Stuck in the Middle with You
How to Live with People During Quarantine.
As America comes to grips with the reality of Covid-19, the terms social distancing, self-quarantine, and lockdown are making their way more and more into our daily conversation. There’s a lot of information out there about ways to stay connected with family, friends, and co-workers when we can’t be with them physically. But what about those people with whom you might be feeling, ahem, a bit too connected?
If you’re quarantining with a spouse or partner, children, or roommate, you already know: it’s not all fun and games! From kids interrupting conference calls to learning to share an office with your spouse to the near-endless stream of dirty dishes, many of us find ourselves in new and challenging day-to-day circumstances. When we’re with someone 24/7–especially when we don’t have the option to go elsewhere – it’s easy to feel stuck, overwhelmed, annoyed, and even angry. Here are some tips to get along better, and even strengthen your relationships, with the people you’re quarantined with.
This is relationship tip number one in just about any situation, but communication is even more important when you’re stuck in quarantine. You and your housemates will inevitably get on each other’s nerves. Ignoring your problems and feelings will only lead to resentment and damaged relationships.
One way to establish strong communication is to schedule regular household meetings. During these meetings, each person in the household should have the chance to air their feelings and pain points. But remember, the point isn’t just to get things out–you also need to work together to find ways to resolve problems and miscommunications.
Another important factor to remember when it comes to communicating with your quarantine buddies is timing. Don’t try to discuss a problem or situation when either of you are still upset. Take some time to cool down first, and then talk it out.
Finally, don’t just focus on the negative! Your kids are probably used to receiving praise or acknowledgment at school, and we adults certainly like being appreciated and acknowledged at work. Thank your family members when they help out or praise them for doing something well. You could even set up a “good job jar” where household members can jot down nice notes about the good things they see their loved ones doing. You can read these notes during your household meetings, and even choose a “member of the week”!
Get some space.
Maybe the gym has always been your happy place. Maybe you find peace and quiet during your evening drive home from work. These escapes might be off-limits to us right now, but we can still find ways to get much-needed “me time.”
Go for a short walk (it’s healthy to get outside!), take a relaxing shower, or go to bed half an hour earlier than your partner to read a good book. Especially if you don’t have a lot of space, these simple fixes can be real relationship (and mental health) savers!
If you have kids who are old enough to be left alone, set aside thirty minutes a day when they’re not allowed to bother you unless it’s an emergency. Set them up with a movie and then go read a book, bang out a few push-ups and crunches, play a game on your phone–whatever you need to do to come back a little bit refreshed.
Again, communication is key here. If you need to hop on a conference call but your spouse is typing away loudly, see if they could do something else for a while or take their computer to another room. If your roommate asks you to watch a movie but you really just want to read your magazine, speak up. When you need space, don’t be afraid to ask for it!
Focus on quality time.
You’ve got the quantity, that’s for sure. But what about the quality of time you’re spending with your loved ones in quarantine?
It’s easier and more tempting than ever to while away the days on our screens. But this is actually the perfect time to put down the phones and reconnect with the people who mean the most to you! Break out an old board game or multi-player video game. Listen to a podcast or audiobook together and then discuss it. Cook a meal together. Play charades. Write and put on a family play. Talk about your lives, your favorite memories, your hopes and dreams for the future–and really listen.
Using this time to make positive memories can help reduce fears about the future and lead to stronger, more resilient relationships.
Go easy on them–and on yourself.
We are living in unprecedented times. The news seems to change hour by hour, and much of it remains bleak. We are all experiencing fear, grief, and uncertainty. We are all human. So give your loved ones a little leeway when they’re not acting like their best selves, and do the same for yourself.
One way to do this is to “practice the pause” –count to five before reacting to negative behavior or situations. This can give you enough time to take a breath and remind yourself that everyone is just doing the best they can. You can then react with a little more patience and grace. You can even teach your kids to do this by counting out loud with them when you sense tension and tempers starting to flare.
We may not know when or how, but this time will pass. By using these simple tips, you can help your family, and yourself, come out even stronger on the other side.