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Quarantine quarrels? How to support your relationship during COVID-19

Humans have evolved to thrive in partnerships, but even the earliest hunters and gatherers went their separate ways during the day in search of food. If modern-day relationships operate in a similar style of symbiosis to those of our ancient ancestors, then COVID-19 has effectively trapped us all in our caves. So how do you maintain a functional and positive relationship during extended periods of quarantine? 

Back in January, we talked about the negativity effect: how evolution and the development of fight or flight instincts have trained our brains to react more strongly to negativity than positivity, and remember bad moments more vividly. Relationships follow this principle as well. As longtime partners find themselves sharing even more of their day together and newer couples experience cohabitation for the first time, it is all too easy to dwell on our partner’s negative traits, rather than all their positive ones. So what’s the cure?

The rule of four says it takes four positive things to outweigh one negative in our minds. So try recalling positive and happy memories or behaviors and focusing on what you love about your partner. A great way to do this is by looking back at old photos and memorabilia of experiences you have shared together. Never had the time to look at the pictures from that old vacation? Well, now is the time. This creates nostalgia, which researchers have found can actually improve one’s satisfaction with the present and make people more optimistic. 

Rather than trying to be the perfect partner in these trying times, instead, focus on the little things. Consider cooking one of your partner’s favorite meals or organizing the junk drawer you have been meaning to get around to. Also, remember that this is a stress-inducing time for many of us. Before you react, think about how confinement and global anxiety could be affecting your partner’s words and actions. 

For better or for worse, this is undoubtedly going to be a period of change for many couples. There is enough stress and uncertainty with everything going on in the outside world, bring positivity and cooperation into your home and allow your relationship to grow to its fullest potential. Enjoy this time together before work and busy schedules begin to impinge on it once again.

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