By Rosa Silverman
Being stuck at home with your other half may feel like a great opportunity to spend time together. But even the strongest relationships can founder under stress.
We spoke to a couples counselling service to ask how our relationships can survive the coronavirus outbreak. Here, Robert Hudson, psychotherapist at the Hudson Centre in London, gives his advice.
Q. How do we cope with getting on each others’ nerves?
A. Understand, support, acknowledge. If your partner is anxious, accept that’s how they feel and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. It’s best not to tell them they “shouldn’t feel that way”. Listening is very important. Being anxious is normal. If you’re self employed, for instance, you might worry about losing your job. But don’t become consumed by it..
Q. How do we keep the relationship fresh?
A. Being able to laugh together is crucial. Focus on the positives because it’s easy to get lost in a cycle of doom and gloom. Take some time out and have lunch together. Plan something to look forward to, for when the crisis ends. The other thing that’s helpful is to say “thank you”, because we often take our partners for granted. I also suggest you try something new together, and set goals, while you’re stuck at home. See it as an opportunity to be adventurous – in the bedroom, too.
Q. What if we get bored?
A. Time out is good, so ask for it. Say ‘I just need half an hour.’ Go and have a long bath. It’s important to enjoy life’s pleasures, whatever that means for you as a couple. It could just be taking a break to have a hot drink or listen to a song. It’s often those little things that count and bring us together rather than the big grand gestures.
Q. Should we work in the same room?
A. In most offices we share desks, so it’s not a bad idea to work in the same room at home, as long as the couple discusses how they are going to manage it. If I need to take my laptop to the bedroom and have a break, that’s fine. Or if you need to take a call in the kitchen, it’s OK. See it as an opportunity to have time together.
Q. How do we defuse arguments when we’re stuck in the house?
A. If a couple didn’t argue I’d be concerned. But respect each other’s views, without judgement, blame, criticism or attack. Give yourself some space to calm down. If we’re arguing and I realise I’m getting carried away, I say ‘Listen, this isn’t getting anywhere, I need time to reflect and I’ll come back to you in a few minutes.’ It’s important to agree to disagree.
Q. What if we disagree on how to follow Government guidelines?
A. Stop and say, ‘What is it we’re not agreeing on? If I say it’s not safe for the children to spend time with me, then it’s because I think it’s in their best interests.’ It’s about communication.
Q. Is it OK to have sex if someone if we’re self-isolating?
A. I’d put it a different way: is it OK to put yourself at risk? I don’t think it is. Is it OK to put myself at risk? No. It’s about respect.
Originally posted on https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/relationships/relationship-can-survive-thrive-coronavirus-outbreak-qa/ on 18.03.2020