How can we ask for, and respect, each other’s space, when it feels there is a shortage of it?
Everyone’s home! Nothing like a full house to shrink the space you’re living in. So how do we deal with being quarantined together in small, or even, not so small, spaces? Either way, it can leave us feeling as if there is no space and no escape.
Your living situation has changed and you are each trying to adapt to this. Work outside of the home provided a natural separation each day. Now it may feel like you are on top of each other. You need a conversation about what you both need during this time. The conversation can begin with the acknowledgment of all the changes and the resulting stress. The stated goal of the conversation: “How can we take care of ourselves and each other during quarantine?”, would also be helpful to state upfront. This goal has you coming together as a team to address the problem, rather than each starting off from your own corner fighting for your own needs.
Here are some examples of some of the topics that might need to be addressed given all the changes.
I need a space where I won’t be interrupted during work. (List your work hours each day if they vary, so you each know when the other will be unavailable and in need of quiet). What do you need?
I need some alone time at night. I used to have an hour commute where I would listen to music as a way of winding down. How can we work out my need for alone time and my need for time together?
Being home 24/7, we’re creating a lot more dishes. What system can we create to keep the kitchen clean?
You work longer hours than I do. I know you like using the dining room table as your workspace but that leaves me tiptoeing around for the two hours that I am out of work before you. Can we think of an alternative space that would work for you at the end of the day so that I can have access to the first floor?
I am sure you can think of many more questions that are relevant to your individual situation. Also, additional questions and needs will present themselves as time goes on. Remember, this is all new and you are all trying to find a way that works for everyone. You may try something for a while, only to discover it doesn’t work for one of you. That’s OK and even expected. It just means you need another conversation about you can address the newest problem together. In fact, it would be a good idea to schedule regular check-ins during this quarantined time. This will ensure adjustments to can be made more easily and with less friction
To ensure success in the above conversations, start by remembering each person is doing their best in a highly stressful situation. You are both engaged in a new juggling act, and, in some cases, new balls are being tossed your way on a regular basis. Be gentle and kind to yourself by adjusting expectations. You can’t expect the smooth sailing of your normal routine and normal times when “normal” is temporarily gone. You and your partner are trying to create a “normal during Co-vid-19”. This is a significant transition. Be patient, kind, and understanding with yourself and know that your partner/spouse needs the same patience, kindness, and understanding extended to her/him.
As you approach each conversation, identify what works best for you, and don’t hesitate to reach out or look for additional resources during this stressful team. Our family and couple experts at Home Base are available to provide support and counseling and help with your relationship questions. To learn more about our couples services, please visit www.homebase.org/connect2care or call (617) 724-5202.
About the Author:
Catherine Morley is a social worker on the Home Base Couples and Family Team. Using Emotionally Focused Therapy, she works primarily with couples, helping each person to identify the ways they protect themselves in relationships and how these behaviors may be unintentionally hurting their partner/spouse and causing a negative interactional pattern