Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Communication, Conflict, connected, Coronavirus, Couple's counselling, Couples, COVID-19, lockdown, Uncategorized

10 Ways to help you stay connected with your partner during lockdown

The lockdown in Sydney has been challenging for all of us, but especially for couples who are working and have children and teenagers in the home. I am hearing this in my couple and family counselling work, and also living it!  

Parents have found themselves working (sometimes longer hours than before), supervising home schooling, cleaning and then trying to come up with different activities to keep their kids off screens and connected to friends. Many couples tell me they have no time for themselves individually, let alone as a couple – and certainly very little privacy as the kids are always there.  

I have had to think creatively to help couples stay connected. It all comes down to what we can control in a situation where we feel is largely out of our control. Here are some of my ideas for you and your partner:-

  1. Dates: Okay so we all know we can’t book a restaurant or a show. But we can set up a separate room in the house or apartment with candles, a table and chairs and order in adult food. You may need to do this after your kids are in bed if they are very small. You may be able to do this during the day while your kids watch a movie. The key to this is to get away from the main part of your home so you have privacy. You may need to set up this date in your bedroom if this is the only space you have.

  2. Time: Set aside a time to talk. Don’t try and do this at the end of the day when you are both exhausted. Do this during daytime hours when you are both not working and hopefully not tired. Or go to bed half an hour early to talk and connect. Or when the kids are watching a movie.

  3. Talk: Most couples are telling me they are too exhausted to talk at the end of the day during lockdown so take this expectation out of your week. But ensure you allocate two separate one-hour sessions in the weekend or another day if this is the day you don’t work. Ensure you are not negative talking. Negative talk is not only unproductive but also depressing. Focus on solutions and positive dialogue.

  4. Gratitude: Everyone feels like they are working hard and wants to be appreciated for this. Take the time to thank you partner for what they are doing to contribute to keeping everything going. Also go through with your partner what you are both grateful for. This is good to do at the dinner table with the whole family.

  5. Goals and projects: Set yourself some goals and projects as a couple. “But we can’t do anything right now” I hear you say. That’s not true. You can still make five-year plans and you can also set up short term goals that are still within the limits of the Sydney lockdown. Workshop your ideas first and then work out what you can do to get these projects started. Remember we can do a lot of things online; we can get things started. We can map projects out.

  6. Take a day off work together: A day off where you are not cleaning and doing chores. Order in a lovely lunch. Relax, read books together and if your children are old enough, go take a nap.

  7. Gifts: Send your partner flowers (or something else): home delivery flowers will also support a local business. It’s truly delightful to see a beautiful bunch of flowers in your home during lockdown and your partner will appreciate the thought.

  8. Physical contact: It’s great for kids to see parents hug and kiss each other. Try the six second kiss which John Gottman discovered is the time required to slow the heart rate, relax the nervous system and bond with your partner. If you would like more tips on physical contact read ways to feel closer to your partner here. I can guarantee you that if you make physical contact with each other during lockdown you will feel less stressed, and your kids will feel happier and more secure as well.

  9. Boundaries: Structure in your work time, family time and couple time. Be mindful to not let work, emails, screens bleed into every aspect of your life.

  10. Exercise and laughter: Walk together if your kids are old enough, and or online exercise together. Sex is also another great way to exercise and stay connected. If getting the time to come together to have sex is tricky right now, make time to talk about ways to get around this issue. Watch funny movies together.
The key to staying happily connected to your partner during a difficult lockdown is to be solution focused rather than problem focused. The reality is we can still work within the limits of the lockdown to ensure we stay connected to our partners.
 
And remember – don’t wait to seek help if your relationship is in trouble during lockdown. Couples Counsellors are all working and online Couples Counselling is not only doable but highly effective.

About Jacqueline Jacqueline has been in private practice for more than two decades, helping individuals, couples and families.  She has extensive experience in couple and family therapy and is considered a specialist in these areas. In her clinical practice, she has helped people deal with complex trauma, affairs, complex mental health issues, eating disorders, adolescent behavioural problems (including self-harm and suicidal ideation), behavioural issues in young children which are impacting parents and families, relationship issues and post-separation work. Jacqueline works with many different dynamics: couples, parents, families with young children, same-sex couples, foster/adopted families, families with teenagers and also adult families.  She is particularly interested in helping parents of children with behavioural issues, or with diagnosed conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, ASD and so on. Although Jacqueline’s work is supportive and friendly, she will challenge her couples and families to make the necessary behavioural changes, to repair relationships and to move towards healthier communication styles in the future. Jacqueline’s style is direct and fast paced and she is known for quickly getting to the heart of the matter.  Clients report that they feel safe and understood with Jacqueline. Qualifications and Professional Membership Jacqueline has a Masters in Couple and Family Therapy (UNSW). She has a Bachelor degree in Counselling and Human Change, and a Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling. Jacqueline is a Clinical Supervisor for Counsellors and Therapists. She lectures in couple and family therapy at Masters and Post Graduate level, and is currently Head Lecturer for the Couple and Family Therapy course (Masters) at the Jansen Newman Institute.  She has been a Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and Sydney University, and continues to guest lecture at other tertiary institutions. Jacqueline is also the Director of the Couple and Family Training Centre where she runs regular professional development workshops and seminars for Therapists, Counsellors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Health Industry Workers who are looking to gain skills in this specialist area. She is a Clinical Member of the Family Therapy Association of Australia and a Clinical Member of PACFA. “Thank you for seeing me today. Your help with all our family issues and all your advice has been invaluable. I don’t know how other families do it, without a Jacqueline in their lives.” – Anna (43) step-mum and mum to four children. If you feel as though you could benefit from talking with a Therapist please contact  The Sydney Couple and Family Specialists on 02 8968 9397 or email info@sydneycoupleandfamily.com.

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