Is lockdown ruining your relationship? Expert shares 7 tips to prevent romance burnout
Many couples have questioned if lockdown is ruining their relationship.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on many aspects of our lives – including our intimate relationships.
In before times, we had a social life and actually went to work to fill up our day. Now, many of us have never spent as much time at home with our partners. While being cooped up with Netflix, takeaways and cuddles was a novelty at first, in the midst of the UK's third national lockdown, it's safe to say that the charm has worn off.
Here, Four Nine speaks to Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari, PhD, who has worked as a couples therapist for over 20 years, on how to spice up our love lives in quarantine, and how to better manage our expectations of our partners during this truly unprecedented time.
Is lockdown ruining your relationship?
"People's relationships have really changed from the first lockdown up until this point," Dr Ben-Ari tells Four Nine. "In the first lockdown, some couples with a strong foundation really enjoyed slowing down – yes, there was stress and change - but they were able to manage it.
"Couples in a more conflicted relationship found it more challenging, as they were no longer able to avoid their problems by going out and being with friends.
"But even then, the longer quarantine gets, the more likely it is to affect more of us," she continues. "Because we're not able to recharge in our usual ways, many of us are experiencing something like burnout at home, and in our partnerships too."
But don't fear, there are several ways in which couples can reignite the "spark". Here, Dr Ben-Ari gives us the lowdown...
1. Bring more appreciation
"The more we are together, day in and day out, the more we take each other for granted," Dr Ben-Ari explains. "Start to think about what is in front of you, and the goodness of your partner, and tell them about it, in a sincere, thoughtful way."
2. Small gestures
Because the days are blurring together right now, Dr Ben-Ari says it's important to introduce some novelty into your partnership.
"This can be small, every day novelties, or longer-term projects," she explains. "For example, it sounds silly, but if your boyfriend is coming back from a walk, just jump and seem overexcited to see them. It brings a different energy to the situation, and changes the frequency between you two.
"You can also surprise them in other ways – for example, learning salsa, or a new massage technique. There are plenty of things you can do over the internet."
3. Go outside
Venturing outdoors with your partner can also mix things up. "If you and your partner are into health and fitness, practice it outside," Dr Ben-Ari recommends. "It's just a different space than the one you have at home."
4. Talk about sex
"Having quality fun with romance is so integral," Dr Ben-Ari says. "It's not watching Netflix, or watching a nice dinner – though they have their own values too – but just being in front of each other with eye contact and touch, is a different kind of intimacy."
She says moments like these, though they may feel mundane, help connect you with your loved one on a different, more visceral level.
The therapist also encourages couples to have more conversations about sex. "Many couples avoid these kinds of conversations", she explains. "First you need to know yourself sexually, then you can teach your partner and speak about what your needs are - openly and with compassion."
5. Invest time in yourself
"Maybe you like to draw or write, but it's important to take time to pursue your own interests outside of your relationship.
"When you're together so much, as we are in quarantine, it's good to have something for yourself. So when you come back to your partner you come with excitement, and you're able to share an experience with them. It helps you come alive spiritually, and you'll pass this onto your significant other."
6. Reconsider how you handle conflict
"Take a moment to reflect on yourself during arguments," Dr Ben-Ari advises. "Sometimes something that annoys or triggers us about our partner is actually more about us than it is about them.
"But find the right time to talk about it – so if it's in the heat of the moment, it's probably not best because you're both too defensive to really listen.
"Take some time out, and wait until you feel less reactive to tackle the subject. But give a signal that you're going to come back to it again, so it doesn't feel like a rejection or judgement."
7. Use 'I' statements
"I always tell couples to avoid one word to make their communication better, and it's 'you'," the therapist says. "Rather than say 'you do this' or 'you do that', tell your partner how the situation makes you feel. For example, 'when I see you neglect the washing up, I feel unappreciated'".
"The object is not to blame, shame or criticise, but to express the underlying issue," Ben-Ari continues. "Is it that you don't feel taken care of, or valued enough?
"Fights are never about who forgot to buy the milk."