Are you seeking quiet time for yourself? Do you miss connecting with your partner?

Throughout the years I’ve been practicing, couples often talk about the wish to spend more time at home with each other and their family. So, here we are during Covid-19, able and available for family togetherness. Yet, for many families, this idealistic wish has become an insurmountable crisis of so much closeness, that there comes a breaking point in which many couples are desperate to find opportunities to be alone. We have so little occasion during this pandemic and uncertain quarantine to figure out ways of navigating ourselves and our family out of this frustrating cycle. Couples’ and families’ relationships, in other words, seems to be either all in or all out. We need space but we also need connection, and generally, people’s needs don’t always correspond one to the other.

I know of a couple who became extremely jealous of one another, an emotion that never arose prior to the coronavirus. One partner’s free periods stirred resentment in the other, as home schooling and work occupied more and more of each partner’s resources and time. Communication between the couple was terse and tense. As we began remote therapy I noticed that neither had much compassion or sympathy for him or herself or the other. Life had to be lived according to work and school schedules, children around all day long, allowing for little time to relax with the connections they used to have. At times, the wife’s job became so consuming, that she continued working long after their kids went to sleep, leaving her partner alone, depleted and resentful as the household cleaner. The drink after the kids’ bedtimes, the music they’d listen to, the exchange of the day’s news, all disappeared. All that was left between the two was bitterness, loneliness and a sense of defeat.

This is such an unhappy scenario, that it’s painful to even write about. The New York Times ran a recent article by Reggie Ugwu entitled, “Bad Things Happen, Accepting It Is Good.” In it, he wrote, “The hard part is accepting that it’s [life] never one way or another.” In other words, we need both space and connection. We need gentleness and liveliness and we need to figure out how to parcel these out. Connection, attachment and trust are the touchstones for a healthy relationship. In a marriage that has been faltering, the quarantine puts undue stress on an already frayed system, and for couples who’d been able to grow and complement one another, the coronavirus has changed the rules by which they’d been managing. It’s time to take a fresh look at the couple and family system.

Attend to the moment in which you find yourself. You can only live in this moment because the past is gone and the future isn’t here yet. Listen to the specific words of your partner and/or children, not in the old way, but in a new one, one created by NOW. What are they saying? Do they need something from you or just need to be listened to? Judgment and condemnation won’t provide answers. What do you want in this moment? A stretch of quiet time? Take it by asking for help. Help isn’t a sign of weakness; rather, it’s one of trust and connection. Let your needs guide you. You’re not being selfish when you take some time for yourself. You’re modeling self-care.

Most importantly, don’t give up. Look at your life in small chunks. Were these hours successful? Why or why not? Can you create a few private moments with your partner? Can you do the same with each of your children? You’ll find that you have more control over your emotions than you had once thought. And this can help guide you through the stressful times of your family life.

IN SUM:

*Stay in the moment.
*Ask for help from your partner.
*Stay Positive.
*Take a large and weighty problem and break it into chunks.
*Take the time to really connect with your partner/family.