It's not your marriage, it's COVID.
Your relationship feels as on hold as the rest of your life during quarantine. You're ignoring each other instead of saying, "good morning, honey!" You're getting frustrated with things that never used to bother you. You're not connecting. You're worried something's wrong with your relationship.
Your marriage isn't the problem. It's just the pandemic.
This is hard.
You might be experiencing the surge depletion and emotional exhaustion that months of quarantine and nonstop togetherness with your partner can bring on. All that closeness can take a toll. Always being in each other's space doesn't give you a breather from home life, or each other.
You are together, but feel alone.
This is really hard.
Being together all the time, while also being stressed out all the time, can lead to feeling detached and disengaged from your partner, which might cause you to wonder if there's a real problem brewing. But most likely, your emotional reserves are burned out, leaving you with no energy left for emotional connection, let alone everyday pleasantries like just saying "hello"...
Having the opportunity to spend quality time with your partner during quarantine is nice, but you might have way more of it than you want.
This is really, really hard.
In addition to emotional exhaustion, science tells us that overfamiliarity may also interfere with a desire to connect with your partner when you are mostly confined to your home. It's difficult to balance connectedness with personal autonomy when you are with each other all the time. That lack of individuality can result when your lives have become so intertwined that there is no longer a sense of each of you having a life that is separate from the other.
In this state of overfamiliarity, it can be difficult and emotionally depleting to maintain boundaries between each other. So, acknowledging your partner with a simple hello over your morning coffee can feel positively draining—like the simplest connection is an invitation to sap your already-depleted self dry.
It might seem counterintuitive, but you can feel disconnected from your partner because you're together too much. And recharging with your partner is a way to reconnect with them. Here's how to combat closeness fatigue:
- Do something you actually like doing together. Go back to the old rituals of connection you can do during quarantine—like a daily walk in the park, or a glass of wine in the backyard. These gestures make deposits into your joint emotional bank account that can be drawn upon to spark more connection.
- Try something new together. Find new values and activities to establish a sense of shared meaning, purpose and partnership.
- Make time to be kind to each other. Try to praise, validate, thank or appreciate your partner at least once a day—even if it feels weird. Your partner wants to be seen just as much as you. Even if you are together all the time.
- Remember the good. Focus on your partner's strengths—and all the things they do right. Dwelling on the negative and annoying will just fuel your worry and stress.
If recharging together seems like too much effort at the moment, that's okay. Another way to combat emotional depletion and reestablish individuality in your relationship is to take time for yourself.
Emotional burnout and feeling disconnected in your relationship doesn't mean there is cause for worry—it might just mean that you could use some self-care. Not only is it okay to need some alone time, it's important for your health as an individual and for your relationship to maintain whatever self-care means to you.
As a team that has gone through a lot together, you can grow even closer by working together to battle your emotional exhaustion and closeness fatigue. Talk about it and be sure to give each other the space to feel and be seen. A little goes a long way. By using these unprecedented circumstances to grow stronger together, you can develop a resilience that better enables you to weather even more than a prolonged, high-stress time, like the quarantine of a global pandemic. Learning more about what it takes to support and empower each other will sustain your relationship and well-being, and that's good for your lives in or out of a pandemic.
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