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The A-Z of connecting with your partner during isolation (Part 1: Positive actions)

connecting with your partnerFor those of us who are currently in relationships, living together and coping with self-isolation, I believe there is a possibility for increasing closeness and connectedness during this challenging time of COVID-19.

All of us like to think life is predictable and that we can make plans for the future. Then you start to try to conceive, it doesn’t happen in the timeframe you were hoping for. Sex no longer feels so sexy, you consult a fertility specialist and are told you need treatment. Suddenly that longed for baby that you had planned to be born in Summer feels very far away. Meanwhile friends and family are having babies around you. All of this is stressful and can take its toll on your most intimate relationships. Now add a pandemic and social isolation to the equation and all challenges can escalate.

To help you, I’ve put together a series of notes on maintaining and repairing relationships during this unprecedented time. They’re based on my personal and professional experience as a family and couple therapist and working at Genea for the past 17 years.

You could use them as if you are starting a new “exercise plan” - deciding that the eventual goal is a healthier relationship. If so:

  1. Plan, Monitor and Practice – no instant rewards are promised
  2. Accept it may feel forced and artificial at first
  3. Learn from your ‘lapses’ and try again.

Alternatively, you may use the notes as tips and hints. Most of us have at least some relationship struggles, often hidden from view … there are NO perfect relationships.

There are 26 tips in all – starting with A of course! This first set focuses on positive actions.

Tired, irritable, can’t concentrate? Wondering why you can’t cope with your moods. Switching between blaming yourself and your partner? You’re not the only one feeling this. It's really normal in close relationships during anxious times. And being ‘isolated together’ is a major additional stress and very foreign for most of us. Building a more solid, loving foundation before or as treatment starts may be one of the most significant and productive things you ever do as a couple and will stand you in good stead when you do become parents.

A. Appreciate your partner

Hopefully you always say thank you. Now look out for anything she/he regularly does that you are grateful for and tell him/her. (I’m pleased you still …; I appreciate that you often ...). Don’t make a big performance out of it - just make a statement. Be grateful for this time together before the return to normal.

B. Bite your tongue!

Try to reduce (20% less every day) the number of times you disagree with or contradict your partner. Notice the number of times you start to reply with “yes, but” and – well – just bite your tongue or pause. Expressing a contradictory opinion is probably best kept for times it really matters - important decisions – and then works best if you have properly listened first and understood what your partner has said.

C: Co-operate and Communicate

Increase the number of small things you work on/plan together if you are both working from home. When shall we a have tea break together? What about discussing a cleaning roster now we are both home more – do you think that is a good idea? (and then you can practice avoiding “yes/but” responses!). If you or your partner are still heading out to work, this may create anxiety for the home confined partner.

Alternatively, your partner may need more structure than you do, and this will become very apparent if you are together 24/7. Set some clear boundaries around your workspaces if you are both working from home. Try to not let your work time spill over into your relationship time. If you are not working, try and plan some daily activities for yourself.

If your partner wants to limit their exposure to COVID-19 news, you can wear headphones or tune into the news in a different room.

You want to protect your partner from outside stress and work on forging a caring relationship to face the outside world together.

Here ends Part 1, just a few ideas for you and your partner to start to think about. In Part 2 I explore Defensiveness, Expectations and Feelings.

Our counselling team is available to our patients via email, phone or Skype. Please contact them on counselling@genea.com.au, or Genea Hollywood at perth@genea.com.au and Genea Oxford at joy@mindfree.co.nz.

Visit Genea's Fertility Collective to find more advice, useful tips and tools plus the latest updates on COVID-19 and the impact on fertility treatment.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is a Genea Group blog and as such information may not be relevant for all clinics. We advise that you consult clinics directly for further information.