Most of us in an intimate relationship are not used to being with our partners 24/7 let alone being confined together in a home for 21 straight days! Being stuck in a confined space during these anxious and stressful times, generally leads to some form of conflict.
China has just started returning to work after their nearly 3 month lockdown, so it was no surprise to see a Bloomberg News Articles this week stating “China’s Divorce Spike is a warning to Rest of Locked-Down World”
This blog tries to assist couples to better navigate their intimate relationships during this most unprecedented and challenging time we currently find ourselves in? Our advice is not "What you should do", but rather the - "How you do it!"
The coronavirus has fundamentally affected how we live; if we are allowed to work, and if so to work remotely, how we congregate and how we experience touch and intimacy. The world at large has had to renegotiate the common norms of social intimacy with this new word “Social Distancing” whose measures appear to increase daily.
First tip during lockdown is to plan and have some structure to your day. However most importantly, find time to be alone with yourself and to take care and pamper. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Play games with your partner, try new positions, and don’t forget about your hygiene. Hug, reassure and give each other massages.
These tips are great, but they obviously won’t be useful for everyone. For many couples it may be difficult to implement these tips if there are small kids at home to care for, children with special needs, or elderly parents to worry about. They may not be practical for those living in a small home with no bathtub in which to take a leisurely bubble bath. Moreover, the threat of illness, loss of income and worries about the future puts people in survival mode, making it difficult to relax and simply breathe, let alone meditate.
Every couples situation is unique and different. Some are in healthy and loving marriages and communicate well, while others are in frequent conflict, with regular verbal fights and bickering even under normal circumstances. In these circumstance, trying to implement some behavioural tips to couples who are experiencing distress, high anxiety, and conflict often triggers even more distress in an already fragile relationship.
Being in survival mode means getting ready to function through a stressful period. Anxiety is appropriate as it motivates us to prepare for the unknown and to, well, survive. In this mode we are not fully relaxed and the expectation to “work on” intimacy during this time by playing games and giving each other long, sensual massages may be impractical. The intimacy and the sex that many couples are used to experiencing require freedom from high levels of anxiety and an overall sense of security.Reduce anxiety and stress; create sexual intimacy with candles and using massage oil with your partner!
Therefore, the answer to maintaining a healthy loving relationship does not lie in what you do, but rather how you do it. It means stepping up with being attuned compassionate and caring rather than arguing over whose turn it is to wash the dishes, feed the dogs or play with the kids? It means being self-aware and communicating your feelings to your partner, rather than internalising them until you explode.
Maintaining intimacy during these difficult times is not about how often you get to have sex, or what new positions to try. It is about how each couple can adapt to the crisis by coming together rather than moving apart. It is about taking turns providing reassurance and comfort, as well as sharing responsibility taking care of children and performing household chores. It also may mean reframing the meaning of intimacy and sex.
We value multiple meanings for sex. Sometimes it is about physical pleasure, and other times it’s about bonding and intimacy. Sex can be about playfulness and recreation and it can even feel spiritually uplifting. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.
If sex provides vitality and reduces anxiety, couples will continue to find a way to engage in it. Even if sex was scheduled and routine, it now may become a place of refuge, providing satisfaction and normalcy in this abnormal situation. If, however, sex has felt like an obligation, has not been pleasurable or is painful, it wasn’t worth having before, and isn’t likely to be desired now.
This is a challenging time for individuals, couples and families, and it will impact the emotional and physical relationship. For couples that are in high-conflict marriages, this is the time to take the high road in the interest of the family’s sense of safety and security.
This may be the perfect opportunity for all couples to experience their emotional and physical relationship with vitality and resilience.
In summary, for your relationship to survive during Covid-19 Lockdown, we suggest the following :-
- Find time for yourself, to try and relax - meditate.
- Show support and affection for your partner - both in terms of sharing tasks and in how you interact and communicate.
- Make sure you communicate with your partner - hear and respond to their fears and anxiety.
- Reduce stress and create intimacy by creating a relaxing environment in your bedroom with candles.
- Make intimacy more fun by role playing and or wearing something sexy!
- Add some Sex Toys into the bedroom to spice things up!