To help you better navigate long periods of quarantine with whomever you’re living with, follow this expert advice.
Lay Down Some Household Ground Rules
“Start by discussing how and when to divide and use your space,” says Dr. Stephanie Newman, a clinical psychologist and author. “She likes to have her coffee and check her messages alone. Let her have that time. He likes to schedule midday conference calls. Work around him. Everybody gives one and everybody gets one.” This can help all parties feel more at peace and therefore less irritable. It also ensures each person can tackle their workload more efficiently if working from home.
Practice Even More Patience
Stress levels are higher than usual. Practicing patience becomes increasingly difficult, and therefore all the more important. If an argument arises, you can use phrases such as, ‘I agree with you,’ ‘I understand,’ ‘I see your point,’ ‘We can do this together,’ or ‘I respect your space and privacy, please respect mine too'. In addition, give each other space to help calm down one’s mind and senses.
Avoid Common Communication Pitfalls
Bickering is inevitable but can easily spiral into all-out brawls when confined to a small space without anywhere to go. When in doubt lead with empathy. Empathy involves putting yourself in the shoes of another; it’s sliding into their viewpoint to see their perspective. Broadening your experience to make room for your partner’s ideas and viewpoints leads to open discussion and brings couples closer.
Go Out of Your Way to Foster Positivity
It’s easy to get bogged down by negative news and uncertainty about what the future holds, which makes it even more important to foster positivity within your home. Small words, small gestures, and small acts are very effective in keeping bickering to a minimum. Intentionally recall happy times that your partner has been generous and loving and kind towards you to help you keep a larger perspective about the relationship.
Be Helpful Around the House
Chores still pile up even when we’re spending time at home. There are even more tasks to tackle, such as making meals, doing the dishes, taking out the trash, and general tidying. Household work is often a source of bickering whether quarantined or not, but having to spend more time around clutter and mess can fuel the fire. “It’s important to be helpful and not wait on the other person to take care of household tasks,” says Dr. Ivanov. “Be pro-active. Don’t wait to be told what to do.”
Do Spend Purposeful Time Together
Spending intentional time together as a couple, as friends, or as a family can be useful in helping everyone keep a more realistic perspective during this stressful time period. If you tend to naturally isolate, make an effort to reach out to your partner, roommate, or family members to see how they’re doing. It may also be helpful to remind others that you’re wired to cope by being alone so that they don’t mistake your need to be alone as a personal rejection.
Experiencing stress and anxiety in uncertain times is normal. Being deliberate about helping others and nurturing your relationships can help, and the above advice is a great place to start. That said, it's also important to make sure you're taking care of yourself by practicing self-care and reaching out to friends, family, and professionals as needed.