Life in lockdown has put enormous challenges on intimate relationships. Hello, I'm Nicola Foster, I'm a couples and sex therapist and in this article I'm offering 3 practical suggestions to support couples navigating being home together in lockdown.
Being at home most of the time has meant that we are suddenly seeing how many roles we have and how they intersect.
You might be a parent, a homeschooler, a carer for elderly parents, a co-worker, a business owner, a member of a support bubble or a volunteer in the local community - and a romantic partner.
All of this whilst navigating the personal inner anxieties of facing global pandemic.
It's no wonder relationships are showing strain. Prior to this you may have been working in separate places and only come together in the evening. Now being together all the time - how do you navigate your need for space and your need to connect? How do you create meaningful time for intimacy and meaningful time for yourself and not just exist in some merged, amorphous middle ground?
Being with somebody all the time is in some ways is very intimate. You are close. You are connected. You're spending more time together. Many couples I worked with in 2020 became closer and resolved some of the issues caused by distractions and distance between them.
But with this increased amount time together, the risk is that our behaviour becomes more habituated, more more mundane, more stuck in the routine of day-to-day life.
Real intimacy may be completely missing.
I want to offer three suggestions for ways to to develop more intimacy in your connection and avoid the mundanity of being on autopilot.
I recommend actively ring fencing time for nourishing 'we' connection. What do I mean by nourishing? Like self-care but together. It could be holding each other in a close embrace and talking quietly with the tv and phones off, or taking a bubble bath together, or watching a movie that you've actively chosen in advance. Not just the next thing on Netflix, but searching out and choosing a from your past that's meaningful to you and that you share with your partner. Something that has the potential for meaningful connection between you.
You will have already been thinking about the zones in your house, and how you use them. You've probably already identified zones for working and for home school. I really recommend finding a ways, even if you've got a small place to specify where you can go to be alone sometimes, even if it's a new stool for the kitchen or a balcony. Allocate a space and a time where you can each go and spend time undisturbed.
Then to balance this, agree on a time when you will be intentionally more connected and sharing the space. For example, making time to cook a delivery meal box together and really enjoying the process of cooking together, or going outside together to look and watch the stars, even if just for a few minutes .
Make a time to speak with each other about how much alone time you would like and how you can help each other to get it.
Plan a time to have a conversation where you're willing to be honest, and real and authentic about something. It could be raising a difficulty. Or, maybe there's something on your mind that feels vulnerable to share with your partner. I have a FREE printable guide that you can print at the end of this article.
Here are a few key tips:
- Decide who this conversation is for
- Sit close enough to touch - knees in contact
- Make eye contact (looking away as much as you need to stay relaxed)
- Reflect back what your partner says to check that you understood them
- Share what you're experiencing in your body (e.g. my heart is racing, or, my belly is tight)
When we share what's going on in our body with our partner, when we sit together with a little bit of contact, when we risk a little bit of eye contact and some physical contact - it's completely different to just having a normal day to day conversation.
Real magic can happen. It might not be easy but the more you risk being in honest connection with each other, the less the risk of drafting apart and becoming more like housemates.
The next blog in this Love in Lockdown series will be about creating more desire or passion in your partnership...if you have a question about that let me know at [email protected]
Download your FREE GUIDE to DEEPENING INTIMACY here...
If you are in a relationship where intimacy is an issue, I offer self-study course 'Reigniting Intimacy' for you and your partner to work through - it will be launching in May 2021 - at a very special introductory offer price.