Quarantine Q & A

Question: We are a couple who've been together for 12 years, we have no children & are alone together in a city for Covid 19 quarantine - things between us are reasonably good but we both feel that we've emotionally distanced from each other a bit & a little boredom & monotony has crept into our sex life over the years. 

We're both continuing to work at home, & this is going OK for us both so far, but we would love to use this time to deepen our connection, to invest time & energy in 'us' while we have the gift of this time that we may never have so easily, or so guilt-free!, again. What tips or practices, that won't cost us any money to learn, can you suggest that would help us do that? 

Response: Ah, how lovely, to be 'stuck' at home with your beloved for so long & to see the opportunity in it! I've been asked this question many times over the last 8 or so weeks & I'm happy to respond here in a general way that will, I hope, be useful to many couples at this time.

It's important to say, though, that I don't know the specifics of your relationship, so, the following is quite general.

The first thing I want to suggest you do is use a notebook to collate & gather the thoughts, ideas & plans that you come up with over the coming weeks, it should be a notebook that's used for nothing else. If you have one to hand, great, if not can you re-purpose something else, or maybe use a shared cloud file? or perhaps even put a rush order on a nice one purchased online?

A shared notebook is a great place to jot down ideas for dates, holidays, classes to take together in-person when life changes again, books you want to buy or borrow from a library to read together, videos you want to watch etc as well as a place to note what works well & not so well for you in terms of the following suggestions. It can also be a place to put reminders to yourselves about topics of conversation, things that happened that you'd like to come back to talk about at another time.


1. Acknowledge to yourselves & each other that this is a unique time, a time out of time, acknowledge that there may be challenges given that you're spending so much time together & that tensions may, but not necessarily, arise. Also, acknowledge to yourselves & each other how you truthfully feel about the relationship at this time - where & how could it feel more satisfying & what parts of the relationship feel really good? Expressing gratitude & showing appreciation for our partner are both crucial ingredients in satisfying relationships.


2. Keep a distance! It may sound strange given that you've asked me how to deepen into connection & I suggest distance as something to 'do', bear with me, there's a reason for it. 

Spending 24/7 together may feel great for some couples, some couples may be able to keep the erotic charge in their relationship fired up in such close & constant proximity, but my experience is that most can't, especially long term past 7 or 8 years. What happens when we are too close to each other, when we spend all our available time together, when we have the same hobbies, friends & are beside each other, physically & emotionally, all the time there is no space for a desire to get closer to develop & grow, the desire to connect diminishes because we feel connected all the time already. Desire requires distance for yearning & longing to move into that space.

Under lockdown you can can create distance by, for example, doing different online courses & sharing your learnings with each other, reading different books & sharing what you enjoy about your book, or learned from it, with your partner, going for a walk (if you can) separately & coming back to your partner with news of what you experienced. If you have space, work in different rooms so you're not in each other's physical company when working. Take turns cooking, surprise your partner with what's for dinner, lunch or breakfast. Plan 'dates' taking it in turns to plan one or more each per week. A date might be a 'movie night' with popcorn, the lights low & the sofa cushions on the floor, or it might be a moonlit late-night picnic with candles in your back garden, if you have a tent you could maybe pitch it in the garden & sleep out for the night & have a small fire, a date might be an afternoon massage session in the bedroom or a surprise bubble bath (if that's your beloved's 'thing'!), or maybe take an online dance class together. Get creative with what's at your disposal in terms of the resources where you live & online, have fun with it & risk feeling ''silly'' for the sake of having some fun & breaking the monotony.


3. Create specific time to connect, mindfully, each day. Yes, you're around each other all the time, it may feel like you're 'in' connection all the time but often this might not be mindful or completely conscious - make it so.
You can do this by agreeing that each day you will spend 30 minutes, an hour or however much time you want in conscious connection, don't make it too long though or it will slip into the realms of something that's taken for granted. This is a time to share how you are, how you're feeling, it's NOT a time to discuss bills, house renovations, work or relatives etc, it is for you & your partner intimately. 

Ideally, touch each other as you verbally share with each other. Make sure the touch is mindful, you're both aware of what you're doing, it's not absent minded touch. It might simply be holding each other's feet or one hand, hands don't have to move, a hand placed deliberately & intentionally will feel better than a hand moving in a particular just because that's what it's always done.

You can set up a space for this purpose - for example, you could create a nest on the floor of blankets & cushions, for example, sit close to each other, connect physically by touching & looking into each other's eyes.

You can agree that it is a time to touch each other, if that's what you wish on a given day then ask each other what you'd like in that space & at that time. It might be a slow and gentle head massage, it might be just to lie in each other's arms or to sit holding hands, it might be that you want to have passionate sex - ask for what you want, be clear, negotiate with your partner so you both understand & are both consenting to what's happening. This is an ideal time to improve your communication skills by
a) knowing what you want
b) being able to communicate that clearly
c) being able to clearly understand what it is your partner is asking for
d) negotiating what's happening so that both of you are fully consenting.

If you'd like some support around this email info@bethwallace.org & we can send you instructions for an exercise that's designed to help two people have clearer communication about touch. There is no cost for this.


4. Use this time to learn more about each other, one of the ways I recommend couples do this is by using The Gottman Institutes' free card game app. I suggest you BOTH download it to your phones & take turns at being the person who initiates playing the game - maybe once or twice a week each for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.

Earlier this year I started training in The Gottman Method of couples therapy, their work is built on research that's come from working with 100s of 1000s of couples over decades of work as therapists. While the strict use of one method doesn't work for me as a therapist there are many pieces of it that I think are valuable, one of them is the card game. You'll find it here. There are different levels of the game going from light & easy conversation designed to help couples learn about each other, & have relevant conversations, to sexual requests & suggestions.


5. Use this time to explore yourself. The most influential part of how we experience our intimate relationships is how we experience ourselves. We bring patterns of behaviour, beliefs & ideas with us into our adult relationships, some of them work in healthy ways & some of them don't. How can you explore yourself, understand yourself more deeply in order to bring a healthier & happier you to the relationship?

There are many books I suggest on the reading list linked below, & that's a great place to start as most people in most countries who might be reading this have access to book deliveries, at least. A good place to start might be with the books in the ''Relationships'' section. You'll find the book lists here.


I hope this is a time of joyful & satisfying deepening relationship for you! If you'd like to book an online consultation for more in-depth discussion & ideas email info@bethwallace.org.


Last updated 16/04/2020