I hope you are all doing well during this difficult and strange time. As we embark on a new chapter in history, some of the couples are struggling to coexist together while being in close quarters for extended periods of time.
Hopefully, this article will offer you some ideas on how to have a coexisting relationship and avoid getting dragged into a negative dynamic with your partner.
Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge how unsettling the current situation is. We are all trying our best to adjust to the circumstances, and in this sense, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and try to be gentle with others as we navigated this uncharted territory.
Here are a few tips to help you in understanding your partner and your relationship struggle during this time of crisis.
Communication is always important in a marriage.
But the communication style you implore in your marriage is especially important for coexisting in a marriage at such a time.
At a time when space is in short supply, and we are forced to share it for hours on end, it is essential to have a conversation about needs and expectations.
If I don’t know what my partner needs, it makes it hard for me to respect their needs.
Some of my clients pride themselves in anticipating what their partner needs. It’s true that some people are not the best at identifying and communicating their needs.
This only means that this is an area to work on, not necessarily that other’s should be responsible to always figure it out or fill in the blanks for you.
It might be helpful to set some time aside once a day or every other day to talk about needs and what might need to be adjusted.
Through proper communication, you can set relationship goals to ensure that this crisis does not engulf your marriage.
The Early Years of Marriage Project, which has been studying marriage in the US since the 1990’s. The research found that a higher percentage of couples were unhappy with a lack of privacy or time for self as compared to couples unhappy with their sex lives.
If you’re both working from home, you may need to designate two separate work stations, so neither of you is feeling crowded.
Some couples are reporting that they only have one desk. If this is the case, you might benefit from scheduling time at the desk based on the demands of your day or trading off using the desk.
Also, is it possible to create a makeshift desk area if you both need to use desk space at the same time?
If necessary, it might be helpful to order another small desk. If you can work in different rooms, this can also positively impact your experience. For couples working in the same house, you might want to try working on different floors.
Not only does giving space in a coexisting relationship keep you from getting on each other’s nerves or one another’s way, but it also helps you stay on task and productive with regard to your work.
It’s also a good time to identify a shared goal to work towards in your off time. This could be something tangible, like cleaning out your closets/general spring-cleaning or something more relational such as regularly connecting to talk or be intimate.
I would like to note that sometimes shared goals are better tackled separately.
For example, if cleaning together causes conflict, it might be better to assign tasks related to that goal that you can do on your own but also help to achieve the shared goal.
Keep in mind that working together doesn’t always mean side by side. For more relational goals, it could be helpful to create a structure to make sure you’re setting time aside to work towards your goal.
You may want to designate a certain time on specific days to come together around it.
We all cope differently with change. Some of us rise to the occasion with optimism and a positive attitude. Others might be more cynical and anxious.
Try to understand each other, especially when your partner isn’t on the same page. Find ways to support one another rather than allowing this temporary situation to create a larger divide.
Some of my clients have asked if it’s a bad thing that they are struggling to be in such close proximity without conflict. I would say it’s normal with all things considered.
Remember that we are all doing our best, and if you are coping well, try to support your partner if they’re not. Whether this involves taking over some of their tasks or giving them extra attention, it will pay off in the end.
I hope you are all staying safe and maintaining some level of sanity with all the changes happening around us. It’s easy to get off track.
Keep in mind that this might actually be an ideal time to reach out to a therapist for additional support on building a coexisting relationship. I’m sending positive light your way.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Zoë is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist practicing in midtown Manhattan. With advanced training in couples counseling and sex therapy, her practice concentrates on helping individuals and couples realize the life they want to be living by focusing on the factors that impact one’s ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship.