Isolation-Proof Your Live-In Relationship – Long days constantly in your partner’s company may open old wounds – but experts suggest patience, communication and a bit of space can get you through
Sarah Willmott is used to working in relative quiet. The Melbourne business owner has enjoyed a peaceful home office environment for four years, but recently her calm has been tested.
Enter husband, John, who has spent the past week also working from home.
“It’s the different noises he makes, the tapping and the sighing, the huffing and puffing, the singing, the humming — it’s extraordinary,” Willmott says.
“I’m not used to it, and I think he knows it drives me nuts at times.”
In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, an increasing number of Australian companies are instructing employees, already stressed over loo paper shortages, a cratering economy and existential dread to work from home.
If this sounds ripe for relationship trouble, you are spot on.
The Chinese city of Xi’an, according to The Global Times, has witnessed an uptick in divorce appointments in recent weeks, as too much time together has led couples to opt for permanent time apart.
So how do you avoid a similar fate?
Structure your day
According to practising clinical psychotherapist at Seaway Counselling and Psychotherapy, Julie Sweet, it’s important couples cleave to a daily plan to avoid unnecessary conflict.
“The virus makes people feel out of control, so structure and routine are the antidote to feeling insecure,” Sweet says.
“Chat to your partner about what you will be doing at certain times so you can work collaboratively, which, as corny as it sounds, is how you will both make it work.”
Professor and chair of clinical psychology at the University of Melbourne, Kim Felmingham says when your partner does get under your skin, it’s best to defuse the situation by walking away. “It’s harder in an apartment, but try to find a space you can retreat to.”
While there is nothing wrong with some time out, Sweet says it’s important to let the other person know when you are coming back.
“Maybe go for a walk, but just be mindful that you need to communicate the time you are coming home,” she says. “That lets the person know they have a couple of hours to do a certain task.”
Leave room for sex and intimacy
There is no doubt that sex can help you feel connected to your partner, so focus on ramping up this part of your relationship now you have so much time together. “You can keep intimacy alive by having your needs met and meeting the needs of your partner,” Sweet says.
Felmingham agrees: “I think if people make time to be together and to have fun and support each other, then intimacy will naturally follow.”
If all else fails, get creative.
“People could set up date nights at home, buy in some champagne, cook something special … order in a copy of the Kama Sutra,” Felmingham advises.
Discuss your job
Some people spend a lot of time on the phone at work, while others need peace and quiet to focus. “Give your partner an idea of what to expect from you,” Sweet says.
“If you make sales calls all morning, then let your partner know, and ask them what they need in order to be able to do their job.”
Felmingham also recommends discussing some of the areas that you’re both likely to struggle with. “Talk through what is going to change, and what are going to be your personal challenges, such as not going to the gym, and how you are going to meet those together.”
But work separately
As much as possible, set up separate work areas so you’re not sharing the dining room table. “If you’re both working around the table, maybe stagger the times that you do it so you’re not on conference calls at the same time,” Felmingham says.
You also need to mark out some undisturbed time for yourself so you don’t end up resenting your partner. “You need solitary time, as well as a solitary space … If you are short of space, you can put your headphones in and be clear that is your solitary time.”
Furthermore, don’t feel as if you have to do everything together because you’re both at home. “Make sure you chat to your friends and family online,” Felmingham says.
Involve your partner
Ultimately, you need to see your partner as part of a new, shared reality, rather than an interloper to your world, Sweet says.
“You may even gain further admiration for what your partner does,” Sweet says. “You can end up learning a lot about them, when you thought you knew everything.”
Furthermore, as Sweet notes, your partner can become an “added resource, another set of eyes and hands at work that you never had before”.
Sarah Willmott agrees there are some clear advantages to sharing a workspace with your partner, including companionship. “It’s also great to have help with the kids,” she says.
“My husband can now be at the school drop off or pick the kids up, and to be fair, there are plusses.”
Source: The Guardian – Isolation-Proof Your Live-In Relationship
If you would like help and support with your relationship, contact the Local Counselling Centre today.