Keep the Love Alive When Working Together at Home
If things are getting a little tense because you’re both working from home these days, these tips might make it a little better.
Maybe you decided to start your own business together after getting furloughed. Maybe you’re both working on your own businesses just as you always have. Or maybe you’re working from home for your employers.
Whatever the case, combining business with home and romance can make for an odd mixture. The roles you play professionally and the roles you play in your relationship may not be the same. And seeing your partner suddenly behaving in a way you’ve never seen before can be more than a little disconcerting.
Under ordinary circumstances, you could get a little breathing room from each other. One could head to a coffee shop or the library to work. You could schedule in person meetings to get out of the house. But these are not ordinary circumstances.
During this time when we’re restricted in where we can go and what we can do, we’re spending a lot more time at home. And the things that usually might not bother us at all are suddenly irritating to no end.
If you want to ease the tension and make things a little better in your relationship, try the following ideas.
Make room for communication
Under the best of circumstances, it’s easy to become too busy to make time to communicate with our partner. But right now, when the lines between work and home can get incredibly blurred, it’s even easier to get too caught up with work to make time for communication.
But we also might try to avoid communicating when we know we need to say something that might be hurtful or negative. Knowing we are in close quarters with limited or no options to get some space if things don’t go well makes it easy to think we should keep problems to ourselves until there’s a better time.
But holding onto things just causes them to build and become bigger than they are. And getting too busy to communicate is essentially telling your partner that other things are more important than your relationship — which definitely won’t bode well for the future.
Instead, make time to communicate regularly. Sit down daily, or at least weekly, and discuss upcoming schedules, problems you’ve noticed, and anything else you think needs to be talked about. Be open to hearing the same from your partner.
Be willing to listen and to work on things that your partner brings up, even if you have a different experience than what they’re describing.
Communication will help you grow together rather than apart. And it will keep you from being at each other’s throats if you communicate consistently.
Be patient with each other
They keep putting dirty clothes on the floor even though you’ve asked them not to and the hamper is right there. Your partner had a Zoom meeting at 11am and you turned on the blender for a lunch smoothie. You’re both working at the dining room table and suddenly all your paperwork and files have gotten mixed together — something that will take hours to sort out.
Little things that might be only mildly annoying on a good day can easily become a blowout argument these days. That’s why it’s important to keep reminding yourself that you’re both doing the best you can under the circumstances.
Unless your relationship was already toxic or abusive, it’s highly unlikely that either of you is deliberately attempting to irritate the other. So give each other a little grace.
Instead of assuming that your partner did something that annoys you on purpose, give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they tried to get their socks in the hamper and didn’t realize they missed. Maybe you truly forgot they had a meeting and started making your lunch smoothie out of habit. Maybe the cat took a stroll across the table and played a little with your paperwork, mixing it all together.
Assume the best rather than the worst. And use mistakes to communicate better with each other. Maybe you remind each other 15 minutes before a meeting’s going to start, for example.
Make time for sex
You’re home together all day, every day right now. There’s more than enough hours in the day to find a few minutes in one of them for sex.
And while a quickie is fun, make sure it’s not just quick sex that you find time for. Make time for a longer interlude sometimes. Give yourselves a couple of hours to allow for long, slow touches and new explorations of familiar territory. Light some candles, get out the lingerie, and turn on some music. Make it special.
Lead up to sex with plenty of physical intimacy throughout the day too. Touch hands as you pass in the hallway, kiss each other, hug each other, grab your partner’s butt in the kitchen.
You might even take a few minutes to talk about sex. If you’ve been together a long time, what you were into when you got together might not be what you’re into now. You might want to try something new. Or maybe you haven’t been together all that long and you’re still learning each other.
Take the time to talk about what you want and what you don’t want. Talk about things you’d like to try someday, fantasies you have, and anything else that comes to mind about sex.
Physical intimacy is one of the things that sets your romantic relationship apart from any other relationship in your life. While it’s not the most important aspect of your relationship, it is one that you need to actively nurture.
Put your phones away
Phones are great for keeping us connected to the outside world. They allow us to do business from anywhere, keep in touch with loved ones who live far away (or even just down the street right now), and provide a source of entertainment. But for all the good they do, they can also distance us from the person who we’re closest to physically: our partner.
Make time every day where you put your phones away. Put them in another room or turn them off and focus on each other. Eat dinner together without the phones. Watch a movie, play a board game, or put together a puzzle without the phones. Leave the phones at home while you go for a walk through your neighborhood or a hike in a nearby park.
Try to do more than just an hour or two without your phones. Try going the entire evening, or even turning them off at a set time and leaving them off until the following morning. Give yourselves the gift of more time with each other without any interruptions from the outside world.
If your cell phones are the only way anyone can reach you and you’re worried about emergencies, leave them on but put them in another room. Only answer if someone keeps calling persistently.
Accept the realities of romance
We’d all love to have a fairy tale romance where everyone lives happily ever after. There are never any arguments, no misunderstandings or confusion or doubts. Animals talk and life is just a big, beautiful Disney movie.
Except that’s not the reality of life. In real relationships, there are disagreements and even arguments. There are things that annoy you about your partner, and vice versa. There are parts of your relationship that will always need improvement. That’s life.
Don’t beat yourself up when your relationship runs into trouble. Don’t feel bad that it happened or think you need to pretend things are perfect. Accept the realities of a long-term romantic relationship.
During these times, it’s even more likely that the negative realities of long-term relationships will rear their ugly heads. Be forgiving of yourselves and each other. Remember that other couples are feeling the same stress and strain that you are, and that many of the arguments you might be having are being had in living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms all over the place.
Give each other space
You’re used to spending certain hours of the day apart. You love your partner, and you love spending time with them. But you’re not used to working with them around and that can throw you off. It can frustrate you and make you feel disoriented.
Your options may be more limited right now, but you can still give each other space.
Try watching TV or reading books in separate rooms. Sit on the patio with a glass of wine while your partner plays video games. Go grocery shopping alone. Go for a slow stroll through your neighborhood by yourself.
You might not be able to replicate the number of hours apart that you’d usually have, but by giving each other some space a few times throughout the day, you can get a little breathing room that can ease any stress and strain that might be starting to build.
Relationships are messy
Even on the best days, relationships can be messy and complicated. During times of crisis and extreme stress, like we’re facing now, they can be even more messy and complicated.
Embrace the mess. Take the opportunity every day to remember why you fell in love with your partner or to look for a new reason to fall in love with them. Don’t let the stress drive you apart.
Be real. Be honest. But more important, be together in all the ways that count.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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