How Couples Can Bond (And Stay Together!) During COVID-19

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How Couples Can Bond (And Stay Together!) During COVID-19
Love

Have you ever caught up with an old friend you haven't talked to in years, and it was like no time had passed? I have experienced the same and it amazes me how the beauty of old friendships are preserved over time.

During this time of COVID-19, the pandemic has impacting the community and, in particular, couples.

Prior to COVID-19, many would have described their partner with a melancholic meandering, similar to the old friend they once had who's now more like a stranger — or even antagonist at times.

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You might feel alone in the marriage and household, struggle with time management and work-life balance, and perhaps complain about the lack of time with your kids, spouse, or more importantly, yourself.

Then came COVID-19, and suddenly everyone finds themselves at home with more time to spend.

Sadly, this has caused a great challenge for these partnered strangers now being housebound and “imprisoned” in the same shelter together.

Reframe this time as a rare opportunity.

This situation can be used as a "reframe" — as a new opportunity for what psychologist Esther Perel calls "mating in captivity."

It's my deepest wish that all couples, whether housebound together or apart, attempt to reframe this situation to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Suddenly being thrust into a house with a veritable stranger is daunting.

But your partner is only a stranger because one or both of you let things drift. This person you met at the pub, or church, or at a friend’s houseparty, or at work used to ignite something in you.

This person took your attention and became a priority, at least for a while, until the marriage ceremony or move-in was complete.

It's easy for couples to drift.

Especially after kids are brought into their world. But the majority of that original person is still intact and there — just more shell-shocked, perhaps.

The good news is that most relationships can be considered organic in the notion that growth comes from nurturing.

Relationships need to be nurtured.

If you're seeking enlightenment, you might spend more time in focused meditation or chanting mantras. If you wanted a deeper walk in your spiritual world, you would spend more time in study or deep contemplation, reverently honoring of the belief system.

Why can’t you apply the same to relationships?

If you allow the dynamic to become two people in a power play for the household, you can imagine where it'll end up. This is especially the case if one partner has been typically running the show already.

Go back in time. 

So, let’s step back and re-invest in the "before kids" vision of the couple’s relationship when you could laugh and dream and were constantly pursuing affection with the other. Trust me, the kids want this atmosphere, as well.

The miscommunications, attitudes, and hurtful acts that have occurred in the ensuing years and created this vast divide. This was part of an unhealthy intimacy.

It’s not your fault. Nobody explained how to handle the first 10 years of marriage and kids.

This circuit breaker is meant to power down the old energy source. It’s meant to create a pause, and repair, then force a reboot to the system, bringing new energy!

Maybe you were a hunter for your partner once.

In that state of want and pursuit, you were incredibly creative.

Remember? You were gallant and chivalrous, adventurous and expressive; romantic and clever when planning your seduction.

Now is your chance to bring that back.

If you can’t be inspired by your partner because too much drifting has taken place, then let it be an exercise toward “enlightenment.”

Take the first steps without knowing what will come of it, but knowing what you want to come of it. Or do it for the pure fun of being creative, in a way that benefits your partner.

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Get creative and have fun! 

If you're in the house together, look around for inspiration. Use your ingenuity for a moment. What furnishings, foods, or toys could help you create a spontaneous and romantic getaway? A staycation, so to speak?

Perhaps pick a place you've always wanted to travel together and create it. A trip around the world can be brought to the living room through YouTube HD drone videos of most countries of the world.

You can make the cuisine of any country in your kitchen or order in takeout. Costumes or local flair are easy to find in your closet when you really need to impress your partner.

Additional props are strewn throughout the house from those souvenirs and trinkets you picked up and always wondered how you would use them.

Know your partner's "love languages."

Take a look at the Five Love Languages and choose a couple that you think will best suit your partner or spouse.

For many men, "physical touch" is their preferred way of receiving love, followed by "words of affirmation." Women tend to prefer "words of affirmation," but for both genders, the most important love language seems to be "quality time."

Use this period of quarantine to express at least one of these during this housebound era.

Create an authentic way to offer affirmation. Choose three things you like about your partner and offer this observation or insight with them. Find a way to praise them.

Take responsibility for your role in the relationship. 

For both partners, take responsibility for your relationship with this other human being. This person had dreams and hopes before meeting you.

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They had a loving family who wanted the best for them. This dreamer is still alive and trying to live a life of value without getting lost in the process.

Help them find their way, as you promised once.

Both parties can consider what lifts their partner's spirits and builds on their resources. Make a list and see which of your areas match.

Maybe it’s a music genre you both love or a faith or spirituality practice (religion, yoga, meditation, etc.) you both have been wanting to explore.

Plan the activity together; they're are all available online.

Remember the things that can hurt you. 

Things like sexual disconnection and value conflicts can also be re-aligned to bring intimacy. Even financial re-visioning can bring a form of intimacy, as it links directly to safety, security, and shared dreaming.

Get closer with massage. 

Massage is another way to reconnect, especially because a social and physical connection are the things humans crave the most at a time like this.

A sensual massage conveys attraction, care, desire, and is ultimately a very loving act. Obviously, both parties can offer this to the other.

This is the most direct way of nurturing organic love.

Build trust with each other. 

Remember, if you're creating safety, investing in trust-building behaviors, and offering adventures in your sincere pursuit of each other, the rest should flow naturally.

The suggestions above aren't intended to imply you should return to your partner as a representative from the past (the old you).

It's OK that you've evolved and changed.

Let this new situation bring a new conversation with an old friend. Take time to get to know this person you chose so many years ago.

The ideas above are just a few ways to kickstart the new adventure.

This global social-distancing initiative is a beautiful and very rare opportunity to revisit and reconnect with your old friend and life partner.

Move away from melancholy and toward magic moments in the present, while creating new memories for the future.

RELATED: How To Practice Your Partner's Love Language While Quarantining

Glenn Grave, PhD, is a psychologist who works with individuals, couples, families, and corporations in conflict or crisis. He seeks a peaceful and effective transition towards healthy individuals and healthy sustainable dynamics.