Since the COVID-19 lockdown started, many aspects of our lives have changed. We’ve all had to adapt, balancing the various elements that come with this ‘new normal’. It’s not been easy for many people, and some have found that it can be hard to maintain healthy relationships in lockdown.
Thankfully, despite the difficult conditions, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your relationships thriving. Whether you’re living together or apart, these small actions can make a significant difference.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
Before we get into advice on how to maintain healthy relationships in lockdown, let’s look at what one actually looks like. A good place to start is the definition and ten signs of a healthy relationship outlined by One Love. These are:
- A comfortable pace
- Taking responsibility
- Healthy conflict
By their definition, “healthy relationships bring out the best in you and make you feel good about yourself.” This doesn’t mean you have to be blissfully happy all the time. However, everyone involved should feel supported and connected, while still having their independence.
Why is it important?
Our relationships, romantic or otherwise, are often a central part of our lives. As such, they can hold huge sway over our emotional and even physical wellbeing. Various studies have shown the importance of social relationships. They can have long- and short-term impacts on our health, for better and worse.
A positive relationship can help to reduce stress, encourage healthy lifestyle choices, give you a sense of purpose, and even make you live longer. So, to maintain healthy relationships in lockdown is to help take care of your and your loved ones’ physical and emotional wellbeing.
Of course, all kinds of challenges present themselves as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Whether you’re living together or separately, it can be a difficult time for everyone. It’s also a time where having strong relationships is more important than ever.
Long-distance relationships can be challenging at the best of times. However, during lockdown, couples living separately were advised not to meet up until restrictions are relaxed.
When it comes to friends and families, meeting more than one person from outside your household is still off the cards. Even as the restrictions ease slightly, social distancing rules mean that you won’t be able to do many of the things you did before the pandemic.
Have regular catch-ups
Keeping in touch is crucial during this difficult period. No matter what your living arrangements are, it’s common for people to feel a little isolated and lonely during lockdown. Regular catch-ups with the important people in your life can help combat those feelings, and keep you feeling connected.
Remember, communication is an essential part of a healthy relationship. So, taking the time to schedule calls and chats is key for maintaining your emotional bonds. Talk to others about when you want to catch-up, and make sure you follow through with those plans if possible.
Technology gives us so many ways to connect with people, even during lockdown. Whether it’s sending messages throughout the day, calling on the phone, or video chatting, make sure you choose a method you’re both comfortable with.
When you chat, talk about the positives from your day. This could be the small achievements, something that made you smile, or a memory from your past. Also check in with how each of you is doing emotionally. Discuss whether there is anything you can work on together.
However, also be respectful of each other’s boundaries. You don’t want to bombard each other all day every day, especially if one or both of you is still working. It can lead to frustrations and distractions. Instead, take some time to spend working on your own interests. Check out our post on how to find a new hobby in lockdown if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Do some shared activities
With the abundance of ways we can stay connected, our options aren’t limited to just having a conversation on the phone. There are plenty of things you can do together, even if you’re not physically in the same place. They can help bring a feeling of normality back to your day-to-day life.
So, where to start when you’re trying to maintain healthy relationships in lockdown? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Play games. There are tons of great games you can play together online. Traditional games like cards and chess are always enjoyable, while modern console and PC games present endless opportunities. Compete against each other or side by side.
- Cook. Getting creative in the kitchen is always a good way to spend time during lockdown. Although you might not be in the same place as your partner, friends or family, that doesn’t mean you can’t cook together. Choose a recipe and see whose culinary skills are up to the challenge.
- Watch a movie or TV show. Many of us have spent time streaming media over the last few weeks. So why not try watching your favourites together? Apps like TwoSeven and Netflix Party let multiple people stream the same content while letting you text or video chat at the same time.
- Write a song. For the creative among us, time in lockdown has meant more time to work on passion projects. It’s the perfect time to collaborate on something creative together, such as making music.
- Take a course. One excellent way to get the conversation flowing is to learn something new together. With our boredom-busting courses, you can find all kinds of fascinating topics to study and chat about.
Send a care package or letter
One aspect that many people are struggling with is the lack of physical human contact. This ‘skin hunger’ can be challenging, especially for those who are usually quite tactile. One way to maintain some semblance of physical connectedness is to send something nice to the people you care about most.
Whether it’s a hand-written letter or a care package, sending something tangible can give your loved ones a huge boost. Think about including some of their favourite things and encourage them to write you back.
Make future plans
Start planning that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Think about how you can celebrate an upcoming (or recently passed) birthday. Discuss your options for when people can start congregating.
All of these can give you something to look forward to, and give you and your loved ones some light at the end of the tunnel.
As challenging as it can be living apart, living in close quarters can also bring its difficulties. You may have gone from having the relative freedom to come and go to being quarantined for weeks on end. No matter whom you’re living with, friends, family, or a partner, lockdown can put a strain on things.
To maintain healthy relationships in lockdown can also mean navigating the complexities of living together.
Give each other space
Setting boundaries is an essential element of a positive relationship, no matter what’s going on in the world. At this unusual time, they become all the more vital. Having some alone time to focus on your own wants and needs can help to relieve the stresses of life in lockdown.
Make sure to discuss where your boundaries are with the people you’re living with. You should let each other know when and how you want to spend some time alone. It’s then important to respect these wishes and come up with a plan that meets everyone’s needs.
Even if physical space is at a premium, some mental space can be equally beneficial. Taking and giving time for things like reading, playing video games, meditating, chatting with people outside your house, and more is all essential.
