Expert gives five essential tips to ensure your relationship survives COVID-19 lockdown

The country is now firmly in the grip of the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown which means we're all in our 'bubbles' - only spending time with the same group of people for the next four weeks. 

For many of us, it's a bubble of two, with couples being forced to spend more quality time together than ever before. If your relationship is already suffering, bad news - we're not even close to being halfway through yet.  

Luckily Australian relationship expert Dr Karen Phillip, author of new book Communication Harmony, is here to offer some practical advice for this bizarre time. 

"Being around your significant other 24/7 can be an overwhelming change and often something many couples have never experienced, except perhaps on holiday having active fun," Dr Phillip told Newhub. 

"With considerable uncertainty right now, our stress levels are high and the result can often be intolerance, short fuses and frustration."

Dr Phillip is offering a free relaxation session to help us all get through the lockdown and has also put together the following five useful tips to help keep your relationship intact when you're isolated with your partner:

Spend some alone time

Some alone time every day is essential. We all need time by ourselves and not just for bathroom breaks. Spending time to be alone, to talk to a friend, read or work without other distractions from your partner is important. Coordinate timing with your partner to each have your alone time. You both need time apart to recharge and ensure that you remain as relaxed as you can. 

Create a schedule

Your regular schedule has changed. Its advantageous couples come up with a plan to give a sense of control back to each person. This is particularly helpful for couples navigating working from home. Set some general ground rules about noise, music, or interruptions when working. Design a working schedule around activities you want or need to undertake each day, when we have a plan it becomes less frustrating.

Get some fresh air and exercise

Physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These brain chemicals are important in relieving pain and stress. Being outside or in nature can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. If quarantined, you may be restricted so plan to watch some nature programs to help create that good feeling.

Stay in touch with the outside world

Unfortunately, it isn't possible to go out and socialise with friends or spend time with some family members currently. But there are plenty of ways to communicate with friends, colleagues and loved ones as these relationships are essential to maintain. Try to ensure that you have one or two calls each day or two with other people. Remaining in touch with others is beneficial for your mental health and overall sanity. Video chats or phone calls are necessary to maintain your other relationships including sharing a meal or drink together while at different locations. Conversations can remain fun and active even when apart yet connected on video chat.

Learn to communicate better

Communication is vital in all relationships, all the time. When you are isolated and together 24/7, good communication is even more essential. We're all going to feel the pressure. Listen, value and empathise with your partner. Like you, their feelings are never wrong. Spend this time learning different or improved styles of communication to benefit both of you. This time cooped-up together can make or break some relationships. Learning how to respond more thoughtfully, eliminating poor or harsh responses, and improving tolerance is vital. The last thing either of you needs is added tension and stress. The time to support, develop a new understanding and add fun and laughter can get you through stronger.

 Here are some tips to fill in those hours each day: 

  • Spend time learning new things about each other by writing out questions for your partner, answering your partners' questions before your partner responds. This can really ascertain what you know about the other person, a great learning time
  • Learning some great communication skills during this time will help enormously, reduce conflict and enhance your connection 
  • Make lists of things you've wanted to do together; circle the ones you can do at home and plan future activities once this issue is gone
  • Schedule time for each of you to work, chat with friends and family. Arrange together time to cook, exercise, dance, play and getting out for a walk or run together
  • Paint your room or house, do those maintenance jobs, clean out the shed and your cupboards. Things we always put off due to our busy life can be completed with some extra free time.

The world is a little uncertain and stressful right now. Using relaxation strategies when we are confined together can help reconnect us.

You are creating stories that you will share for generations to come on how you responded and thrived during this pandemic.