Cooped Up Couples

By Rachel Cook & Monica Hand – February 1, 2021

The pandemic and lockdown may have changed the name of the dating game, but it’s also presented new challenges for couples. In some cases, the lockdown sped up relationships, prompting either engagements or breakups. No matter the situation of the relationship, it’s no secret that being cooped up with someone can create conflict and exhaustion. So, how can you and your significant other navigate the work, play, fitness and everything — all from home? 

Mandate Space 

The biggest issue with working from the same apartment or home is the amplified possibility of stepping on toes. Work days are especially stressful during a pandemic, and “the little things” are more likely to nip at nerves and anxiety. 

According to Melody Li, the founder of Inclusive Therapists, a mental health directory and community centering the needs of people with marginalized identities, it is imperative that couples set boundaries. This can be done by dividing up individual office spaces, mapping out each other’s schedules (so no one is making a smoothie during someone’s big virtual sales pitch) and/or setting a few hours for uninterrupted working. 

Find Connection and Quality Time

Communication has always been a key issue in relationships, and an open expression of emotions isn’t always easy. Now, more than ever, communication is essential to make a strong connection withstand the unique challenges the pandemic presents. 

“Couples are having to negotiate about what they feel comfortable and safe with in terms of infection risk,” Ilyse Kennedy, a psychotherapist and owner of Moving Parts Psychotherapy, explains. 

This new set of issues for relationships is coupled with the fact that intimate time is harder to come by when working from home and being together all day long. 

“Because people are working from home and around each other, it feels like they’re together all of the time,” Kennedy says. “But it’s not actually being together, because it’s not intentional time together.”

Having a clear path of communication opens up pressing issues and allows for them to be proactively resolved, without the need of a build-up in tensions. The problem is, if there isn’t the outlet to share feelings or connect, it gets harder and harder to bring the issues up. 

This can be especially true for those who don’t have childcare during the days — meaning that there is a small window of alone time after the kiddos are asleep. Kennedy suggests finding creative ways to connect, planning at-home dates that diverge from your normal routine. 

“Find something relaxing and connecting if you’re tired at the end of the day,” Kennedy says. “A little more outside-of-the-box than watching Netflix.”

Distribution of Labor

For families, parents are having to do much more with the kids at home. It’s hard to care for the family members and even yourself at the same time, and Kennedy says this trend is particularly true for mothers or the primary care-giving parent. 

“Moms are having to do much more on their own, carrying a heavier weight than ever before,” Kennedy says. 

It’s important to communicate when too much is being piled on your shoulders, a break is needed or if the distribution of chores and familial duties needs to be reevaluated. The stress on families is coming from all sides: work, friends, school and the unknown future. Finding common ground within the family dynamic is key to coming out stronger than before. 

Schedule in Me Time

As stated earlier, it’s important to make sure there is plenty of quality time spent together. The flip side to that is to also make sure there is plenty of quality time spent on your own. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to create a separate time completely devoted to personal pursuits that don’t involve work, family or your significant other when both work and your partner are just a few feet away. 

Try to work in time for yourself a few nights a week. Maybe this takes form in crafting, cooking, working out or a solo walk. Any bit can help relieve any pressures and allow for each partner to take a step back and see a bigger perspective. 

Find a Community

One of the major issues for everyone during the pandemic is the loss of socializing and the sense of community, as even virtual office work feels a little removed. It’s important that, along with “me time,” there are outlets that allow you to find a community. 

Kennedy points out that the loss of the outlet of friends can be especially detrimental to parents that usually stayed at home. Now, these partners have lost community outlets that would typically have served as a relief from the workload and a time to decompress. She recommends free group therapy for moms, online Facebook groups and forums and outdoor group workouts. 

There still are so many outlets for community even in the pandemic. In fact, Li suggests that even videogames can allow for a sense of community from a distance and allow for the partner to escape from pressures and burdens of life and the relationship. 

No matter the way you or your significant other find community, it’s important to be supportive of their pursuit of community outside of the household.


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