When thinking about this physical and mental space, it’s vital that everyone involved respects the situation and is prepared to compromise. You may want to plan out such times if space is tight at home. By doing so, you can make sure everyone has their needs met.
Work on your communication
Communication skills form a central part of any strong relationship. The ability to discuss and explain your thoughts, feelings and needs helps create a fulfilling and trusting bond. Of course, it’s also something that needs to be mutually practised, meaning listening skills are also helpful.
When trying to maintain healthy relationships in lockdown, the need for communication becomes greater. The extra stresses that come with social distancing, and more time under the same roof can leave things fraught. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives and forget to communicate.
Take some time out of your schedule to focus on communicating with the person or people you live with. Discuss how you’re all feeling, how the situation is affecting you, and what your wants and needs are. Make sure that you give enough time for everyone to speak, which again requires some active listening.
It shouldn’t be something that focuses purely on the negatives either. Share your positive thoughts and emotions, such as what you appreciate about your loved ones and how important they are to you. Keep your tone of voice light and level, and take responsibility for your own feelings and actions.
Make a plan
Regardless of how many other people you share your household with, lockdown life can bring chaos to your daily schedule. If you’re not careful, the days start to blend into one long pyjama-fest. Although this may sound appealing, in reality, it can cause tensions and frustrations.
Creating a plan for your household gives everyone the chance to contribute to the day-to-day running of the house. So, think about chores, cooking, and the essentials that need doing.
However, you don’t have to limit yourself to the mundane. Make sure to have fun with your planning, such as allocating who chooses the playlist, which quiz rounds everyone is doing, and what movie or series you’re going to binge.
Although you’re limited to the activities you can do outside your home, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring some fun inside it. Try and organise fun things to do on certain days. Doing so can help you and your cohabitants have something different to look forward to.
Like to wine and dine? Organise a grand banquet and cook some extravagant dishes together. If you’re a culture vulture, why not get dressed up for a night at the home theatre? Try and bring some of the excitement of the things you usually do to your lockdown living.
Not only does this help to maintain healthy relationships, but it can help you forget about the world for a while.
Discover something new
Sometimes, the conversation can run dry when you spend all day every day together. Let’s face it, the chances are you already know the other person’s day – you were there. So it can be helpful to find something new to explore and discuss.
You could take a history course about a period you’ve a special interest in or choose an area of politics you don’t know much about. By studying the same subject, it’s sure to spark questions, debate and conversation. If you like to write, a literature course can set you on the way to penning a poem, screenplay or novel together.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Healthy conflict is something that all strong relationships need. Whether it’s with a friend, partner, or family member, it’s vital to discuss issues and disagreements openly. That being said, during lockdown, things can get a little fraught. Sometimes, you’re going to need to let minor things slide.
Everyone has their strange habits and idiosyncrasies. It’s what makes us unique. But under the microscope of pandemic living, these things can amplify and seem bigger than they are. It’s a good idea to mentally check in with yourself, so you don’t sweat every minor annoyance.
Of course, boundaries are still really important. But we all have to be a bit understanding of the people we live with. Try and let the small things go, and discuss openly and in a positive manner when you can’t.
It can be easy to feel dissatisfied with life at the moment. These strange and unprecedented times are leaving many of us craving for the things we had before lockdown. Yet this feeling of dissatisfaction can have negative consequences on many areas of life, including relationships.
One really positive way to combat dissatisfaction is to practise gratitude. It can refocus your attention towards all the good things (and people) in your life right now. Even the simple act of writing down the things you’re grateful for every few days has been proven to make you feel better.
Look after your mental health
The last point about gratitude brings us to a broader topic, that of mental health. It’s something that we all have a responsibility to take care of, particularly during the current situation.
By taking care of your own mental health, you’re also better positioned to maintain healthy relationships in lockdown. You can offer support and advice to those you care about, whether they’re living with you at the moment or not.
In a separate post, we looked at how to stay healthy during lockdown. We looked at some of the ways you can take care of your physical and mental health at this time.
Consider your needs, and theirs
The majority of people are finding the current situation tough. But that doesn’t make your struggle any less valid. You can tend to your own needs in various ways, including:
- Practising mindfulness. The simple act of being aware and present in the current moment can help you feel calm and reduce anxiety. It can also benefit your relationships and communication skills.
- Eating well. Our diets play a huge role in our physical and emotional wellbeing. Make sure to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Finding coping strategies. There are various ways that you can thrive during these trying times. By learning some coping mechanisms, you can reflect on the situation and respond effectively.
- Managing stress. Although a little bit of stress is normal, too much can have many negative impacts on your life. Finding ways to cope with and combat stress can be hugely beneficial.
- Limiting screen time. Although technology can certainly be helpful during lockdown, too much can be a bad thing. Learning about digital wellbeing and how technology impacts our lives can bring many benefits.
By learning about all of these topics, you can also help the other people in your life deal with their difficulties. If the young people in your life are having a tough time, a course on helping them manage low mood and depression could be useful.
Lockdown has been particularly hard on people’s mental health, even for those who have never suffered poor mental health before. We have worked with our partners to create specific courses to help you manage your mental health and support your household during lockdown.
Life may seem pretty strange these days, but it’s our relationships that help get us through. By spending the time to focus on maintaining your social bonds, you’re helping yourself and the people you care about.
Whether you’re living in close quarters with your loved ones or having to remain socially distant, there are challenges. But learning about some strategies for dealing with your situation can make things seem more manageable.