day went while having a tea or an infusion, for example. It would be good if you spent some time listening to what the other has to say.
- Anticipate the fact that there may be times when, due to the stress of confinement, misunderstandings occur. If when they occur, you show empathy instead of being defensive, you will be able to solve them better.
- Recognize that the coronavirus crisis affects each of us differently because of a lot of different circumstances. No one is living it the same way.
- Review the strengths of the relationship. Remind each other of the small – or not so small – things that the other does during normal coexistence. Those things that move you especially, that make you feel cared for and loved. Expressing them in a concrete way is something we don’t usually do and it’s always nice to hear.
- Identify if there is something that will need to be addressed. Decide if you need to find time to talk about it in peace during confinement or if it is more convenient to leave it for later, when you can be together.
- Perform activities together, such as arranging common memories, for example photographs, and plan outdoor leisure activities for when confinement is over.
- Start conversations with positive comments and by appreciating the nice little things that are happening, trying to keep the conversation from focusing on the coronavirus or the confinement.
- Take time, if you have children or teenagers in charge, to talk about how you can keep in touch with those who are not living at home at the time.
- Avoid, above all, seeking emotional support from your children during difficult times. They are already suffering a lot from confinement. In case you need support, ask a professional for help.
If the couple has been doing bad, in crisis, before the confinement separately, with tension and arguments, this may be an opportunity to reflect and do something about it.
- Recognize or be aware that when one is in a conflict there is a tendency to see more of what the other is doing wrong. This forced separation could be “therapeutic” if the right remedies are applied.
- Look for the positive side of all situations. We know that confinement affects more those who feel trapped or obsessed with negative thoughts.
- Start with self-reflection. How do you contribute to negative dynamics? Are you defensive? Do you criticize each other? Are you hypersensitive or judgmental? Do you complain instead of making proposals? Do you show enough empathy for what the couple does? Do you create a negative atmosphere with your attitude? Have you increased alcohol consumption, self-generating a more negative view of the situation?
- Stop the escalation of the conflict and decide to wait until it is a good time to talk about it, with the premise that you will stop the conversation when you feel that you are entering a negative dynamic. Remember that prevention is key. You know perfectly well what will happen if you continue escalating. That is why it is important to take a time out and for everyone to relax, separately. One should not think about refuting arguments, or how to win the discussion. Whoever asks for a break is responsible for returning to the conversation
- Make sure you make positive comments and appreciate those nice little things when you connect with a videochat.
- Recognize that in these difficult times, there is a vulnerability and you can hurt each other’s feelings more easily.
- Know that venting resentment has no cathartic effect and, instead, when it erupts it only aggravates the situation.
- Express assertively your feelings. Keeping to ourselves what makes us angry hurts us too and can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, depression and a desire to be isolated.
- Identify what generates conflict. The most common topics are money management, the division of household tasks, some bad memories of the past, relationships with each other’s family, leisure time or sexuality. Each topic will require an individual written reflection on what you would like before sharing. It is not a matter of listening to each other’s complaints but of making shared proposals for the future.
- Seek professional help. Couple therapy to repair the bond or family mediation to reach agreements in case of ending the relationship.
RADIO 4, RTVE. STORY: The lockdown separated – Mireia Moreno (March 30th 2020)
How do the dynamics of couples living lockdown separately change? What tips to follow to strengthen the relationship? We spoke with couples living separately in confinement and with Connie Capdevila, a couple therapist and member of the Board of the Official College of Psychologists of Catalonia.
EL PERIÓDICO DE CATALUNYA. STORY: Caring for relationships afar – Carme Escalas (April 30th 2020)
Psychologists propose to consider confinement as a period to strengthen bonds and reflect on them. We speak with Connie Capdevila, Jaume Descarrega, and Teresa Moratalla