7 Ways Couples Can Become More Connected As COVID-19 Drags On

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7 Ways Couples Can Become More Connected As COVID-19 Drags On
Love

If you're living and breathing, you've been impacted by COVID-19 — and so has intimacy in relationships.

How has the pandemic affected your most important relationship? Have you learned how to get closer and become more connected? Or has it been a struggle?

Have you been biding your time, thinking life will return to normal soon, so your relationship will magically get back on track?

Couples who had relationship problems before COVID-19 find that sheltering at home has placed a magnifying glass on their pre-existing issues, making them worse.

RELATED: 5 Tips For Improved Communication With Your Partner During COVID-19

There have been reports that divorce rates are at an all-time high.

The Wall Street Journal noted that marriage rates have plunged to their lowest level on record, the lowest rate of people getting married since the federal government began keeping statistics in 1867.

Other problems like domestic violence are threatening the safety of many people in married relationships.

There's no doubt that COVID-19 continues to take its toll on marriages and lifetime partnerships.

Pressures associated with job loss and families sheltering in can cause damaging arguments and behaviors that wear couples out.

In spite of the challenges, many couples are finding that sheltering in place is actually making their relationship and connection stronger and are using this opportunity to face their problems.

Intimacy Exits

Couples become unhappy when they stop doing the things that keep them emotionally and intimately connected. Sheltering during the pandemic is helping many couples to choose to close, what I call, their "intimacy exits."

Intimacy exits are any form of behavior that a person uses to bypass being loved and cared for in their primary love relationship.

Many good things — working out, golfing, and friendships — can become substitutes for having quality conversations or intimate touches with your partner. Other unhealthy behaviors, like affairs and addictions, are intimacy exits.

People use intimacy exits when they don't know how to communicate their needs. Many people grew up in families where the healthy expression of emotion is poor or nonexistent.

After new love emotions wear off, these adults do not have a voice to express the longings of their emotional hearts.

Other couples use intimacy exits because they've been deeply hurt by their partner. They use intimacy exits to avoid talking about the source of their hurt.

This results in their blowing up when they are triggered by things that often have nothing to do with the original hurt.

Are you ready to close your intimacy exits and make lifetime love the reality you have dreamed of?

Here are 7 ways couples can become more connected during COVID-19.

1. Close the most destructive intimacy exit.

The most destructive intimacy exits are affairs, which create betrayal trauma. The hurt partner may feel like they can never forgive.

They're a secret time bomb that can go off at any time, blowing up the most established relationships.

Affairs can be physical and emotional.

Emotional affairs happen when any person becomes a more intimate or trusted confidant than one's lifetime partner. This can happen with a same-sex friend where no thought of sex exist.

We sometimes refer to these as "bromances" and "wo-mances." It can be a golf partner, a sister, or another mother that can have more of our attention than our actual partner.

Use sheltering in as a way to stop having inappropriate affairs. It's best to come clean with your partner, ask for forgiveness, and start anew. And you may need professional help to have those conversations.

2. Addiction is not a "feel better" solution.

Addiction often is a cover for deep loneliness, hurt, and emotional disconnection. It's a turnkey "feel better" solution that you can run to whenever you need it.

It's also a trap that will progressively isolate you and destroy your health.

Humans have the capacity to become addicted to many things. Drugs and alcohol are the most obvious. Sex, gambling, food, video games, and work can be just as consuming.

The way out of addictions is universal: Admit you have a problem and seek the help of others that have been successful in recovery.

There are recovery groups for all the problems listed above and more.

And, of course, there are therapists who specialize in each of these forms of addictions. They can provide the safety and direction you need to let go of addiction and turn toward your partner.

3. Get help with financial problems.

If you've been struggling year after year with financial problems, it's time to get help. You may need a therapist to be able to talk through and resolve spending differences.

Maybe you need help setting up a budget. Or, you may need a financial planner for more complex issues.

One of the biggest challenges is arriving at a common vision for building a financial future, resolving to keep communicating about, and sticking to the path you have set in motion.

COVID-19 has created financial uncertainty for many people. At the same time, it's helping couples understand what they can live without.

This is a good time to pull in the purse strings and do a financial reset.

4. Create a healthy separation from unhealthy relationships.

Families and friendships can be life-giving and life draining. Many people have dysfunctional relationships with friends and families, which becomes a trap.

Without disowning your friends or family, you can create healthy boundaries that will allow you to break free of limiting or dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors.

You may have a habit of drinking too much or simply being too negative in some relationships. Sometimes, families argue and put each other down.

Sheltering in during COVID-19 can give you the space to break free of spending many hours in relationships that are not helping you to grow and establish your own healthy relationship culture.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Survive Quarantine When You Really Miss Your Partner

5. Think about the kids.

Dual-career parents and parents with blended families often struggle with being on the same page with parenting. Co-parenting takes time and requires effective communication.

Parents need to take the time to communicate so they can be united on parenting decisions. And they should never disagree in front of the children.

They should seek out parenting decisions that help them discover how to help their kids to be emotionally transparent and desire to keep the peace.

The frustrations of not going to school can be turned into a deeper parent-child emotional connection as they learn more about each other.

6. Create some intimate couple time.

True intimacy is not about spending lots of money on dining out and being entertained. Learning how to live a more simple and connected life is the key to lifetime love.

Use your sheltering-in time to notice how your partner is feeling. You may feel differently about wearing masks or how you'll stay connected with those outside your household.

Support each other and keep talking till you can get on the same page.

Spend more time in bed holding each other or in the backyard, just talking. Go on walks and hikes. Try to discover new things that you can do together.

7. Grow your spiritual practice.

If COVID-19 is teaching us anything, it's that life is uncertain. No one would have thought that in this day and age that a small virus could bring us to our knees.

Getting in touch with the reality of uncertainty can deepen your spiritual practice. It can help you learn to trust, as they say in AA, in a power greater than yourself.

Try taking alone time to meditate and pray. Spend time listening to worship music. Or listen to inspirational spiritual talks.

Use this time to really pay attention to small things in life that remind you that you are not alone and that your life is precious and has purpose, regardless of the challenges you face.

Spiritual intimacy is a secure foundation that will support your intimate human relationships and help you face life’s uncertainty without fear and despair.

None of this has been easy. And for those couples that have stayed connected and even grown closer during COVID-19, it's not been without intention.

This pandemic has destroyed lives, businesses, economies, and jobs. It has heightened fear, insecurity, denial, anxiety, and depression. It's changed political views.

We've become scientists and statisticians, finger-pointers, and tattle-tales. Most of us have really had enough of COVID.

But what about connection? Don't give this virus the power to disconnect you from your partner.

Are you ready to regroup and make it happen?

RELATED: 6 Lessons Couples In Strong Relationships Will Learn From Lockdown

Dr. Michael Regier is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and EFT Supervisor in San Luis Obispo, CA. He helps couples within California deal with the challenges of COVID-19, learn healthy communication patterns, and create emotional connections for lifetime love. He and his wife Paula co-authored the book Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.

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This article was originally published at michaelregier.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.