Regardless of how long you’ve been in quarantine, it’s likely that you’ve gotten a little stir-crazy. Not everyone was privileged enough to work from home this past year, of course, but many still had work as their only outlet for socializing. When your options for communication with others are limited to your coworkers and your significant other, that can put undue pressure on your romantic relationship. Whether it’s snapping at something insignificant, accidentally tuning your partner out when they’re speaking, or simply tiring of always being near someone without the benefits of alone time, the pandemic has affected every relationship in at least a small way. Luckily, there are a handful of habits that can be practiced every day to help you thrive in your relationship, during and outside of quarantine.
Personal Growth We talk a lot about personal growth and the importance of prioritizing steps that help you get to know yourself here, at Heart Appeal. Interest in your personal development is the truest way to remain interesting, engaged with the world around you, and curious about others. Best of all, personal growth can look like a million different things, and this flexibility means that there will be spaces in your development for your partner to benefit, as well. Thriving relationships tend to be made out of two individuals genuinely interested in the happiness and growth of one another. Taking individual time habitually, say for an hour a day at minimum, to work on personal projects and hobbies can give you something new to chat about over dinner. It is crucial to ensure that when you are saying “yes” to another person, you aren’t simultaneously saying “no” to yourself. Even if the commute that originally gave you space and alone time was twenty minutes pre-quarantine, it’s important to continue to make that time for yourself, today.
Spontaneity doesn’t need to go away just because you can’t really leave safely. Simple dates like going on long walks, hiking, packing a picnic, and experiencing an old school, drive-in movie, are all socially distant date options. There are lists online of date ideas that either don’t take a lot of prep or can be prepared quietly. Both parties in a couple are responsible for date ideas, and surprising your partner with something new, even if it’s just cooking them a surprise dinner (or postmates-ing it but setting it up with candles and music), can inject some much-needed excitement into a weeknight. According to GoodTherapy, “Spontaneity, among other contexts, relates to a person’s ability to translate inspiration into action. In the early stages of romantic love, spontaneity dominates as excitement and novelty provide an abundance of energy with which to act.” For lots of us, the mundane actions of this pandemic-ridden year have become exhausting. Evoking things like play (water-gun fight, anyone?) creativity (Bob Ross tutorials are free on YouTube!), and learning (perhaps a language course or strategy game) in dates can help a relationship, even years after its start, feel fresh and indulgent.
All relationships need a little bit of tension. This doesn’t mean constant bickering, fiery fights, or awkward silence. Good tension in a relationship involves active communication and a genuine desire to do better and acknowledge where you might deserve better. Couples that never argue often break up. Something isn’t being communicated if you are always accepting everything rather than compromising together. As in the best romantic comedies or dramas, our emotional investment is in characters who resolve great tension. We have to do this in our own lives, as well. These conversations are usually a little scary and nearly always intimate because our cultures, upbringing, biases, and self-doubts are often involved. So long as each party is respectful, this tension can bond you closer and help you see your partner in a new light with each honest, mildly stressful discussion.
Gratitude is just as important, if not moreso, as spontaneity and tension. It can be so easy to take this person who has spent so much time with you for granted. Just because they know the stupid face you make when you brush your teeth and your preferred method of productive procrastination doesn’t mean you should consider the hard work of the relationship finished, however. Expressing gratitude will always be a thriving relationship requirement. Why? We’re human. Though it is often assumed that our loved ones know how much we adore them, this isn’t the case. Unless your partner can read minds (which would be awesome), making a habit to express your gratitude with both words and actions will bring them relief. We often don’t noticed when we are subconsciously self-doubting, so any indication from our partners that we are succeeding can do a world of good for our confidence. How should you implement this habit? Make sure you don’t go to sleep without sharing at least one genuine appreciation or celebration for your partner. For example, “I am so glad I got to cuddle with you on the couch while finishing that presentation today. It made me feel close to you.”
Don’t underestimate the power of community. Love cannot thrive if it only involves two people working alone. It is incredible how much easier it can be to discover new things about your partner on a group date or by joining a club with them. Double-dating doesn’t need to cease after high school mall trips! When you put yourself in group interactions, others can ask your partner questions about their interests, aspirations, opinions, and pleasures that you may have assumed you already understood. Sharing friends presents a unique opportunity for intimacy in a way that decreases the pressure on you and your partner to sustain constant curiosity in one another. Some people are a little different with their friends, and this is normal. Sharing your friends, at least part of the time, with your partner allows you to present this part of yourself to your loved one so they can know you more deeply.
Each of these habits can be practiced outside of quarantine, but they are especially important now. Until it is completely safe to go exploring in your town, hand in hand, venturing to bars, art galleries, or other events, your options are somewhat limited. Making personal policies of personal growth, spontaneity, positive tension, gratitude, and community can ensure that your relationship has its best chance of not only survival, but also of expansion during this pandemic.
Hi, I’m Raghed!
Founder and lead relationship coach at HeartAppeal.
Our blog will be your new favorite place to go for advice, laughs, and comfort through all the stages of dating. We stay up-to-date on all the latest dating trends, so you don’t have to. Have a topic you’d like us to cover or a story you’d like to share with our community? Send me an email; we’d love to include it!