Til isolation do we part? How to survive isolation as a couple in conflict
As travel plans collapse and workplaces across the world send staff home for remote work, couples across Australia have found themselves together at home 24/7, confined to four walls and
several brewing issues. Even the most satisfied of partners can find it challenging living, working, sleeping and resting with their partner stuck to their side all day every day.
While the temptation for snuggling sleep-ins and working in underwear or pyjamas may provide novelty for the first few days, humans though social creatures, also often need alone time to recharge, process our thoughts, to have independence and create personal value. When partners are in conflict this task of confinement becomes even more of a struggle.
Being within a contained environment can become a giant pressure cooker for conflict. The underlying tension has nowhere to hide, no distractions, and can become the focal point for our efforts when we have no other outlet to select.
Why it is so challenging spend 24/7 with someone you love
There’s a reason why Jane Austin wrote so many complex character novels about people and their drama in period houses in the rain, boredom, issues and confinement breeds conflict!
On a much more serious note, several studies have shown that domestic violence rates have increased after major natural disasters, where humans have experienced significant pressure. The home can become a very complex and challenging place during a major world event.
But, unlike Jane Austin’s characters, we are fortunate to have access to resources, tools and therapists to support this adjustment of close proximity love. There are several moves couples can make to ensure the adjustment to remote working doesn’t destroy the partnership.
Find space in isolation by creating healthy boundaries
Nelson (2016) conducted research to determine that couples without boundaries were more likely to experience resentment, anger and relationship burnout.
Set up boundaries, be clear with each other about what space you need, for work, for yourself, for each other to share. Just because you are in the same house together, doesn’t mean that there can’t be some personal space and separation, whether physical or emotional.
Barkin & Wisner (2013) describe boundary setting as a form of self-care, and relationship preservation. Being really clear and organised with boundaries between work and play time, can allow you to focus on your work, prioritise personal time together, allow for alone-time and ensure that you have your time allocation needs met an reflects the time you would have for each aspect of life under normal conditions. But setting boundaries we can allow for quality interactions with purpose.
Shift your mindset from solving issues, to managing conflict
With growing pressure upon each of us, we only have capacity to take on a small number of issues, before we implode.
Renowned relationship expert Dr John Gottman’s research found that 69% of problems encountered in a relationship are unsolvable. Prioritise with your partner, and with yourself, what topics are worth further discussion, and what you can let go. Don’t overload your plate with small niggles that aren’t important in the long run.
Let the focus shift from resolving issues, to managing them with compromise and the support of a therapist.
Isolation as a means to connect with your partner
This is a time to explore and dive into new things, with more time at home we can learn a new hobby together, discuss future plans and goals, spend a little longer exploring sensuality and touch. Take the time to re-connect, play a board game, give each other a sensual massage, reconnect and reminisce about great experiences.
At the Hart Centre we have a fabulous resource to support sexual discovery for long-term partners.
Just because you’re at home alone, does not mean you’re alone
Therapy is always an option, with telehealth (online counselling) a growing area of service, time constrained, isolated and busy couples can access qualified support direct to the home.
Isolation can be the perfect time to work through those underlying issues in a controlled and supported way, or to build your repertoire of intimacy through the guidance of a therapist.