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How to prepare your relationship for post-pandemic life

Remember how strange it was to be home alone with your partner 24/7 after the coronavirus first appeared? Or how uncomfortable it was to meet a new romantic partner with a mask in what looked like a void?

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, many couples have finally found their place. But don’t get too comfortable – that is all about to change. Again.

Vaccines are more and more available, restrictions are lifted or revisited, and people are more comfortable with the idea of ​​breaking out of their cocoons. Many couples will face more adjustments.

“Most of the couples I see look forward to the post-pandemic period,” said Kimberly Panganiban, a San Diego-based marriage and family therapist. “Some of these couples, I think, will be able to sail well this time around as they talk openly about it and the changes that might come. Others are unaware of the impact it can have on them, as the excitement of other things takes over. “

How can you prepare your partnership for the post-pandemic period?

“Conversation and negotiation to navigate a post-pandemic world are essential for couples and should take place as soon as possible,” said Jess Carbino, an online dating expert with a doctorate in sociology. She is also a former sociologist for the dating apps Tinder and Bumble.

“If couples are unable to discuss and prepare for the challenges they may face, it can lead to an increased degree of conflict,” said Dr Carbino. [Sign up for Love Letter and always get the latest in Modern Love, weddings, and relationships in the news by email.]

Experts suggest prioritizing communication during this transition period. “Allow time and space for ongoing discussions about each other’s feelings and needs as our lives change yet again,” Ms. Panganiban said. “We’re all going to experience a range of emotions. Supporting each other during this time is crucial for the health of the relationship. “

First, recognize the problems that might arise. There can be conflicting levels of comfort when it comes to taking health risks, conflicting opinions about the vaccine, different vaccine statuses, and separation anxiety.

Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, marriage and family therapist based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and author of “A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage” and “A Short Guide to a Happy Divorce,” suggests writing concerns together, without trying to resolve. the differences for now. For a few weeks, review these lists together and add to or refine them if necessary. “In a ‘next’ discussion, start looking at the differences and how to meet each other’s needs,” she said.

There are a few changes that will likely affect all couples. “For a lot of people, it will be very difficult to spend a lot of time together to a lot less time together,” Ms. Panganiban said. “Creating rituals that will help partners stay connected even when they’re not together can help. And planning time together can help ease that transition.

Nick Bognar, a marriage and family therapist based in Pasadena, Calif., Agrees. “I suspect that couples will have to readjust so that they don’t see each other all the time and be apart for much of the day,” he said. “After a year of sharing space with someone, even wearing headphones or working in different rooms, people are probably quite used to feeling close to each other all the time.” Mr Bognar suggested “more frequent check-ins and logins” as a solution.

Ms. Panganiban currently rubs shoulders with many couples, one of whom is content with the cocoon couple, while the other is ready to emerge. “If a person is ready to branch out sooner, it is important that they take turns sharing what they feel and what they need,” she said. “Make sure the two of them feel completely heard and understood before discussing what to do about it. “

For couples in this space, Ms. Gilchrest suggests “keeping their partner’s needs in mind and thinking about how they can re-establish the importance of the relationship and the two being a team again at home and in the new bigger world. “

Dr Carbino is worried about couples where one partner is more or less isolated than the other. “As individuals return to the workforce, couples need to know whether one partner needs to return to the workforce faster than the other and the associated isolation they may feel,” a- she declared.

Isolation can also be caused by each other’s social circles; a partner’s friends or family may be ready to socialize while others are not. “If one member of a couple finds themselves more isolated than the other,” said Dr. Carbino, “they should work together to find safe ways for the more isolated partner to socialize.”

One issue that plagued couples throughout their forties is the opposing views on the safety of Covid. “We all have our own feelings and comfort levels regarding safety in the pandemic – these issues will continue to arise,” Ms. Panganiban said. “It’s important to be honest with themselves and their partner about how they are feeling. If they don’t agree, the best thing to do is take the time to get along and understand each other.

Dr Carbino said that “couples are not necessarily aligned with the risks they are willing to take publicly. A partner may feel less comfortable socializing with people who have not been vaccinated.

To help resolve any disagreements, couples “should openly communicate why they are concerned about a certain activity and why a certain activity is important to them,” Dr. Carbino said. “This dialogue will ideally promote better understanding and, in turn, lead to a healthy degree of compromise.”

Dr Carbino suggests that longtime couples who live together “should have a discussion about the elements of pre-pandemic and pandemic life that they would like to integrate into their post-pandemic life together.”

Couples who met during quarantine need to prepare for another phase of discovery. “They only know each other through the prism of the pandemic,” Ms. Panganiban said. “It will be important to enter this time knowing that as the world opens up they will learn new things about each other – things they enjoy and things that are challenges. It will be important to make sure to keep the lines of communication open during this time. “

Dr Carbino urges new couples to discuss how their lives were structured before the pandemic and how they would like to structure their lives moving forward. “Maybe they were early risers who went to the gym before going to the office, worked in the office 12 hours a day, then went out for drinks with co-workers after work,” she said. “This routine information would have been organically revealed relatively quickly in a pre-pandemic world, but may not have been revealed during quarantine when many of these social activities and interactions were not possible.”

No matter what the current state of your relationship – new, old, struggling, flourishing – you will be retested upon coming out of quarantine. If the pandemic period has been more of a burden on your partnership, Ms. Panganiban suggests “continuing to work on managing the challenges in the relationship as best as possible until things start to change”. Now is a good time, she said, to start “dealing with some of the injuries that have happened during that time and discussing what you want things to look like moving forward. “.

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