Staying Strong While Staying Together
With COVID-19 quarantine, the economy and the stress of life right now, relationships can struggle under the strain. Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist Erin Wiley, MA, LPC, LPCC shares tips and insights on keeping relationships strong and healthy during these times.
“Like never before, couples are finding they have more time together. Working from home, a lack of late-night meetings, a reduction in travel—all of these combined have meant more time to connect with our significant others,” Wiley explains. “People who are intentional to use this time wisely are shutting off their television at night and working to create greater intimacy with their partner. Meaningful conversation, working together on projects around the house, making meals together, playing games, and having intimate romantic connections are all ways to use this time to benefit your relationship.”
Rather than simply survive this crisis, couples can use this as an opportunity to grow a deeper connection with each other, Wiley believes. Here are five tips to strengthen relationships with significant others:
Couples should spend time talking about their feelings during this difficult time. Just as important, if not more so, is validating each other’s experiences and feelings. People tend to want to rescue others from difficult feelings, but sometimes people just need space to process their emotions before they can fully move through them to the other side.
Couples should try and find time to have meaningful conversation, even if it is just 10 minutes a day; talking about more than the everyday tasks that must be accomplished. Ask each other questions about your childhood, your current goals, and future hopes and dreams. Many couples find even after decades together that there are still things to discover that will deepen your knowledge of each other.
Exercise, whether together or alone, is extremely helpful for increasing positive brain chemistry and working out stress. Taking the time to go on a walk outside the house when possible gives couples a change of scenery that is likely much needed. Even if pushing a stroller or bringing the dogs along, walking is a simple activity that gives couples the chance to move together and reconnect through uninterrupted conversation.
Take a break from electronics
Constantly having a screen in front of one’s face does not allow for quality interpersonal communication. Setting aside a couple hours a night or a day a week to going tech-free really forces couples to prioritize each other with face-to-face interaction. It gives the mind a break and challenges us to find ways to reconnect intentionally with our significant other.
Be a helper to your partner
Asking daily, “What can I do to help you today?” is a simple way to make sure you are actively working to meet your partner’s needs. Whether it is a good, long hug, help with laundry, a listening ear, or assistance with the kids, checking in to see what your partner’s immediate needs are is a way of putting a “deposit” in your love bank. Having a full account means that, when times get tough, you will have a cushion to fall back on for a withdrawal.
Many couple counselors, Wiley included, have noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of couples seeking therapy and relationship coaching. “If you are struggling you should reach out to a competent, qualified professional with training, and credentials. Any of us who have been in lifelong marriages can tell you: marriage is hard and takes lots of work,” Wiley believes. “No one inherently knows how to be a great spouse/significant other; it takes years to become proficient at being in a successful relationship.”
Without the proper training and skills, Wiley does not know how any couple can make the decision to end their relationship. “You can’t know if you can flourish as a couple until you learn the tools to create a happy relationship,” she states. ”
I would highly suggest that couples who are struggling call and schedule a telehealth therapy appointment with someone who can show them how they might be able to repair their relationship before ending it. And plenty of couples who are not in crisis have started calling for counseling too. This is an opportune time to reach out to someone who can help equip you with the lessons you need to make your romantic life happier and more fulfilling.Erin Wiley, MA, LPC, LPCC, is a clinical psychotherapist and the executive director of The Willow Center, a counseling practice in Toledo, Ohio. The clinical focus of her therapy work is marriage, family, parenting and relationships. She has extensive training in marriage counseling from the Gottman Institute, located in Seattle. Her most recent area of research involves the study of the management and regulation of emotion as it pertains to mental health. erin-wiley.com