For the vast majority of couples right now, living in the midst of a pandemic has increased stress levels, caused more friction to appear between them, and created extra layers of difficulty that couples are struggling to navigate.  Maybe you’ve found that over the last 6 months or so the stress in your marriage has increased, or you and your partner are fighting more than usual. Perhaps you and your spouse are struggling to manage day-to-day routines now that the normal rhythm of life has been disrupted.

Relationships take a lot of work and care, and even in the best of circumstances, constant attention is needed to consistently maintain a healthy relationship. High-stress situations, such as a pandemic, bring their own set of unique challenges and difficulties, and often the impact can be most visible in our closest relationships. However, with intentional focus, frequent check-ups, and fine-tuning skills, you can maintain a healthy relationship, more effectively navigate your relationship, or even improve your relationship during this stressful time.

Here are three ways you can implement today to continue maintaining your relationship, reduce the stress in your relationship, or improve your connection.

  1. Identify and manage your own personal stress level well. 

At a time when stress, anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, it’s even more crucial to take a step back and assess how you are impacted personally. When individual stress levels are high, our tolerance level lowers significantly. When this happens, simple conversations may quickly escalate into bigger problems. Managing your individual stress level and practicing great self-care can help make sure you are bringing the best ‘you’ to the relationship.

  1. Bump up the communication

It’s no secret that communication plays a significant role in maintaining healthy relationships. What we don’t always consider is that stressful situations may require even more communication than normal. What might have worked well for you and your partner pre-pandemic may not work at all now. Unless you have conversations about changed expectations and needs, it’s possible conflict may increase.

Frequently and directly let your partner know what you need.  Life does not feel normal when living in a high-stress situation, and it’s not uncommon that needs might change more often.  If you need more time to connect, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, if you’re struggling with childcare, or if you’re tired, let your partner know.  Just having the conversation will help you practice good self-care, open up the channel of communication, and invite your partner into your struggles.  This practice will also increase intimacy and connection between you and your partner.

Even when we’re not living life in the middle of a pandemic, we find that one of the major areas couples often struggle with is communication, and they experience significant conflict as a result.  When we help couples get to the heart of the issues they’re experiencing, we often find there are unmet needs and expectations that have never been voiced. Making sure you intentionally communicate during this time will ensure that expectations and needs are clear, and even if frustration and spats still happen, you will have a more accurate understanding of what you’re both talking about!

  1. Create healthy expectations and balance

For some, life may not feel too different than before the pandemic and the structure of life hasn’t changed all that much, but for the vast majority of us, life and structure in the home has changed significantly. For many, at least one, if not both, partners are working from now. Instead of rituals and routines where families regroup in the evenings and on weekends, now everyone is home, all the time, shoulder to shoulder, sharing the same space.

In an effort to create a balanced approach to both time and boundaries in the relationship, set parameters around alone and couple time, and agree on the expectations each of you have. It can be tempting to ‘suffocate’ your partner with too much couple time, or too many ‘to-do’s’ while you’re both home more, but just because you may be around each other more doesn’t mean that healthy expectations regarding alone time shouldn’t be considered.

If you’ve been looking for a way to connect or maintain your relationship with your partner during this pandemic, consider implementing these 3 steps.

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